The Game of Golf and Its Influence On My Creative Mindset

by Patrick Branigan

May is my favorite month of the year. It consists of three things: my birthday, the beginning of summer weather in the northeast United States and the approximate start of my annual habit of traveling to places I haven’t yet visited (L.A. this year for example). However, thus far my May weekends have consisted of something different. I decided as birthday treat to myself, I would indulge in a brand new set of golf irons, some woods, some shoes…the whole nine yards. My weekends have consisted of hours of golfing. It’s the start of a journey that is at times unforgiving but more often quite rewarding, and not simply because I happen to be lucky enough to displace a small ball hundreds of yards successfully into a cup in the ground…

The truth is much of my family is made up of golfers. Recently my father has returned to golf as a primary hobby of his and my mother has periodically joined him by taking lessons and taking part in nine hole matches. Even more recently my younger brother has picked the sport up as a casual hobby as well. My dad’s side are all avid golfers. Considering my whole family now stands as an advocate of the game, I felt not only pressured to join but also as if I was missing out on some integral aspect of leisurely activity, some sort of alternate route to achieving life long happiness that I’ve been missing out on.

So I bit the bullet and quickly got “the itch” I’ve heard so much about. Within a matter of a month I hav visited the driving range plenty of times and already played have played over 72 holes of golf. I’m hooked. I must admit, when I was younger I played casually, learning the fundamentals by goofing around with my dad. I’ve found that this foundation has quickly returned. I’ve matched my memory with a new determination to actually take the game serious and now I find I’m well on my way to improving my game.

The results so far have been great. I’m hitting golf balls straight. I’m hitting golf balls far. And according to Bill Pennington, I’m already hitting the “average golfer’s average score” of 100. Not too shabby I suppose. But what I’ve found most impressive has nothing to do with my golf scores but has everything to do with my creative outlook.

The game of golf is filled with silence.

Silence is beautiful, calming, daunting and mysterious all at once. So many times in a round of golf you find yourself hearing no more than the thoughts in your head. The lack of audible emotion and the surrounding natural environment makes a round of golf more about appreciating the ruffling of leaves than the barking of humans. The silence that engulfs you allows you to focus on your thoughts. It forces you to pay attention to your habits, tendencies and thought processes. It makes you aware of your body and your mind and how they are in (or out of) sync. It allows for extra time to ponder planning, approach and decision making. This ability to take an extra moment to further your reasoning for a decision is partly a result of this silence and translates well to the creative environment.

Taking an extra moment to solidify reasoning in your creative decisions inevitably leads to better outcomes. Paying attention to your thought process and taking the time to critique your tendencies and habits certainly helps you refine yourself and your work. When you find yourself surrounded by the terrifying hovering of an art director, or the persistent flak aimed at you by critics, take some time and find silence. Take a moment to forget about the anticipated result of the task at hand. Reflect on the moment, and don’t try to anticipate the future. You’ll be surprised when you start finding yourself naturally at ease in circumstances you formally had a lot of difficulty with.

Golf provides clarity to me. In work and in life.

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