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The Working Actor

Golfing Tips for Actors

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Golfing Tips for Actors
Photo Source: Clay Rodery

I was watching the British Open on television. It is notable in that it is the only six-hour television show I know that starts at 3 a.m. They don’t care about ratings. They are only competing against the weed whacker infomercial and the guy selling nickels.

I got up at dawn to watch. There is something hypnotic about watching people doing something that is incredibly difficult and incredibly pointless at the same time. I was listening to the analysts discussing play. In my semi–dream state I could swear they were talking about acting.

Their first suggestion was to visualize. It is important to see the shot. To do that, you have to practice. Practice creates confidence. Confidence creates ease. Ease creates beauty.

For an actor, the driving range could be a class, a production, even a reading. The more you feel success in your efforts, the more you will see it in the future.

Later in the round, the golf expert commented on a player who was losing his lead. He said the golfer appeared to be “overthinking.” He said people played better when they remembered golf was still a game.

Actors often forget that to act is to play, even if you are in a tragedy. Only moment-to-moment playing can breathe and come to life. To do that, Stanislavsky named the identical skills the golf analyst said the best players possessed: concentration and relaxation. Those two come together naturally when we play.

One of the players finished his round. It was clear he was proud of his score. He was asked to what he attributed his success? He said, “I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I was thinking well.”

It is natural for actors to embrace the notion that “acting is emotion.” I don’t think it is. Humans are emotional all the time, but to act requires clarity of thought. If you understand who you are in a scene and what the stakes are, your emotions will be appropriate. Clarity of thought will save you even if you don’t have your “best stuff.”

On the 18th hole, a golfer was looking at a putt from all angles. The commentator said the main thing “the folks at home” needed to remember is that “Your putt is your putt. It may be seven feet long. You wish it were one. It’s not. Be happy it’s not 12.”

Things can always be easier in an audition or on the set. Make the best of it. Embrace the challenge. It creates a positive attitude that leads to more success.

As the telecast was coming to a close, the broadcasters were trying to hype the next day’s round. They said it was a crowded leader board. Anyone could win. “Momentum isn’t a string of victories; it is one shot.”

It’s always good to remember that a losing streak ends with a single, successful swing. It gives one hope. That’s why golf is such a fascinating game.

Stephen Tobolowsky is an actor, author of "The Dangerous Animals Club," and teaches improvisation for Kalmenson and Kalmenson.

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