Throughout my years of playing golf I’ve been approached by people wanting advice on how to improve. Maybe they want me to look at their swing, or they want to know how to hit the ball further, or how to lower their handicap. But the theme of all the questions is this: what’s the fastest way to get better?
When I started playing golf at 12 years old, I was, by my estimation, really bad. I couldn’t break 100. And in fact for two more years I would never average below 99. When my peers in my age group were making birdies and crushing their driver and shooting in the 60s, I was stuck dinking it down the fairway and fighting for bogeys. But as discouraging as this was I never let up on practicing.
For the next 4 years through high school I saw a lot of improvement. I went from rarely breaking 100 to rarely shooting over 80. I played decent in junior golf and earned myself a college golf scholarship.
But then in college improvement was minimal and very slow. This plateau lasted around 8 years. This was a very, very long 8 years of daily practice without much to show for it.
Then I found a swing instructor (Robert Linville of Precision Golf School) who introduced me to a plethora of new ideas, methods, and drills. This set in motion two years of constant practice, but yet again without much to show for it. Until all of the sudden, in my own way, I broke through. I won back-to-back tournaments in the summer of 2017 and finished Runner-Up at the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur. So seemingly I had come out of nowhere and started playing really good golf.
But that view isn’t complete. The view that people have from the outside of “who’s this guy that came out of nowhere and got good overnight?” is so short sighted. It ignores the countless hours, endless days and weeks and months and years of excruciatingly boring practice sessions filled with innumerable range balls, pacing off wedge shots, lining up putts on the putting green, and thousands upon thousands of holes played.
Those 15 years of practice can be summed up in one word: boring.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved it and wouldn’t change a second of it. But to view success as an overnight thing where you can ask somebody their advice on how to lower their scores and it happens in a blink is just silly. When you ask those questions you have to expect an answer that you might not like.
Question: How do I hit the ball further with my driver?
Answer you’re looking for: Get fitted for a new driver.
The truth that you won’t like: Start by playing 10 rounds of golf and measuring the distance of every drive and get the average. Then hire a fitness coach and lay out a fitness plan that will increase your strength and flexibility to allow you to swing faster. Then hire a swing instructor and plan to meet with them twice a month for a year to work on removing your old habits and replace them with new ones. All the while you’re hitting hundreds of drives a week attempting to implement the changes that your instructor is working through with you. And all the while you’re going to the gym 4-5 times per week and working on increasing your strength. And all the while you’re fighting your mind saying “you hit it nowhere” “people are pounding it by you” and “you’ll never hit it farther let alone as far as other people”. And all the while you’re trying to keep a semblance of a personal work/life balance without making people think you’re crazy. And then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be hitting it farther after a year of nonstop, tireless, laser-focused effort.
Oh and did I mention that driving the ball further is just one of a dozen other aspects of golf that you have to also work on improving at the same time?
So to ask someone an innocent question like “How do I hit the ball further with my driver?” is to open yourself up to an incredibly arduous, boring stretch of practice.
This will turn off most people from ever even taking that first step, but that’s why there are much fewer people that succeed than people who fail. But the people who succeed were able to do one thing that the failures weren’t able to. As James Clear, an author and successful entrepreneur, says, “they fell in love with boredom.” It’s what every successful person has done. They all decided that they’d push gratification further and further down the track and focus on one singular goal every day. The goal of improvement.