In a prior post titled 'What Makes a Golf Champion,' the following equation was introduced and explained:
[(TALENT x PRACTICE) x CONFIDENCE] + (GOOD LUCK - BAD LUCK) = ACHIEVEMENT
In this post I will focus on the secret to 'golfing success' which is different than 'golfing achievement.' So what is success? Well, simply put, if you set your golf goal (or goals) and you achieve them, you have achieved golf success. And because there as many goals as there are individual golfers, there are infinite levels of success. For example, success to one golfer may be to break 100 at the annual company tournament, while winning the modern day Grand Slam may be success to someone else. But in every case, 'practice' is the key to golf-success.
To be clear, the secret to success is practice. . . PERIOD! It sounds so fundamental, but so many people believe there are shortcuts around practicing. But if anyone has found a way around having to practice, please share it with the rest of us. Until then, one has to practice to achieve success. And you have to practice regularly (over time) to continue to be successful. So how much should you practice if you want to be 'the best you can be?' Well, this will be different for each golfer. That said, let me add some perspective by sharing how I discuss the topic of practice with my junior students.
Every year I ask the juniors, "What target do you aim at and hit 1,000 times in a row and virtually never miss?" Then there is silence as the gears in their brains start to turn. When enough time has passed, I give the answer, "It is your mouth! When is the last time you ever missed your mouth with your spoon or fork?!" The kids quickly respond, "Oh, yea, never!" I then press on and ask the kids, "When was the last time you even thought about the process of hitting your mouth? Do you ever think about lifting the fork, keeping it level, keeping your wrist locked, and then bending your elbow so the fork ultimately hits your mouth?" The answer is that virtually no one thinks about the process of shoving food into their mouths. In fact it is so natural that the kids can carry on a conversation while eating! How can this be? If they asked their parents, they would find out that they did not always possess their current eating skill level.
The answer is practice! They practice eating at least three times a day. . .every day. . . 365 days a year. Let's work some numbers about how many time they shoot food into their oral cavity.
3 meals a day X 30 bites per meal (estimated) = 90 bites per day
90 bites per day X 365 = 32,850 bites per year
So if one trip from a plate to one's mouth is equal to one practice golf ball struck, then the numbers above show that one needs to hit about one large bucket per day (roughly 100 balls). But this does not ring true. We know that people like Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods, and almost every tour player hits more than 100 balls per day. It was rumored that Moe Norman would hit 500+ balls a day.
Let me note that there is only one 'shot' in eating while there are many different shots in golf. So if one is going to 'practice like one eats' they would need to hit 100 short putts, 100 medium putts, 100 long putts, 100 chip and runs, 100 flop shots, 100 sand shots, 100 buried sand shots, 100 drives, 100 5 irons, etc. etc. There are an infinite number of shots in golf! I didn't even start talking about shapes of each shot. . .draws, straight, fade, high, low; the list is endless. And this is a key reason why golf is so hard to master. There just are not enough hours in the day or golf balls on a range to ever be able to 'practice like we eat.'
In future posts, I will cover some strategies that will help one practice efficiently. The key is to get the most out of every practice session. Or in other words, 'practice smart.' This means we need to identify skills that are common to all or groups of golf shots and focus our main efforts there.
And rest assured that if one does practice regularly and smartly, they will get to a point where there best shots will be left to their subconscious mind rather than conscious/active thought. As hard as it may seem, golfers that have put in the practice can stiff a 3 iron from 240 yards while thinking about what they might make for dinner that night.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you want to be the best golfer you can be, 'practice like you eat.' Practice regularly (every day) and often (multiple times a day). And be smart about what you practice.
(Note: an interesting read is 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell where he discusses the idea that one has to invest 10,000 hours of practice before becoming a professional at just about anything.)