Why you MUST play more golf

If you talk to a marathon runner he’ll tell you that the best training they’ll do is during the actual marathon. And no matter how hard or long a footballer trains on the track, nothing compares to the intensity of match day.

Relevancy is a huge part of making your practice time effective. And it’s for this reason I’ve been screaming from the tree tops PLAY MORE GOLF!

A few weeks back I wrote about Shane the golf pro. He’s a great guy and has a passion for the game. Just last week we caught up for another game and when I arrived he was running around, making sure all the members were happy. The delay was most welcome because it gave me some time to warm up and hit some balls (I’ve hardly played this year and needed to find something).

When we got to the course he repeated his statement from my previous visit, “I’m hitting the ball well, but am still struggling to get a score on the board”.

Listen. I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve been playing, you won’t learn to “score” (LTS) by hitting balls on the practice fairway. You’ve got to play. And the best practice you’ll can do will be on the golf course. Especially if you’re struggling to finish off your round.

LTS is a skill in itself. And this ability, at the risk of repeating myself, is not found on the practice fairway. LTS is playing the game and having the ability to adjust to the millions of variations that we find on the golf course. Another way of saying this is: Learning to get the ball into the hole.

Shane started well enough. He was hitting the ball beautifully and making me look average. He missed a few putts but I could definitely see he had more creativity to his game. Things ramped up on the 5th tee.

I asked him what shot he wanted to hit and he replied with, “I’m going to draw the ball off those bunkers down there on the right”. Perfect, he had a clear objective and I stood back, keeping out of his way.

This is where I witnessed the magic – a time where learning and performance and playing golf all merge. Some call this the “zone”. I like to think it’s when we realise our potential and just play the game in a way we’re supposed to.

Shane took a practice swing, and instead of worrying about his backswing position (he told me he was still having the odd lesson with the pro and he wanted him to get the club more on the outside) his swing found him. He let the upcoming shot dictate what was going to happen. He reacted to the target. As a result, this practice swing was uninhibited and it flowed. He danced into his set-up position and then let rip.

I wasn’t surprised to see the ball start at the bunkers and curve back into the fairway. It was a perfect shot. See the image below of the shot (a very poor image)

photo1 (2)

Shane’s tee shot from the 5th tee.

At this point I wanted to high-five him and make a big deal about it. I felt like yelling and screaming because it was the best shot/swing I had ever seen him make. It was truly the first time I had seen him play the game. He danced. He flowed and he hit the ball without internal interference. By the way, you don’t get this kind of thing on the practice fairway.

In a much calmer tone I asked him about that shot, I wanted to glean more from him. Here’s a rundown of what he told me,

“It felt great. I actually like this tee shot because I feel I can play that draw shot with confidence. I don’t know what it is, but this tee shot sits well for me”.

I continued, “Shane, that was a really good golf shot. You hit a perfect shot and you did it without worrying about your swing. You let your golf swing react to the target and this is truly playing the game. You can use this shot as your reference, go through your routine and let your golf swing react to the target.

The next bunch of holes were the best I’ve seen him play. He hardly missed a shot. He hit all the greens. He found all the fairways. His putting was still a little off but that is a work in progress.

On the 14th tee I asked him were would you rather be than here?

“Nowhere. I’m loving this and can’t wait to play the rest of the round”.

You NEVER get this feeling on the practice ground. I saw a quote the other day (for the life of me I can’t remember where) but it went something like this;

Kids will never remember their best day of watching TV

And it’s the same with playing golf. You’re hardly ever going to remember your best day of golf practice but you’re almost certain to remember your best game of golf.

And here’s another really important lesson Shane received on the day…

… the 17th hole swings around to the right. It’s not ideal for his draw shot so he attempted to hit a fade with his driver. I was dying to interrupt him and give him some advice. I kept quiet because sometimes it’s important to know when to speak and when to shut up. I didn’t say a word.

His shot wasn’t overly flash. A slice ball that ended up well into the trees. Please consider here that he had hit 12 ideal tee shots in a row. All of them draws and all of them either in the fairway or on the green. In my mind he should have stuck with that shot. He had a great feel for it and there’s almost always a way to make YOUR shot work, even when the hole shape doesn’t seem to suit. Here’s another dodgy image of that shot.

His 1st shot carved to the right. But there was plenty of scope to still play the draw shot

His 1st shot carved to the right. But there was plenty of scope to still play the draw shot

Here’s the thing…

It’s tempting to play the shot you think you should play. The shot the course designer or the golf coach wants you to play. But this is rubbish. You’ve got to play your shot. And you should play it ALL the time. Even when at first it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. You need a very good excuse NOT to play your shot.

I asked Shane to hit a second ball, this time I wanted him to treat the shot like he was hitting from the 5th tee. Granted, he needed to change clubs (an iron instead of a wood) but there was plenty of room for his draw to squeeze between the trees and find the fairway.

Shane: I never thought about hitting a draw from here.

This kind of lesson can’t happen on the practice fairway either. Sometimes golf is more than swing technique. Using your brain and deciding on strategy is just as important. And the more you are challenged the better you’ll become. So if score is important to you then you MUST play more golf.

One more thing: You might think this kind of lesson won’t apply to you because you’re not good enough to hit a draw shot or a deliberate curved ball. I disagree. All golfers, assuming they’re not rank beginners, can and should learn to curve the ball. You absolutely MUST develop your own shot and have the guts to hit it time after time.

Finally, the straight shot in golf is the most difficult. Curving the ball is a million times easier. I’d curve the ball if I was you.

Leave your thoughts or comments below.

In a future article I’ll discuss some of the putting things we worked on. Keep your eyes peeled.

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3 Comments

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply June 4, 2015

    Great post Cam and I have got a lot out of it and if things permit I will get out and play more golf
    Cheers Lukey

  • Michael Murphy

    Reply Reply June 4, 2015

    Hi Cam, I am certainly guilty of what Pro Shane did. Instead of playing my natural shot I try to do the fade when the occasion arises. Probably should only do the fade when there is less risk! You should touch on why there is golfers who play 3-5 days a week and never improve. I envy them the amount that they get to play! I should give this article to my boss…need to play more! Great article. Seeya

  • Steady

    Reply Reply June 6, 2015

    Playing also means accepting your shot. Good bad or indifferent. Great Post

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