Practice Golf With a Purpose
Practice? Yes We're Talking about Practice
Does practice make perfect? My answer would be "nobody's perfect, but it can sure get you close!" When you read about all the greats from athletes, to artists, to musicians to successful business entrepreneurs you learn about the tremendous amount of time, effort and passion that they applied to their trade. Sure, some people are born naturally better at certain skills than others, but they aren't born to the level of greatness that they eventually achieve. There are debates and scientific studies left and right promoting practice and repetition as the way to mastery and for every one of those there is an "expert" that disagrees.
Getting Better Requires Hard Work
Think of famous people who were phenomenal at what they did. Michael Jackson was reportedly extremely hard-working, practicing dancing and singing to the point where most of us would have dropped within the first couple of hours. Michael Jordan supposedly took practice as intensely as games. Tiger Woods along with Ben Hogan have proven that two of golf's greats have been two of golf's hardest working players. Ben Hogan said you have to "dig it out of the dirt" meaning there is no secret, you need to work at it, hit enough balls and find it through diligence. I've heard Tiger's routine consists something of 2 hours at the range in the morning, on course play, an hour of putting, playing 9 holes, then a couple hours of practice in the afternoon, followed by another 9 holes. Let's not forget that he is a weight lifting machine and reportedly runs 5 miles a day. Bruce Lee practiced his punch 5000 times a day! That was only his punch! Don't forget about all the other moves he practiced incessantly. Dave Pelz, the putting guru, made the comment in his book Putt Like the Pros "It takes 10,000 successful repetitions before new muscle memory begins to overcome and 20,000 to replace the memory of your old stroke."
Speaking of Michael Jordan, I will never forget when I was the Director of Instruction for Michael Jordan Golf. Anytime he came out to the range to compete against our juniors he would trash talk them a bit. In a nice fun way of course. You could just feel the competitiveness and work ethic oozing out of him. One of his very good friends was a regular student of mine and professional athlete. Neal Anderson had been the running back for the Chicago Bears following the great Walter Payton. Neal would come out for a lesson and then drag me to the putting green whenever I was available. We would have epic 2-3 hour putting battles because Neal was a fierce competitor and believed in practice. By the end of it I could barely stand up straight suffering extreme back pain! I do have to admit though, that was the best putting year of my career. It wasn't just the hours of practice it was practicing with a purpose...to win!
Knowing How and What to Practice is Crucial
What is the definition of practice? When you search for the definition of practice here is what comes up... "Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency". Dictionary.com describes it as "Repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency." Lastly, Merriam-Webster's definition is "To perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient. To train by repeated exercises."
So is repetition the key? Are coaches around the world including Pelz correct? According to New Scientist.com "Mark Churchland and colleagues at Stanford University investigated the way the brain plans and calculates motion. 'The nervous system was not designed to do the same thing over and over again,' says Churchland. 'In other words, training muscles to perform a certain way through practice, such as countless hours teeing off or shooting a basketball, will not produce the same shot every time because the brain's behaviour is inconsistent'."
So is it natural born talent then that makes a player great? According to Fortune Magazine, "British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, 'The evidence we have surveyed ... does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts"."
Practicing the Proper Techniques Leads to Improvement
Hmmmm....so what is the answer for you? As I stated earlier, I believe practice can make you much better and closer to perfect regardless of the talent you were born with. Of every one hundred students that come to the lesson tee, one might practice close to the level that a professional does. Most however, are not playing the game for a living and have to make a living doing something else. Not to mention put time in to families, homes, friends, etc. Students that do put in the time to practice are often wasting time by practicing poorly.
We will give you tips for maximizing the practice time that you do have with quality as well as finding ways to practice when you are short on time. Practicing with a purpose and making your practice more realistic should be your priority rather than basing your success on the number of balls you hit. You may think hitting five hundred balls is a quality practice session, but think how confused your brain must be. Do you want to hit five hundred times when you go on the course? Gee whiz...for the sake of golfers around the world, I hope not!
Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.