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Dec 31

Practice Makes…Everything

You Have to Practice. Don’t Let Them Tell You Any Different

Yes, the oldest joke in the book applies. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.” It will always be that way, without exceptions. And yet, there is a type of marketing personality that will always try to convince you otherwise. He or she will tell you, usually on media or print, that you can perform just like the professionals by using his or her fancy new product, reading his or her new book, or by lashing yourself into a modern iron-maidenish contraption that won’t let you swing any differently than the right way. We couldn’t take it out on the course without looking like a reject from Lost in Space, but we don’t think about that at the time.

golf-practiceThese marketers depend on two things. First, that there is room in our heads for an incredible fantasy starring ourselves – winning the British Open over Tiger Woods in a playoff, or at least dethroning the club champion of our town. Every profession has these people. In music, it’s “play just like the real concert pianists with these finger charts.” Never mind that pushing the right button is about 10% of great playing – you know, balance, touch, foreground/background, unlimited degrees of finesse. A great one plays ten volumes with ten fingers simultaneously adapting each grouping at sity miles per hour, but you don’t need to know that. Golf is so similarly intricate that I recognized it immediately.
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Once that fantasy is implanted in our little golf brains, especially around the time of gift-giving celebrations, the other abiding principle takes over – that most of us would give our eye teeth for such easy fame, local or otherwise, because most of us are too lazy to do the work. That laziness, incidentally, is combined with the fact that we possess lesser gifts than Tiger. Did that even have to be mentioned? Sometimes, yes, it does. The spiel goes like this –  “Take ten strokes off your score…with almost no practice.” “This club does the swinging for you!” If they told us that this putter has the same homing apparatus as the Patriot missile, some of us will believe it. It’s about the same as telling us that we can go out and do what Tiger Woods does  without any of the bother he had to endure. In short, a large segment of the human population is crying out to believe anything that is offered to us in a convincing manner – from politics to art and golf, the term ‘practice’ is a dirty word. P.T. Barnum has a pair of golf shoes, too.
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I’ve said it beore, and will say it again. Modern golf technology is amazing, but we come with the package. So, go ahead and buy that driver that looks like it was brought down from the mountain by an advanced alien civilization. Then, foil the hucksters who prepare you for scratch golf while you sit in a sauna thinking about it. Foil them by learning to enjoy practice. I’ve always loved it. Rehearsal is a lot of fun. It’s the time you work out the art with your colleagues, mutually enjoying it in the best of circumstances. Performance is your time with the people. All right then, make the putting green, the driving range, and whatever else you have to do that marvelous time you get to spend with your own thoughts and growing skills, or with your teaching pro. You’re looking at a forest, desert panorama or oceanscape, for crying out loud. How oppressive could a couple of hours spent practicing be? But when they bring in the “no practice” lure? Close the book and change the channel.  It’s not a cliche that practicing golf sharpens your mind, so go out there and sharpen away. You’d never say “Guess I’ll go perform a heart operation- I have good instincts and I’ve read this book..” Let’s not do it on the course, either. So how do you get to breaking 80? Practice, practice, practice.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.