In Search of Burningbush: A Story of Golf, Friendship, and the Meaning of Irons

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Over the decades, this gentility-first ethos has spawned inaction and passivity where verve and action were needed. I think this is a heck of a difficult thing for my friend to become aware of at this point in his life. He has created a bizarre and damning corruption of the old line, Do as I say and not as I do. She was prescribed with antidepressants and got better. Of course, science has found that people get better from depression for a number of reasons. For some, antidepressants assist in the recovery of this balance.

Sometimes the brain recovers from the causes of the depression, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, only with time and perspective. But, before people get better they have to want to get better. Do we really need to talk about the connection between attitude and health? If your horse can feel a fly, he can feel your knee.

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The question is, can you become sensitive to how your horse feels what he feels? Sensitivity, or what I prefer to call awareness, is what we should all be looking for. We must be aware in a way that gives us the best chance to learn what we need. My dear friend has lost this awareness. I spend a couple hours each week talking to my friend and thinking about his plight.


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I try to point out options when it comes to his work and his life and his family. I encourage him to try new courses of action, new ways of doing things and different ways of thinking about his ife. He speaks frequently of his experience of what he terms existential dread and crisis. Is optimism a prerequisite for a willingness to ask for help or even the belief that help exists? I turned to Jim Venetos about the same time his internet star began to rise.

I am glad about this. I have moved on from what I will call the Venetos Method. There is great validity to many elements of his method, but also some troubling issues at least for a player of my limited ability. In the end, I can see the value of a quieter lower body but not in the goal of absolute stillness. Worse again, for me is the requirement of setting up with the shoulders closed with a great deal of weight loaded onto the front side. Combined, these two aspects of the Venetos swing almost put my game out of action this season. First, the closed shoulders stressed my lower and middle back in a way my golf swing had never stressed those parts of my body.

Second, the weight left coupled with the goal of keeping weight there brought about an episode of plantar faciitis the like of which I have not suffered in 20 years. This result may be a coincidence but I rather doubt it. Loading the front side of the body while mass comprised of the arms and club at least goes rearward is very difficult to do without some painful tweakage.

During my lessons, Venetos was big on saying that his method negates the need for rhythm, tempo and timing. I was always surprised at his use of these terms since I never had mentioned them. But, the more he mentioned them over time the more I reflected on two simple facts. The first is that when I have played my best golf my swing felt possessed of rhythm, tempo and some element of timing.

The second fact is that a swing, as a kind of arc, takes place across a given area of space and over a given period of time. To put it simply, no matter what, tempo always matters again, at least to my game. It came me on day when I was playing quite well after a day that found me playing horribly. One day everything was a blur except for the ball coming off the face and the next day all was nearly languid yet the ball flew with snap and authority.

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What was different? Many things, perhaps. But, to me, to the golfer writing down his score, the difference was in the meter and pace of my swing. Years ago, there was an internet video that showed a bunch of players doing their imitations of different tour players and even of their own buddies. What was funny was that their imitation swings looked just like their actual swings. How many rounds are ruined by the rush and fractured tempo that comes from a last minute dash from the car to the first tee?

Now, my swing mantras are these: Pace, posture and poise. Pace addresses my need to balance the speed of my back swing relative to the speed of my forward swing. Poise goes back to that coaches of coaches, John Wooden. He prized players with poise. When I make a swing I covet the poise that comes in the form of the kind of balance that can be seen and felt over the entirety of an athletic movement.

A golf swing, even my golf swing, is an athletic movement. It starts, moves and finishes in a given space and over a given time.

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The idea of ignoring at least a sense of that time is anathema to me. I have gone back to go forward. Looking back got me looking at the writing of Harvey Penick and his advice to practice swinging the club with your eyes closed. Doing this makes me acutely aware of how my swing is and is not balanced and paced. This book was my golf-bible many years ago and I now wonder why I ever set it aside.

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Let there be no doubt that I admire and like Jim Venetos. Golf is a game of endless realizations. That essential nature make some people take up bowling. The truth is that I have stared hard into the abyss of giving up the game more than once over the last year or two. Of that fact, I am neither proud nor ashamed.

So as through a glass, and darkly The age long strife I see Where I fought in many guises, Many names, but always me. George S. Patton, Jr. Through the travail of the ages I have walked many golf courses, in many places with many results and I have appeared in many guises. I have been the confident golfer and the struggling golfer.

I have been the teacher and the historian. I have been the golf buddy who made the starting time. I have been the son who picked up his father to take him to the course. I have been the single paired the 20 something threesome of college buddies. And, I often have been alone yet never lonely. For some golf is like a fraternity. For me, golf is the state of feeling close to something yet so far away. Get busy living, or get busy dying. For me it means finding a haven of effectiveness. It means finding or creating a method of moving the golf club that brings the center of the club face into the ball.

I kept asking myself, what should I do? Self discovery is very cool. Others have done it, no doubt about it.

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Also, in trying to do one thing you can end up doing another and that other can really hurt.. For example: If I try to turn my lower body through impact my shoulders spin, carrying the club head over the top. Does this result from my own fundamental lack of flexibility, the same one identified by my Titleist TPI evaluation from years back? But, more essentially, it points out that an effort to do one thing can cause another thing that in turn causes a problem. Great idea; it was a big help to actually hear what this guy was saying before calling BS on him.

Still, long after the book was finished I tried it especially with driver and got some very encouraging results. The Jim Venetos swing is the Tony Manzoni swing on steroids with a shot of spiced rum with a twist of lime. A left sided swing promises a lot for me and a lot of other players, too. It promises a quieter lower body. It promises a shorter back swing.

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Most of all, though, it promises more consistent, and more solid contact. At any given minute he may be saying, Yeah, man, I could see you fighting for stillness there…So, good contact but shoulders were a little open…That was a little fat so what did that tell you? I can usually heard to be muttering a series of expletives and groans punctuated by the very occasional exultation of, I can do this! The I can do this sound comes after I have actually achieved a small dose of stillness and an attendant sense of my weight staying left throughout the swing.

When it comes it feels solid, inevitable and obvious and the strike is heavy and solid.