Over the next few days I became aware that I was paying attention to things when I picked them up; my briefcase, a bag of groceries or a bottle of wine. It wasn’t just about their weight anymore as I began to ‘feel’ their existence in my fingertips. It felt as though I was developing another sense, and in a sense I suppose I was. If this was what Zen was talking about then I couldn’t wait to meet him again.
‘And how are you?’ he asked.
I wrung my fingers like a pianist about to play. ‘Good, thanks.’
He grinned. ‘I see you’ve been working – feel different.’
I nodded. ‘Sure does. I feel…better. I’m more aware now about what I have in my hand.’
‘That’s exactly what we’re trying to get, because when we do it will make swinging a club so much better.’ He sounded pleased. ‘Take a club out and let me see your grip.’
I did as he said and carefully wrapped my fingers around the grip of my eight iron. I undid my grip a few times until I was finally comfortable and swung the club easily back and forth a few times.
Zen looked at my hands. ‘Now roll your wrists – left, now right.’
Again I did what he said.
‘Well I don’t see any sign of white knuckles now….that’s an improvement.’ He quickly snatched the club out of my hands. ‘That’s better, much better.’
I was stunned and my face showed it.
‘It’s alright, don’t worry. It just proves the point that I made the last time about holding the club too firmly. If your grip is too strong you cannot really appreciate the nuances of the swing. You might as well be swinging an axe, and we both know that swinging a golf club needs more subtlety than that. Agreed?’
We went to the driving range and with my club Zen made another beautifully, balanced swing. Could I, would I, ever be able to swing that club the way he was doing, was a thought that kept running through my mind as ball after ball fizzed into the blue and straight down the fairway. It was a dream, I knew, but one that was maybe a little closer to achieving with Zen’s guidance. He handed the club back. ‘Ok, it’s your turn.’
I was nervous, but excited.
‘Relax, breathe easily….it’s about control.’
I took a few deep breaths and slowly exhaled. I could feel my pulse slow down and gripped the club the way I had been practising for the last few days. Don’t rush it, I told myself, and looked down the fairway.
Zen smiled encouragement.
I took a last look down the fairway, exhaled and swung.
I don’t really remember what happened next but I felt the club make contact with ball which zoomed off the tee, straight down the fairway before making a big, ugly turn to the left.
‘A bit of a hook that, but otherwise pretty good,’ Zen said when he turned.
‘Thanks,’ I said, my throat suddenly as dry as a bone.
‘Yeah, that was pretty good. And how did it feel…different?’
‘Better…it felt much better.’
‘Excellent, I think I might make a golfer out of you yet.’
It was my turn to smile.
‘What many people do not realise is that in order to play this game properly they have to unlearn certain things.’
‘Unlearn, what do mean?’
‘Well, just like you have learnt to grip the club lightly in order to improve and increase your feel, that meant unlearning your old grip.’
I nodded, not certain where this was going.
‘It’s all about change and most people do not like change. They fear it and are comfortable with what they know. Others, like you, however, embrace it and grow.’ He checked his watch. ‘I’ve got to go now, but keep that idea in mind until next week.
I practised for almost an hour after Zen had left and wondered, not for the first time, was I getting instruction in golf or philosophy. I wasn’t sure, but Zen was one interesting character and I was determined to learn as much I could from him, and maybe how he got his nickname. Now that was something to think about, I said to myself, as I finally hit a ball that flew straight down the fairway. I was pleased and already looking forward to my next lesson/lecture or whatever with Zen.