Dancing v. Golf

The golf swing has got to be one of the most difficult skills to learn, because of the thought process that must accompany the movement. I find that if I don’t focus, I’m lost, and if I think too much, it’s worse. There are so many things that dance in my head when I approach a swing. I want to grip the club properly, bend my legs slightly, and stick my hind-end out just a little. Then I have to consider the actual swing. I think about my wrists, my elbows, my head, the balance shift in my body and the follow-through of the club. There are so many errors I can make, and I have made them all. I lift up, or look up, or stop short. Sometimes I try to hit the ball too hard, instead of accepting that the natural rhythm of the swing, the power of the club and the momentum of the follow-through will project the ball farther than any brute force. My golf instructor Lee will often give me one little nugget of advice that changes my whole swing, and it is a beautiful moment. She once said, “You know, the swing doesn’t have to involve your whole body.” I believe this tip came from her intuition that I am an over-thinker. I have busy-brain syndrome, and it is exacerbated by my perception of golf as a very complicated game.

When I started lessons with Lee, she had me swing the club like a metronome. She explained that the golf swing has a rhythm, and once your body learns it, you can just feel your way through the swing instead of thinking your way through it. You just have to do it over and over and over again, until the brain tells the body, “ok, I think you have it now, I’m on to bigger thoughts”. Hopefully in that moment, the golf swing begins to look natural, easy, and full of grace.

This message from the brain to the body is what I am hoping to find as I now learn to dance. My dance instructor, Stephen, calls it “muscle memory”. In essence, it means that the body memorizes how to move, so that you can think about the bigger picture, such as where you are in relation to the dance floor, or conveying a certain mood, much like an actor might. If I try to think about the intricate steps required for my dance routine, in addition to what I need to do with my arms, torso, head and facial expression, I am sure that my brain will implode. There is literally too much to remember all at once, so I hope to practice the movements so much, that eventually my thoughts can get out of the way.

So now I swing my body like a metronome, the same way I did with my club when I first took up the game of golf. I practice every day, engaging in simple moves that I will need my body to have in the “muscle memory” repertoire. I have faith that although learning to dance is as difficult as learning to golf, if I practice enough, I will be able to focus on the big picture and not become overwhelmed with a million small thoughts. Thankfully with both endeavors, I have amazing instructors who are patient and reassuring, and I am confident that they can guide me toward some form of grace.

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