How horrible Howard became truly humble—and a better golfer

Ezine #7—The breaking point for Howard Glassman came when he almost broke a club.

After yet another crappy drive, his M1 driver was in imminent danger. “I came this close to hammering one of those rock tee blocks.”

He had not broken 80 in about two weeks, which for a scratch player is an extended stay in golf hell. He was also worried about sliding back into being the “horrible” angry golfer that he was about 15 years ago.

He asked me how to exorcize his demons. (This was around June 2015 and we had become friends and I was providing him with some coaching.)

“Change your intention,” popped out of my mouth.

I suggested that for his next game, rather than focus on score, he dedicate himself to being a great golf partner. He could cheer everyone on in the group, listen intently to their stories, carefully watch their errant shots, and generally be the most agreeable and fun guy to play with in history.

There was nothing to lose, he said, and he’d give it a shot.

He called me the next day and reported that he had lots of fun with his partners, it was one of his most relaxing games of the year, and he savoured the beautiful summer day.

And, he shot 74.

Without focusing on score, he scored. He was also relieved to learn that playing stellar golf didn’t require being a selfish jerk. In fact, quite the opposite.

Rather than being hyper-focused on himself—as many of us do if we’re honest with ourselves—his focus was outside of himself. He was connected to his partners and, I’ll suggest, he was more connected to the course, to the sunshine and the breeze, the rolling terrain, the subtle breaks in the greens, and so on.

Folks into mindfulness would call this a state of expansion.

During Show #40 of our Swing Thoughts podcast, we talk about how setting an intention can help you—for one round and even the season. We also talk about why we don’t like Phil Mickelson. We feel bad for being so mean to Phil. 

Our awareness is broader and more perceptive when we are connected with the world, rather than separated and contracted into ourselves.

More to the point for golfers—we can experience a state of flow and greater freedom, and we can take advantage of our natural talent and skills. What’s more, focusing on others allows us to interact and play with an open heart.

That last bit may read like unicorns and rainbows to some folks.

But consider taking a kid to play golf or fishing. You’re focused on the kid rather than yourself. You tend to be kind and more patient. (Well, I hope so.)

You may not have consciously set a definite intention, but if you ask yourself why you did it, you might say it was to help the kid have fun, perhaps learn something and, for sure, share time together.

I would argue the feeling of harmony and sweetness that you experience watching a kid’s eyes bug out at a wriggling fish on the end of a line is not much different than when you applaud a partner making a putt. You’re connected and your heart is open.

By the way, you can be a killer competitor when you’re connected. Ironically, when we expand beyond ourselves, we can experience a greater sense of personal freedom, have more fun, and give ourselves a shot at playing some damn good golf.

That’s one of the gifts of intention.

Brain science proves this too. More on this next time.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!