Focus is an essential part of sports, but so is feel, and some people manage to play golf even though they can’t see the ball.
I didn’t know that until last week when I read a story about a blind golfer in Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Golf. Then, when I went to the International Blind Golf Association website, I discovered some vision impaired golfers get around the course in 80 shots, and one totally blind man shoots 18-holes in 90 strokes or less.
Isn’t that amazing? Many sighted golfers who have been playing for many years are still happy to break 100.
The blind players have sighted assistants who line them up, explain the shots and choose the clubs, but the players do the rest.
I loved learning that so much that I decided to share it with you, even though I wrote about Gallwey’s concentration techniques last week.
The chapter I’m referring to this week focuses on feel, and he uses the following story to support his claim that feeling what your body is doing can be more important than looking at the ball during a golf swing:
When a blind golfer who dreamed of playing a game with Tiger Woods met his idol at the end of a tournament, he invited the superstar to play 18 holes with him. Tiger was embarrassed and politely declined.
The blind man asked again and got the same answer, so he countered that he was willing to bet $10,000 he could beat Woods, and that if the pro refused it would mean he was afraid the blind man might be right.
Several people could hear the challenge, so Woods got irritated and accepted. “Okay, if that’s the way you want it, I’ll play,” he said. “Name the course and the time and I’ll be there.”
“Very well,” the man replied, “meet me on the first tee of Pebble Beach tomorrow at midnight.”
At that point, everyone had a good laugh and Woods agreed to play a friendly match with the man during the day.
There are several points here, one being that we don’t have to use our eyes to focus. Another is that getting in touch with how something like a golf swing feels can be extremely effective.
And another one has to do with the importance of confidence.
I imagine all golf pros are connected to the feel of their swings, but if they have never totally relied on it, they wouldn’t want to wager money on a match played in the dark.
And the final point I would like to stress is that all this awareness stuff isn’t just for playing games; it can be extremely valuable in the rest of our lives as well.
By the way, that story didn’t happen exactly the way I told it.
Gallwey claimed the blind man challenged Arnold Palmer instead of Tiger Woods.
But Arnie was the Tiger of the 60s and 70s, so his name doesn’t have the same impact as it did when the book was published in 1981.
It might not be totally accurate, but switching the names felt like the right thing to do.