The Sixth Hole: Just don’t look at it!

Michael approached the sixth green with time to spare. The other golfers were scattered, looking for their wayward approaches. He had time to study the break and speed of his putt and to remind himself to notice the typically neglected green beyond the hole. It was not just a question of locating the hole in context and imagining the consequences of a putt that went long, although certainly it was that. It was not just a question of putting his goals in the context of a larger green, although perspective counts too. It was also the freedom to look. Beyond the green, the path, the trees, lay the waters of the bay. A crane stood statue-still waiting for a fish. A cormorant dried its wings in the breeze. A turtle basked in the sun. Golf, mocked as the imposition of the artificial on the natural, a fine walk spoiled, is typically played in settings of uncommon beauty, silence, and privacy.

His first year of play, on a course off the mid-coast of Maine surrounded on three sides by the Penobscot Bay, he stood awestruck in the late afternoon sun watching two masted schooners, sea birds, red tailed hawks, and foxes. Sandwiched between his slices and hooks and excavations, he pointed out these wonders to his fellow golfers and they said to him with some feeling, “Just don’t look at it!” They thought, with some reason, that his game might improve if he shared their priorities. But he continued to steal chances to look beyond the hole and time would have to tell whether his game would suffer a greater loss of focus than it gained in meaning.

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