Ojai Valley Inn #17My passion for golf has been a gift, and it’s one (as they say) that keeps on giving. The latest blessing was getting to spend two days at the Ojai Valley Inn doing business meetings, and playing and learning to play better golf from Dr. Joe Parent, the author of Zen Golf and the mental game coach who helped Vijay Singh become #1 in the world (remember that?).

Wow. What a privilege! This experience, or more accurately, these experiences are going to lead to a series of posts on this blog, so stay tuned (for example by using this Subscribe link). In fact, one of the great things about Dr. Joe is that he is not only one of the top mental game coaches anywhere, but he also offers lots of simple solutions to common golfing problems. He doesn’t treat the mental game as the be all end all, although that’s certainly a strong suit. He showed me some great short game techniques, helped me start rolling the rock (putting) better, and more which I will share with you over coming days and perhaps weeks.

But since I’m such an inner game geek myself, I want to start with a simple exercise that Joe had me focus on during our wonderful 18 hole playing lesson… and it was a wondrous experience to play with such an accomplished coach on such a beautiful and classic golf course. By the way, the photo above of #17 is used by permission and is the property of Adian Bradley whose fine work can be found at GolfCoursePhotography.com.

The exercise was to rate every swing according to a criteria that I selected. I had tried this before, but never had the discipline to keep it up for 9 holes, let alone a full round. I chose to focus on “swinging easy” (of course) and throughout our round Joe encouraged me and reminded me simply to be aware of how I experienced my swing on a scale of 1 to 10 (or 1 to 5). It’s simply an awareness exercise that, well, heightens awareness. You just note your experience and see what happens. Part of what happened is that I got a better sense of what it means to me, really, to swing easy and with complete freedom, or not. But there was more…

Not only did I par 3 out of the first 4 holes (very unusual for me, especially on a course I’d never played before), but I shot a 42 on the front (it’s a par 70 course) and a 90 overall. This is one stroke better than what Joe calls your “personal par.” In other words, since I’m currently an 18.6 index, I am a 21 handicap at the Ojai Valley Inn; so, I shot one under my personal par on a tough course I had never seen before. Not a bad start. 🙂

Even better was the couple of times (once at the end of our pre-round short game session and another on the last putt of the round on #18) when I re-connected with a truly easeful, authentic and free swing. These were some of my best shots and I woke up to the quality of ease in them (again.) I really let it go and made wonderful shots. Because I was working with Joe at the time, I really got to see that these are my authentic, free and easy swings. Something that I’m clearly capable of at any time, but I usually get in my own way with tension, worry, fear, etc.

Guess what I’m going to be rating on each swing (when I can remember and have the discipline to do this) when I play tomorrow? That’s right. How close is each swing to my “authentic, easy, in the flow” swing? I’ll be observing and rating each swing. And we will see what happens. I’m learning to trust the process and make these observations more important than the score. No kidding. It’s a surprisingly rich process. For example, at one point during our short game session on the second day, I was having a great time keeping my head down while putting and not looking up for the result. Something I think we all have trouble doing, even tho everyone recommends it. By focusing on the process rather than the result, putting this way actually became more fun. Go figure…

More experiences and more of what I learned from Dr. Joe Parent in Ojai to come.