Artist or Mechanic?

Do you relate more to being an artist or a mechanic regarding your golf swing? Let’s look at some of the attributes of each. A mechanic fits and fixes parts so that the whole works. An artist focuses on the whole and allows the parts to come together naturally. A mechanic is precise; they primarily work from a plan, a design and instructions, using logic. An artist improvises and creates the plan in the process, working with intuition and instinct. A mechanic primarily engages the intellect, works with the known and with materials. An artist works with the “as yet unknown” beyond what can be consciously seen. The artist primarily utilizes “feel,” instinct and intuition.

A mechanic follows instructions. An artist is flexible and adaptable and revels in the unknowns and possibilities while exploring the process of creating the whole. A mechanic is often characterized by work, effort, control, and is often glorified for having a “work ethic.” A mechanic is often described as “disciplined,” whereas an artist is sometimes described as “undisciplined.” The term “disciplined”  is often used to describe any process of “following instructions.” The term “undisciplined” is often used when “exploring beyond the known.”

Could the use of the term “undisciplined” represent a general response when feeling threatened that “conventional wisdom” is somehow being challenged by the cultivation and invitation of new possibilities and the “as yet unknown?” Could this label of “undisciplined,” so often referred to in the artistic approach, have an unconscious purpose of limiting the discovery of anything “new,” and “stifling the creative spark” in order to protect “conventional wisdom” and the Status Quo?!? This leads to a golf-specific question, “Would the golf instruction industry in general feel threatened if instinct, intuition and simplicity was found to be more effective than the “conventional wisdom” of working on golf swing mechanics?!? If so, the response would probably be to promote more emphasis on golf swing mechanics……and that seems to be what has been happening for a while now!

One “mindset” is not better than the other. My intent here is to explore how these seemingly opposite mindsets affect our golf game. We need machine mechanics, doctors, dentists, lawyers and engineers, occupations that require precision. But in achieving precision, they also use instinct, intuition and insight that are characterized more as artistry. This is where we get the phrase “it’s an art and a science.” These professionals’ businesses are often called “practices.” They “learn their art” through the practice of exploration and discovery. 

Performing an effective golf swing is both an art and a science; it involves instinct and mechanics. So, what’s the best way to achieve a reliable and effective golf swing? We can work on, fix and try to control one part of our golf swing at a time just like a mechanic, or we can focus on the whole swing and the final result just like an artist, and trust our subconscious kinesthetic instincts to orchestrate the “parts” of our swing into a whole swing. We can “practice our art” through exploration and discovery. Since our golf game does not have consequences as vital as the above professionals, the best way to “practice” our golf game might be to engage a process of play, fun, exploration and self-discovery.

How often do you encounter the exact same conditions, externally and internally, when playing a golf shot or a stroke on the golf course? Is your body/mindever in the same place? Do you ever require the exact same golf swing considering all the physical and mental variables you encounter playing golf? What makes more sense, having a fixed and repeatable golf swing, or a flexible and adaptable golf swing? Which is more reliable and effective, a focus on using your conscious intellect to try to control the parts of your golf swing, or allowing the potential of your subconscious (which is responsible for your physical movements) to produce an adaptable golf swing? Can you actually control the parts of your golf swing with your conscious mind, or is it more effective to generate a subtle intention to allow your subconscious kinesthetic instincts to orchestrate the parts of your golf swing into a whole swing?

Actually, I don’t believe there are parts of a golf swing! It seems to me that a swing is a whole swing that takes place in about 1.5 seconds, with “parts” being nothing but a continuous whole.

You may now be considering that it might be more beneficial for your golf game, your golf swing, and your score to cultivate the attributes of an artist rather than a mechanic. So, the question then becomes, “How do I cultivate the attributes of an artist for my golf game?”

Here are a few hints: Artists are “born out of experience.” They are birthed out of   trial and error, failure and success, and exploration and discovery. Artists nurture the seeds of potential and possibility through curiosity, exploration and experimentation. They honor each present moment of development, practice and performance……with awareness. Artists play; they practice and explore just for the joy of the process and allow the results to speak for themselves. Artists envision, improvise, imagine and try different things to see what works and what doesn’t work. They resonate with each present moment in the process. They don’t live for the accomplishments; they live for the joy in the process and allow the results to be a secondary reward. The results are often uncommonly good!

The instinct-awakening golf exercises found in the Awaken Your Inner Golfer bookare designed to cultivate each of these attributes of an artist. They are designed to encourage artistic flow, and a ‘letting go’ of attempts at mechanical control. The premise of the book is to help you establish the necessary foundations of grip and posture, and then utilize the golf exercises to explore and develop a flexible and adaptable golf swing. It’s the same process that the artist/musician utilizes. For example, the musician learns to play the piano effectively by first establishing the foundation of playing scales, and then explores variations to develop artistic flow. The guitarist learns the artistic flow by first establishing the foundation of playing chords, and then explores and experiments. The artist/musician finds what feels and sounds good not by trying to control the parts, but by blending the scales or chords together through exploration and experimentation to discover a whole that harmoniously flows!

In doing some research for this blog, specifically about musicians, I came across something that made a strong impression on me regarding the similarity of using the “instrument” of a golf club and using a musical instrument such as a piano or a guitar. In helping someone understand how to learn and improve their “playing of an instrument,” it was metaphorically described as a process of “translating energy through your body to your fingers.” This so prodded my thinking to see how using the instrument of a golf club is so similar to using a musical instrument. We establish an intention for our swing or playing music, and we allow the energy of that intention to translate through our body to our hands and our fingers. We can’t force this to happen consciously. To allow this to happen and “play” each instrument effectively and harmoniously, we need to activate the “feel” in our fingers and our hands. The chords and scales in music, and the golf exercises in golf, serve that specific purpose. In using a golf club to produce a flowing and harmonious golf swing, we need to first establish the foundation of an effective grip to enable us to “feel” and use the instrument as it is designed……to swing. 

I know I’m just touching the surface of the similarities of using golf and musical instruments, but it reinforced my understanding and belief that, for an effective golf swing, we must start with the foundation of an effective grip, form an intention for our swing, and then let our body/mind “translate the energy through our body to our hands and our fingers.” The instinct-awakening golf exercises can assist you in this process.

To summarize, I believe that an effective, reliable and flowing golf swing is best developed by utilizing exploration and experimentation, the attributes of an artist. Your body and mind are ever-changing along with the variable conditions faced on every golf shot. I believe that the most effective approach would be to develop an adaptable golf swing generated by subconscious kinesthetic instincts to orchestrate a golf swing with rhythm and flow……the same approach that the artist/musician takes. Our subconscious is infinitely more capable to do this than our conscious intellect! It takes trust. I will explore how we can develop that trust in the next Instinctive Golf Blog. Stay tuned for next month’s blog, TRUST.

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