By Dom Cioffi
So, here we are in the middle of January. With the holidays now a distant past, all there is to look forward to is a powdery winter, the Super Bowl, and a spring break without excessive travel restrictions.
Personally, I’m a golfer, so that activity starts to move forefront in my mind as the colder months wax on.
My golfing year usually begins in January when I start fantasizing about the upcoming season. Historically, I will have finished up the prior year on a sour note because I never seem to improve. Honestly, I’ve been playing golf for over 35 years and I think I leveled off in ability after year 5.
I’m usually thrilled about shoving my clubs into the garage for a few months once the season ends in late fall. But by mid-January, I’m already reading golf magazines and starting to watch the Golf Channel with regularity. By February, I will have dug into the closet to find my electronic putt-return device to practice with. By March, I will likely be swinging a sand wedge in the garage trying to incorporate whatever swing tips I gathered off the internet.
And then April arrives, and with it comes The Masters – the absolute greatest sporting event known to man (yeah, I know that one is up for argument). The Masters generally pushes me over the edge. After watching the tournament, I’m doing whatever it takes to find a place to hit golf balls, whether it’s a range, a field near my house, or a net in my yard.
It generally takes about 10 swings for me to realize that I’m going to have to relearn how to play the game. Unlike other sports, golf (at least for me) is not something I can drop for a period of time and then pick up where I left off.
I’ve always said: In basketball, I can stop playing for two years and still easily make a lay-up the first time I touch a ball. Golf simply does not work that way for me.
However, I have improved in my ability to get back to square one faster. This started a few years ago when I watched a video where Tiger Woods described the phenomenon of “feel vs. real.” At the time, I had never heard of the concept, but it has slowly become a standard teaching philosophy in golf circles (and many other sports where technique plays a vital role).
The idea is that what you feel like you are doing doesn’t always equate to what you are really doing. This can cause confusion as you try to correct a swing mistake, slowing your progress and initiating added frustration.
For instance, if a right-handed golfer is slicing his tee shot (which means you are curling your shot unintentionally to right of your target), he may feel like he’s swinging perfectly, but the reality is that he’s coming over the top of the ball with an open club face, which causes the slice.
The remedy, which would be more shoulder rotation and an inside attack trajectory, might initially feel odd or even wrong, but the results would prove worthy. You would then have to practice swinging differently — which would likely feel wrong — but give the desired effect.
Once I understood the concept of “feel vs. real,” I stopped trying to correct my mistakes by just hitting ball after ball and instead resorted to video to see what I was doing wrong.
Of course, the smartest way to improve at golf is to find a trained professional to teach you or help you with swing issues. Pros can provide instant feedback and greatly enhance your progress.
I’m an idiot so I try to figure everything out on my own, which I don’t recommend, and which obviously accounts for my stalled improvement over the years.
Years ago, I remember contemplating what it would take for all the people of earth to come together in unity. My solution was an alien attack on Planet Earth, which would force all countries and races to unite against a common enemy. I thought this concept would make a great screenplay for a movie.
Not long after, “Independence Day” was released, which utilized this exact storyline (and immediately ended my screenwriting career before it even started).
And then the pandemic happened (which is kind of like an alien invasion), and I don’t think my idea of shared unity occurred. In fact, it’s turned out to be just the opposite, proving once again that what you feel doesn’t necessarily equate to what is real.
This week’s feature, “Don’t Look Up,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, uses the destruction of the Earth due to a cataclysmic comet impact as a commentary on how a shared tragedy might not be the thing to bring humanity together.
If you’re in the mood for a well-made dark comedy that hits home on a multitude of levels, then I encourage you to watch this film. A lot of the content is tongue-in-cheek, but the overall points are profoundly entertaining.
An earth-shattering “B+” for “Don’t Look Up,” available for streaming on Netflix.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.