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Thursday, 23 March 2017

Should We "Double It"?

Bobby Jones was not big on practising. He believed the game was best learned by playing it. This was in part due to the fact that he was quickly bored by hitting balls from a flat lie and would find himself firing shots off at a machine gun pace and end up tired and disgusted by the whole process. He eventually only practised if he had something definite to work on or fix. Once that was done he went home and let his mind and body rest until he next teed it up.

Ben Hogan absolutely loved to practise. A day he didn't practise was a day lost to him in his desire to perfect his shotmaking. Hogan's impact can definitely be seen in golf today, where practice is viewed as being absolutely essential for a top player. Hogan famously had Gary Player, who is one of golf's hardest workers and practisers, come to him for advice. He asked Gary to describe his practice sessions, to which he responded, "Double it."

Harvey Penick taught two very different golfers in Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Tommy loved to practise. Ben wanted to play. Harvey had no issue with either of them. They were being true to their own personalities and both succeeded in the game they loved.

So, perhaps in golf, like life, we should avoid the word should. We need not feel guilty if we aren't spending hours hitting balls or working on some aspect of our game. We should practise if we have something to work out in our game, or if we are enjoying the process and want to practise. But if we haven't got the desire to practise, we shouldn't feel guilty. Perhaps that's just how we're wired. 

In the end, you can never, or should--there I used that word again--never knock a person for working hard on their game. But the fact still remains that the longest walk in golf is from the practice tee to the first tee; and there are lots of guys with grooved swings who can hit it perfectly on the practice tee, but struggle on the course. Golf is about much more than hitting balls. 

Still, I sometimes wonder if I'd be better if I practised harder. What if I "doubled it"? Fortunately, or unfortunately, the point is now pretty much moot because my back won't allow much practising even if I wanted to. So, I say, to thy own self be true. If you love to practise, good for you. If you don't, but love to play; no problem. Gary Player figured that the harder he practised the luckier he got. And that may be true for him, but my money would still be on Bobby Jones.