Golf Lessons from the Operating Room

When I teach residents and medical students, I tell them a surgeon has to practice his skills. I tell them to play video games and develop hand eye coordination, to tie knots with the left and right hands. The knowledge base, the decision making skills, the patient relationship skills are all separate from the actual physical skills of surgery. I tell them, when I ask you to sew, I expect you to sew as if you are a savant -unknowing and unrelating, but technically brilliant and relentless. They should operate scratch. I have known many surgical residents who were walking textbooks of surgery, veritable walkers of water when it came to patient interaction, and superb diagnosticians with CT scanning eyes, ultrasound fingers and ears, but these same brilliant people couldn’t cut their way out of a paper bag


Golf is basically the same. You have a situation (ball low, high, uphill, downhill, fairway, rough, trap, wind, etc..) that requires a strategic decision to reach an identified goal. The second part (like actually operating) is in the execution -setting up and swinging. This second half has to be pure and unthinking, repetitive and free of emotions and thoughts that may bleed in from the first part -the situation, the strategy, the goal, the eventual score. I was thinking the exact thing in the OR yesterday when I asked my resident to just operate brilliantly (he made me proud), and today, my good friend, J. J. told me the exact same thing about my golf! 

It is to disconnect the act from the mind, to achieve a purely detached but present state of being in swinging the club. 

Thankfully, I am a scratch surgeon. I hope to be a scratch golfer. (BTW, the hand in the picture belongs to a resident who happens to be a scratch golfer).