Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Positive Thinking - Overrated

Positive thinking is overrated. 

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, suggests we approach our lives with a positive outlook.  Visualize success.  Our positive thoughts and our visions of success will influence reality and bring about positive outcomes.

I can’t quote directly from the book because I trashed my copy around the 14th hole at the Terra Vista golf course, just north of Round Rock, Texas, where I proved positive thinking doesn’t work.  Proof came on the fourteenth or fifteenth hole – I don’t recall which because I trashed my scorecard with the book.  The hole in question is about four hundred yards long.  The first fifty yards are swamp land, all mud and lily pads and shallow water and mosquitoes.  Beyond those fifty yards is a wide fairway and a straight shot to the green.

For the non-golfers among us, let me give a quick explanation of how the game works.  Golf courses have eighteen holes.  A hole is about twice the diameter of a golf ball and is located on a green, an oddly shaped undulating surface landscaped with very short-cut grass to make it smooth.  The object of the game is to hit the ball into the hole using golf clubs. 

The hitting starts from a place called a tee box, a flat area set around 400 yards from the hole.  In some cases the distance is greater, up to around 500 yards, and in others much shorter, like 150 yards.  At these distances, it is difficult to see a 4-inch hole so golf courses mark the holes with poles around eight feet high with a flag or pennant attached.

You hit the ball into the hole with golf clubs.  “Club” is something of a misnomer because golf clubs are really finely engineered tools made of stainless steel or graphite or titanium with leather at one end, to help you grip the club, and with a head at the other end designed to strike the ball.  Why they call it the “head” is something of a mystery because the head is at the bottom when you hit the ball and might more aptly be called the foot.  Maybe it is called a head to distinguish between balls advanced by the club and those advanced by the golfer’s foot.

Golf clubs come in two kinds, irons and woods.  “Wood” is kind of a misnomer, hailing back to the days when three or four of the clubs were actually made of wood.  Now, the clubs shaped like the old “woods” are generally made of metal.  So today a set of golf clubs is a collection of irons and metal-woods.  Or irons and metals.  Although “iron” is a metal.  And irons aren’t really iron.  The game is in some ways inscrutable.

Clubs are numbered, except for some, like the putter and the wedge, that are named.  The irons are numbered from one through nine.  The metals are numbered from one through five or so depending on how many you decide to use. 

The these irons and metals are engineered to affect the distance the ball will travel when struck by the respective club.  Counter intuitively, the higher the number, the shorter the distance.  So a properly-struck nine iron will send the ball anywhere from 120 to 140 yards, depending on the skill of the golfer.  A one metal/wood, also known as a driver, will hit the ball 200-275 yards for most golfers, except for pros like Tiger Woods who drive it over 300 yards.

All of this explanation is to draw your attention to the distances a club will send a ball.  The shortest-distance club in my set is the nine iron and it sends the ball 120 yards. 

Back to Terra Vista. 

The swampland on my last-straw fourteenth hole is, you’ll recall, only 50 yards long.  Beyond that is a wide dry fairway.  With my shortest-distance club, my nine iron, I should send the ball 120 yards, clearing the swamp by 70 yards.  But I don’t use my shortest distance club.  I use my longest-distance club, my driver.  I can drive the ball 250 yards.  With my driver, I should clear the swamp by 200 yards.  Positive thinking.

As I prepare to hit the ball, I think positive.  I visualize driving it out there on the fairway, dead center, 250 yards.  I’m thinking so positive I even take out one of my Titleist golf balls, the most expensive in my bag.  My swing is right out of the Golf for Dummies book.  Eye on the ball, head down, left arm straight, slow backswing, hips leading the downswing.  Driver hits ball.  Ball rolls thirty yards into the swamp.

I invoke the patron saint of novice golfers, Mulligan.  Pretend that was just a practice swing.  I hit my second Titleist.  Ball flies thirty yards into the swamp.  My third Titleist.  Same fate. 

Finally, with some embarrassment, I walk around the swamp and drop a ball on the fairway and play from there.  But only after trashing Dr. Peale’s book and my scorecard. 

Positive thinking doesn’t work.

Next time, maybe I’ll try practice.

No comments: