Madeleine Winnett: Will my ski thoughts help my golf?
It is quite intriguing to think what readers who don’t know me must think I am like based on my column. Because in real life, I think I’m very different.
Don’t get me wrong, I have the patience of Jeremy Clarkson when it comes to stupidity – which is a fairly wide compass covering everything from people, the handicap system and archaic, senseless rules on and off the golf course.
For instance, if a bunker is full of water, it isn’t your fault that the drainage system hasn’t worked, or that there have been rain deluges of biblical proportions.
You would be more than happy to drop your ball on a dry grain of sand if you could find one, but you shouldn’t be penalised by having to drop it outside if you can’t.
Neither should you be unfairly hampered if your epic, fairway-splitting drive happens to roll into a divot that someone else has been too lazy to replace properly – if at all – and I’m more than happy to reintroduce hanging, drawing and quartering for such offenders.
If you have hit the fairway, it isn’t unreasonable to expect to hit off turf, rather than out of a cavernous crater.
For years, the footnote at the end of my column said that I was “never short of a forthright opinion on the game,” and I can see why that would be a justifiable moniker, considering how many tirades I have trotted out.
However, away from my keyboard, I actually rarely voice an opinion unless I am specifically asked for one. I tend to be much more of a listener and an observer.
I also rarely complain. This was recently brought home to me as I discovered that I had been sitting in a tepid bath after skiing for the last five years completely unnecessarily, when I could have had one hot enough to boil a lobster in instead.
It took me nearly a week of lukewarm water to discover a secret button to press which overrode the pathetic level of hotness to which I had subjected myself.
However, when staying in other rooms, pressing what I assumed was an equivalent button never had the required effect.
So, lamb like, and not wishing to appear awkward, I just assumed there was a problem with the water temperature and put up with it – for two weeks, twice a year, for five years!
Then I happened to overhear another guest complaining that the water wasn’t very hot, and he was given the vital information about another secret button on the opposite tap to press.
What is wrong with the French? They don’t seem to have any concept of health and safety when it comes to skiing, because at any moment in a white out you can drop into an abyss as there aren’t any poles to show where the edge of a track is, yet they are worried about little Johnny – or Jean Louis – developing a warm glow during his ablutions.
However, this year’s trip was also revolutionary in another capacity. I have now learned to ski out of my mind, literally, and that has limitless and exciting possibilities for my golf.
I took up skiing roughly the same time as I learned to play golf, and have previously considered the mental skills to be parallel in a number of ways.
I’ve always been a technical skier, as I have a golfer, constantly working on my technique and sequencing of movements. Time and time again I have read golf manuals telling me to get out of my own way, not to have too many swing thoughts, etc. But I can’t. That just isn’t me.
If I hit a poor shot, I instantly know that I was thinking about the three things I meant to, but forgot about the fourth one in the middle. Now, however, I am starting to think that these gurus might be on to something.
On sun-drenched, beautifully groomed pistes, I like to think of myself as a pretty decent skier, carving it up with the rest
of the category 1 equivalents.
However, throw in bad visibility, deep snow, bumps and complete unpredictability, and I immediately regress.
So, when we had 85cm of snow in 36 hours, which became cut up and bumpy very quickly, coupled with thick, low cloud, I began the day counting how long it would be until afternoon tea and an early finish.
But something strange happened. My head stopped telling my body what to do, and that has never happened before.
Just as I tell myself how far to turn my shoulders on my backswing, and start my downswing with my hip turn, I tell myself where and how to turn on a mogul. But I didn’t. My legs just took over and did it all by themselves. It was as though someone else was skiing for me.
Without any input from me, my legs were more relaxed than ever before, simply absorbing every bump and deep furrow making exhausting conditions completely effortless.
And I wasn’t the only one to notice. My companions commented that my skiing had just reached a whole new level, and that I was skiing as if there weren’t any obstacles in front of me.
Not only was I ecstatic about my skiing, but I could immediately see the benefits of transferring this approach to my golf. And if I needed any reinforcement, I read on the way home about Mel Reid ‘feeling’ she had hit her best shot in a club-fitting series of tests without seeing the results – which happened to be spot on. Hum!
More to explore on this theme I think… just after I’ve run myself a nice hot bath!