Advice is everywhere. Set goals. Don’t leave your cell phone on your nightstand. Wake up early to be a productive person. Eat kale. Practice your short game if you really want to lower your scores, but also eliminate your big miss with the driver. Oh, and if you’re going to be a pro, you need to hit two hundred balls per day, at least. Listen, I’ve been a parent for two months now, so let me tell you a few things about parenting.
We’re all quick to turn into walking advice columns when we have even a modest amount of knowledge or experience with something. In the era of Google, we’ve become reluctant to learn things the old fashioned way. We’re losing our ability to block out the noise and dig answers out of the dirt. If Hogan had Google and YouTube, it might have stifled his genius and path of self-discovery.
There are certain pieces of advice or knowledge that can’t be disputed. If you want to hit a draw, your club path must travel inside-to-out. Nobody can argue that because it’s based on physics. However, the way the inside-to-out path is best achieved through a complex series of body movements is debatable and highly unique based on the individual.
Despite not writing about it much lately, my overall goal to become a scratch golfer remains. With a busy and demanding career as an engineer, two-month-old twin boys at home, and running this epic blog and Hat Shop in what little spare time I have, this goal may appear lofty but, what the hell.
In years past, I have set process-based goals that included ambitious practice schedules and minimum requirements for entering competitive events to gain valuable experience. I was trying to do everything I thought I was supposed to do to improve based on the overload of information and advice out there, but something was amiss. I was trying to do everything “right”, but it didn’t always result in being the happiest golfer I could be.
There is nothing wrong with arduous, structured practice schedules, but it doesn’t work for everyone, and whether it does or doesn’t isn’t necessarily related to ambition. These goals didn’t put any unmanageable pressure on me to fulfill them, but when life got in the way, and the schedule I set out for myself simply wasn’t practical to follow, I felt guilty about it. I was stuck in a constant state of feeling like my game wasn’t as sharp as it should be.
In 2019, I approached things a little differently, which was simply to have fun and embrace golf for what it was on any given day. Sometimes golf is competitive and score-based, while other times, it may be more about the experience at a particular golf course, or the company you’re keeping. All these experiences can be enriching in their own way, and to believe every round should be a journey towards scratch can sully the other ways in which golf can be enjoyed. As far as practice went, I simply treated any opportunity to practice as a bonus and embraced it. When I didn’t have time to work on my game, well, there was no law prohibiting me from playing well.
In general, my new mindset was fruitful in 2019. On paper, I slowly but consistently improved my handicap from 4.8 to 3.8. This improvement is intriguing, mainly because I didn’t end up practicing much at all.
In August, I literally didn’t practice at all, and my ball striking was perhaps the best it had ever been. I joked to my wife that my body was preparing for life with twins by learning to play well without practice, and being ‘rusty’ was just a state of mind. Could there be a sliver of truth to that?
Everyone is incredibly unique, and what works for me or someone else might not work for you. But perhaps a focus on being the happiest golfer you can means having the confidence to drown out the noise and figure out what makes you tick. Taking the approach that a happy golfer is more likely to shoot low scores than one who counts on low scores to be happy.
When you dig the answers out of the dirt, you might just find out that less is more.