The sound of silence is so strong, that I feel I can hear the leaves rustling at the end of the hole. I walk towards the tee box with determination, channeling the winner’s mindset of all the golfing greats. I look at the flag, and place my golf ball and tee between the tee markers. I look at the flag again, imagining a smooth, straight line from the tee to the hole. I approach the ball, stare it down, take a deep breath, and swing with optimism.
Swoosh. Clink. Soar. Smile. Thump. Groan.
I could’ve done without the last two, as I realize my ball seemed to have landed in a particularly evil bunker next to the green. I look towards the heavens, and slump down my shoulders in defeat. I wonder when will my golf ball learn that the hole is the tiny hole with the fluttering flag, not the giant bunker with the frustrating sand?
The dejection with which I trudge towards the bunker, is a far cry from the confidence I was channeling just a few minutes earlier. I gingerly step into the bunker, with all the elegance of trying to roller-blade on ice. I approach my ball, and look up at the wall of sand staring me down, making me feel smaller than my little tee. I hop up a little to get a perspective of the flag, dig my feet in a little, stare down the ball, take a deep breath, and swing.
Swoosh. Clink. Sand. Thump. Mumble. Groan.
My ball barely rose in a cloud of sand, before hitting the wall of sand, and landing back in the bunker with a frustrating thump. Which evil genius designed a six-foot-deep bunker?! I shuffle towards the ball, dig my feet in the sand, stare down the ball, take a deep breath, and swing.
Swoosh. Clink. Sand. Thump. Mumble. Grumble. Groan.
My ball rose higher than the previous stroke, but it fell just short of the wall, and came rolling down to rest in the annoying sand. I was so irritated with the ball and the bunker that I decide I would just pick up the ball.
“What’re you doing?” asks my golf partner, peering down from the edge of the bunker (now looking considerably taller, as I look up from the six-foot-deep bunker).
“Picking up the ball.”
“To avoid holding up play?” I reply with a puzzled look on my face.
“Take another swing at it.”
“I’ve already tried twice, and it seems to be particularly stubborn.”
“Third time’s the charm.”
“I think I’m having better luck at creating a sandstorm, than I am at charming the ball out of this vindictive bunker!”
“You can get it out,” says my golf partner, with an encouraging smile.
“Oh, alright, I’ll give it another shot.”
I approach the cheeky ball with a smile, dig my feet in again, stare down the ball, chuckle, take a deep breath, and swing.
Swoosh. Clink. Sand. Soar. Roll. Slow Roll. Tip.
“It’s in the hole! You got it in the hole! Alright!”
I climb out of the bunker with a huge grin, and dart towards the hole to confirm that it was indeed my ball that landed in the hole! I high-five my golf partner, “You were right! Third time was the charm! Thanks so much!”
“I knew you could do it – you just needed to be reminded you could do it!” replied my very sage golf partner.
While I may not have hit any noteworthy shots for the rest of the round, and I did lose two golf balls to the water, the highlight for me was that third shot out of the bunker. As I replayed that shot in my head, a couple of interesting lessons came to life. Given that I uncovered lessons on Design Thinking from ‘The Godfather’ series, you can’t be entirely surprised that I found insights burrowed in the sands of that bunker!
You could imagine the best plan possible, one where you are taking off like a bullet, soaring through the air, and charging straight towards your goal, without any hiccups or obstacles. But things don’t always go as planned – sometimes you have a minor hiccup, and sometimes you have a six-foot-deep bunker that you think you’ll never be able to get out of! But you can’t give up just because you hit a wall (of sand). Try, and try again, and if that doesn’t work, try again – you never know, third time may just be the charm!
Focus on your Mental Game
Bobby Jones said, ”Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course... the space between your ears.” While my friend and I were just playing a fun round, rather than competitive golf, Bobby Jones’ words are no less important. Golf is as much a mental game of strategy and confidence, as it is a physical game of strength and dexterity. That bunker incident reminded me of the need for mental agility, not just on the course, but off the course too. Believe that you can do it, and when things don’t go according to plan, believe that you can overcome the obstacles to succeed anyway.
This part is easier said than done, especially when life gets you down. But if you find yourself in a particularly stubborn spot, with seemingly no way of getting out, if you pay attention, you may have someone peering over the edge of the bunker, looking out for you, and believing that you can do it even when you doubt yourself. If you’re blessed to have these supportive angels cheering you on, believe in their words, lift your own confidence, and swing. And don’t forget to high-five those angels when you finally get out of that damn bunker!
I'm not sure who said, "Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn," but I've come to believe in its truth. A positive mindset has the power to turn things around, or at the very least, the power to believe that things will turn around for the better. Just as the course is filled with bunkers, water hazards, and thorny bushes, the world is also filled with obstacles that will frustrate you. But turning the corners of your mouth upwards, and having a little chuckle can help to put you in the right mood to tackle those obstacles.
While I could certainly spend more time practicing my shots, this bunker story just reinforces the need for patient persistence, mental agility, and a positive attitude topped off with a smile :)
Author’s Note: Yes, I did rake the bunker after celebrating that third shot!