Does practice make perfect?

2013-03-22 00:00

THE great Ben Hogan strongly believed that a golfer would never be really successful unless he put in hours and hours of practice.

He won nine major tournaments. Gary Player said the same thing. He also won nine major tournaments.

All of the current professionals are always on the range hitting thousands of balls. It has been drummed into them that you only get out what you put in. But it hasn’t always been like this.

Not all great golfers have been committed to practising, Walter Hagen, with 11 major tournaments and 75 wins on professional tours, didn’t practise much at all.

He said: “Practice always took the zip out of me. I preferred to be keen, fresh and eager for when play started.”

He maintained that he could not see the point of leaving all those good shots on the practice ground. After winning three consecutive U.S. PGA titles (the Wannamaker Trophy), he decided not to try to win a fourth. He was at his camp in Michigan enjoying the fishing and lakeside breezes and probably other diversions, when he changed his mind.

Only two days before the tournament, he hopped on a train, picked up a new set of irons and arrived in the late afternoon the day before day one. Who won the trophy? Hagen, of course! His confidence was infinite and that’s probably why he won so often. There were no nerves or negative thoughts with Hagen.

Bobby Jones, arguably the greatest amateur yet, felt that apart from hitting a few shots to get the muscles moving before going out to play, there was no use in practising unless it was to sort out a specific problem.

MacDonald Smith, a journeyman professional and brilliant teacher, had 29 wins in the United States believed that one should practise before playing, but only with your favourite clubs. This builds confidence and a positive mind.

So what is good for the average weekend golfer?

Henry Longhurst, the famous radio, television commentator and golf journalist, said amateurs shouldn’t practise at all: it only consolidates imperfections. He suggested that it’s better to watch the best pros play the game. These days, we certainly have access to that, but somehow it doesn’t seem logical to replace practising with observing.

From the 19th hole

My wife hosted a get-together dinner for family from far and wide, and everyone was encouraged to bring all the children and grandchildren.

During dinner, my eight-year-old granddaughter sat opposite me watching my every move.

The little girl could hardly eat her food for staring.

I checked my shirt for spots, felt my face for food, patted my hair in place but nothing stopped her staring at me. I tried my best to ignore her, but finally I asked: “Why are you staring at me?”

Everyone had noticed her behavior and the table went quiet waiting for her response.

My little granddaughter said, “Grandpa, I’m just waiting to see how you drink like a fish.”

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