Learning Golf, Rememering Rilke And The Secret To A Perfect Lawn

Earlier this year I contemplated the idea to sign up in a fitness studio. My wife. wise as she is, suggested against it and recommended for me to start playing golf again. I see this as a sign that my business isn't  doing too bad after 5 years of independence.

The problems was that I hadn't played the game for over 7 years, and now I find myself back at the driving range as frequently as I can. Like a piano student playing his scales, I am hitting bucket after bucket with my irons, and from time to time testing a driver. 

Earlier this week I had the "pleasure" to play an early morning round with two low-handicap players (translation for non-golfers: low handicap = good player). Anyone who has been in this situation knows how stressful this is: an emotional rollercoaster, compared to which a networking event where I don't know a single soul is a walk in the park.

When your patient co-players start giving you tips about how to hold your club, you know that you still have a lot of work to do.

For those who don't know it - golf is quite a paradoxical game. The foundation of a good game of golf is a consistent swing. A golf swing is a complicated movement you need to build step by step. Right stance, right grip, position of the ball, how you swing back, how you release your swing, what you do with your shoulders, your feet, and the list goes on. 

This swing you try to build on the driving range, with the hope to reproduce it on the golf course. "Just relax and trust your swing", is what you will hear people tell you after you hit 5 bad shots in a row (or worse). 

What the game of golf is teaching me yet again is to find the right balance between training (on the driving range), and doing (on the golf course).

On the driving range I work on one element of my swing at a time. I think a lot about what I want to improve. Then, on the course, I try to do the exact opposite. I try to not think about my swing at all and to trust that what I have learned will magically have been remembered by the muscles in my body. 

Needless to say, this is easier said than done.

After my early round of golf this morning, I came home and chatted with my sister-in-law, who is visiting us for a few days. She mentioned a text by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, which talks about the importance of being patient.

Here parts of it.

One needs to leave things
to their own undisturbed development
which comes from deep inside
and can't be rushed.
One must have patience
with everything unresolved in the heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
When you live the questions
perhaps you will enter gradually
without even noticing it
one of those days
into living the answers.

Rainer Maria Rilke, from "Letters to a Young Poet".

I love this text because it reminds me that despite all the efforts me make to get better, working on achieving our goals, we are faced with questions we can't answer, and things that need their time to mature and grow. 

The lawn in front of our veranda is one example. I don't mind having a crappy lawn all around our garden, but there is one spot where I like the lawn to look like a golf course. Below you see how the how that patch of lawn looked like at the beginning of the year.

Three months later, after spending probably too much time and too much money on seeds, fertiliser and fresh earth, I am quite happy with the result. 

The secret to a perfect lawn applies to many other aspects of life. Decide what you want, put all the effort you can to get closer to the goal, but trust the magic of nature to do its part as well.

And when you have reached your goal, be it a green patch of lawn, an improvement in your golf swing, or becoming a better networker, take a moment to enjoy the progress you have made.

Here is how my the patch of laws looks now. Still not perfect, but good enough to enjoy!