Monday, December 7, 2015

Does Practice Really Make Perfect in Golf, Let's Ask Tom Kite in the 1992 U.S. Open


cc from commons.wikipedia.org

   When most golfers begin to golf we're anything but naturals, and if we're honest and learn to keep a clean and honest score card we'll be having trouble shooting under 110 for the first year on 18 holes. Of course, during this formative phase of learning how to golf we must practice a lot. The question I'm asking is: does it help so much for a golfer who is a 15 handicap or lower to practice a lot? In my opinion, at this point in our game it's more of a mental problem we need to fix and thus practicing is not as important. Let me explain further.

   “They” say golf is 90% mental, right? Well, who knows exactly how mental it is, but I think this is accurate - if not more mental when we get to the point where we're shooting around the low 80s and high 70s every time out. At this point, we have a decent swing, are making good contact, and are managing the course fairly well. The problem with my game is just some minor pulls and pushes at the wrong time, which seem to add up too quickly for me to recover. Basically, my problem is mental at this point.

   I've been golfing for 24 years now, and there have been long stretches of time where I didn't play at all. Then I would get back on the course and it was like riding a bicycle, I was just the same as before. It would seem I would play much worse taking a year off completely, but I just keep the same near bogey golf game no matter what. This is why I started thinking "me getting better is a mental thing". Now, I shared the strong-grip lesson I learned and have been applying, which has given me the break through I was looking for, but really it's still a mental breakthrough. It only took me about two rounds to get comfortable with this grip, and now I'm hitting the ball better than ever.

   Now, it's basically winter where I'm at and although I could go play any day now, I wait for some reason. Not because I'm not thinking about the game, because everyday I'm swinging the club in the garage at least 20-50 times. I'm just waiting out that Par game like I'm stalking my prey...I'm waiting for an urging from somewhere to know it's time to play. I watch some old golf majors and keep up on some of the new cookie cutter pros, but I'm playing golf already in my mind.

   I get emails from a nice golf course called Emerald Valley in Creswell, Oregon. This is going to be my home course next year in 2016. To me it's my Augusta or my Pebble Beach, and until I par the white tees I don't deserve to move to the blue tees. This is the only course I want to play right now. It's the course I had my break through round of 79 (+7), and I feel a par round coming. I know it's a mental thing at this point although this post might not adequately describe it. I respect the sweating and practicing til you drop attitude of Tom Watson and Tom Kite, but those two never won anything until they stopped practicing and just let go to play. Tom Kite almost didn't learn this lesson until 1992 when he won his first and only major title at Pebble Beach at the U.S. Open! What a victory Mr. Kite had, and he didn't win because he practiced a lot. He won because he finally just played golf and stopped relying on his practicing.

   Practicing is over-rated golfers, that is the point. I don't have a lot of money to practice golf, and I don't need a lot of money to practice. Only when there's something major I'm doing with my grip or swing, which there rarely is, then I don't need to do anything on the range. The best practice is playing golf, and the best way to practice tournaments is to play in them. No mulligans, no excuses, no cheating, and no practice ball- just play it where it lies and deal with the consequences. If we can't learn from the acute pain of the blasted slice on the last hole blowing our chances to shoot par- then we'll never learn from some range and hours of practicing.

   We're as good at golf as our score card says at the end of an honest day of golf, whether alone or with other golfers. And for sure putt every single one of those little ones out! No gimmes golfers!


   Here is the magnificent round of Tom Kite at Pebble Beach in 1992, where the choke artist finally reached down into his guts and pulled out a brave victory for the ages to win the U.S. Open- the hardest golf pro tournament there is in my opinion. Mr. Top Ten (Tom Kite) shows us how to overcome the mental madness and persevere into victory. Watching this great golf from this fine golfer is how we practice golfers. No excuses, no mulligans, no gimmes, and no practice. Let's get golfing and threaten Par!

               1992 U.S.Open Golf at Pebble Beach