The guru of golf
seven spiritual laws of double bogey
By Rick Reilly
I knew I was in for a different kind of loop when I asked my man—mystic,
healer, and self-help author Deepak Chopra—why he was wearing
only a golf shirt in the 45-degree brrrrr.
I had on a sweater and a windjacket. So did his instructor. So
did everybody at Meadow Del Mar Golf Club in San Diego this chilly
morning in January. But there stood the 55-year-old Indian svengali—the
man who has had Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson and Madonna worship
at his sandals—in a cotton shirt that barely
covered his brown biceps.
"Aren’t you cold?" I asked.
"Oh, no!" he said in his distinctive New Delhi accent.
"Don’t you know I’m a trained guru? I maintain
my own body temperature. I was trained to do this 20 years ago."
"It’s very simple, really," he said, looking up
with a beatific smile on his face. "You simply imagine a
bonfire in your rectum."
Guess that would do it.
"So," I asked, "how do you keep yourself cool on
a really hot day?"
"This is also simple," he said. "You simply imagine
an icicle in your rectum."
You figure this is how he got the name Deepak?
"It is common in the East," he said. "Tibetan yogis
can sit in a pile of snow and within minutes, the snow will have
melted around them."
This, to me, did not seem like such a great skill. I’ve
known guys who can do the same thing after eating the Smothered
Burrito Special at Chubby’s Mexican Cafe.
Anyway, we began walking to the first tee, and I couldn’t
get my mind off it. I imagined what other possible things it might
be helpful to imagine in that cavity during a round. If it’s
rainy, do you imagine an umbrella? If you’re hungry, do
you imagine a kielbasa? If you’re on your last golf ball,
do you imagine a sleeve? It was a very weird day already and it
was only 8:30.
I should’ve known it was going to be bizarre because it
was an idea given to me by one of the most bizarre people in the
history of golf—the brilliant Swedish Tour star Jesper Parnevik.
I once spent a week with Parnevik for a feature story for Sports
Illustrated. In that week with him, I ate volcanic dust, tried
to solve his amazing card tricks, and spent too much time discussing
the vial of his blood kept by a healer in Sweden, who would call
him with blood readings like, "Be careful. Today you could
get sick." And, "This would be a very good day to make
Before I left, he handed me Chopra’s six-part audiotape
series, Magical Mind, Magical Body, and it boggled my brain. Since
then, I’ve read many of his books, including Grow Younger,
Live Longer, which I finished a week from this coming Thursday.
So when I heard he’d taken up the game of golf six months
before and was coming out with a book called Golf for Enlightenment:
Playing the Game in the Garden of Eden, I called to see if he
might want a free caddy for a day, somebody to kind of enlighten
I mean, could the same principles he uses to help people find
peace, love, and happiness help their short game? Dr. Chopra’s
teachings have helped people heal their hearts, banish disease
and approach nirvana, but could they do something truly meaningful,
like teach you to hit a 1-iron?
I sincerely doubted it. Golf just doesn’t usually give a
rat’s ass about the "infinite organizing power of your
cells," does it? Golf just wants to yank down your pants
in front of the Ladies Senior Auxiliary Luncheon and slap you
in the face a few times.
C hopra must have been talking to me for a good 30 seconds before
I realized it. "I had seen people playing this silly game
and it seemed odd to me," he was saying. "Guys hitting
a ball and chasing it." And after his first hour on the range,
he declared, "I’m never giving this up. I’m going
to play this the rest of my life."
Golf. It even sucks in the gurus.
First, we went to the range. He’d been custom-fitted for
a set of TaylorMades, but they hadn’t arrived yet, so he
was using Tina Mickelson’s. (Tina is indeed Phil’s
sister, as well as a 4-handicap and the editor of Chopra’s
book. She edits books, has a syndicated "Golf Tips with Tina
Mickelson" column and suffers every day being endlessly compared
to Phil.) I checked them out as we walked: driver, 3-wood, 5-wood,
7-wood, 9-wood, 5-iron, 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, three wedges,
and a putter. Your typical 30-handicap rental bag.
He set up over a rockpile and took his stance. His stance seemed
way too wide. Perhaps he did have goods stored in certain cavities.
And his head was too far hunched over. But suddenly, before he’d
hit one, he was rising again, with a smile on his face like he’d
slept with a hanger in his mouth.
"I love golf," he said, wistfully, in that peaceful
tone, "because it has brought me back to my childhood. It’s
play. When I am playing golf, I don’t have a worry in the
world." He’d played cricket as a boy and was captain
of the cricket team at medical school. "The greens are like
the pitch of the cricket field."
He went back to that awful stance, took it back slowly and calmly,
then whipped it through the zone as if he were late for his next
reincarnation. Most of the ones he hit were shanks or heel jobs.
I started peppering him with questions.
"You’re known for your incredible mind," I asked.
"What is your swing thought?"
"Nothing," he said. "Nothingness."
And then he swung and the ball went off 70 degrees sideways, thus
You have written that to be happy, one must not attach oneself
to outcome, I said. But how can you do that in golf, which is
totally based on outcome?
"One should play golf the way one plays the game of life,"
he said, lining up a 5-iron. "You can’t get caught
up in the ego."
The shot dribbled off the tee and went 30 yards. It would not
even have made a decent googlie.
"Damn!" he said, under his breath.
OK, so he’ll still a little attached to the outcome thing.
He hit a leaky drive to the right on the first tee box and was
pleased, then took two mulligans from the fairway. "I don’t
keep score," he said, happily. "But I think that was
about a six."
At night, he said he was reading not Stephen Hawking, but Golf
for Dummies. At home, he is not contemplating the world’s
sorrows but standing in front of his mirror looking at his backswing.
Hours he used to spend understanding neurological science are
now spent watching the Buick Classic.
And they say golf isn’t an addictive substance.
H e butchered No. 4, unleashing a few swear words along the way.
You just don’t expect to hear a man of infinite peace, a
man who has lifted himself above worldly desires and avoidances,
a man who has freed himself from ego and envy, say, "Goddamn
piece of shit" under his breath. He looked like a man who
at any minute might break all his clubs over a camel’s head
and quit the game forever.
But then, just a quickly, he actually parred the 5th hole, with
a decent drive into the first cut of rough, a lovely, high 9-iron
to 20 feet, and a rare and totally legit two-putt. Suddenly the
wisdom was flowing again. And he really did have an uncanny understanding
of the game for a guy who can’t play dead in a cowboy movie.
For instance, he kept talking about Karma. He wrote once, "The
Law of Karma says no debt in the universe shall go unpaid."
Now, right away, I know Karma has never met my golf buddy Two
Down O’Connor. But now he was saying Karma is not necessarily
a good thing in the game of golf.
Say what? I said.
"You see there are two kinds of action. Karma and kriya.
Karma action is a present action influenced by a past action."
(e.g., you pretended somebody else’s Titleist Pro VI was
actually yours last week. Somebody hit your new Lexus with one
this week.) "Kriya action is totally independent of the past.
So, if I’m not influenced by the last shot, then it’s
spontaneous action, that is: kriya action. Kriya means that each
shot should be hit as though it’s for the first time."
I felt I had all the intelligence of Britney Spears until it suddenly
"Ohhhhh," I said. "You mean: ‘Play each shot
one at a time!’"
"Exactly!" he beamed.
Are there golf gods? I asked, planting the flag back in the hole.
"Oh, I think there are absolutely," he said, "in
the sense that you are sending out negative or positive energy
that can be returned to you. For instance, when I’m playing,
I want the other person to hit a good shot, because, then, it
inspires you. Any flicker of a negative thought can make you fall
You write about golf requiring "supreme effortlessness,"
I asked. But isn’t golf too hard for that?
"No," he said after a pause. "Understand that in
your body are 100 trillion cells. And each one of those cells
is doing six trillion things per second. The body is a miracle.
It has infinite organizing power. Your soul has infinite organizing
power. Your soul animates your body. Your intention has the ability
to connect instantaneously all parts of your body. Thus, when
you swing, it is a miracle of orchestrated action. It’s
a wonder. A miracle."
And I’m thinking, If a normal, simple golf swing is a miracle,
what would he think of Jim Furyk’s swing?
On No. 9, he was triumphantly on the green in two, but his first
putt climbed halfway up a hill then back down to him, past his
feet, and off the green. He tried it again and the same thing
happened. On his third try, he blew it up the hill, past the hole,
and off the green the other way. Generally speaking, golf will
kick intelligence’s butt every time. He Gretzky-ed it in
Overall, my man played two holes like Tiger Woods, two holes like
Earl Woods, and five holes like a bear in the woods. He looked
like he wanted to bite his putter in half.
Doesn’t golf just suck sometimes? I asked.
"It’s true that in golf, one never leaves feeling completely
content," he said, smiling happily again. "There is
always something you could’ve done better. But that is fine.
Discontent is divine, too."
I started taking his bag to the 10th tee box, but he said his
day was done. "Nine holes is all I usually play." He
was off to a seminar where people had paid $6,000 each to meditate
with him. "Amazing things happen," says Tina. "People
levitate. Deepak calls it ‘lifting off.’ He said that
one time, so many people were lifting off it looked like a popcorn
Before he left, the mystic gave me a stack of signed books and
one of those looks, eye-to-eye, that makes you think you’re
staring straight into the cosmos.
But as he left, I couldn’t help wondering what he was doing
letting himself mess with this maddening game. Here’s a
man who has written 25 books (translated into 35 languages), produced
over 100 audio and videotapes, starred in five public television
shows, delivered countless lectures (at $55,000 per), and helped
hundreds of thousands of people save themselves from their wretched
lives. To think that he was suddenly saying to his secretary,
"Screw world peace. I gotta work on my short game,"
seemed wasteful somehow.
Golf is so hard and such a time gobbler, I said. Wouldn’t
your talents be used better somewhere else?
"Well," he said, "for me, personally, it’s
kind of like I’ve been there, done that... My goal now is
to be less than a 10 handicap within the year."
And I think he can do it.
If he doesn’t keep score.
Rick Reilly is the author of the cult classic Missing Links, Slo-Mo!,
and The Life of Reilly, a New York Times bestseller. A senior
writer for Sports Illustrated, he has been voted eight times as
the National Sportswriter of the Year by his peers.
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