Connect with us


Golf talent: What is it?



There’s a German proverb that says, “You will become clever through your mistakes.” Most people don’t think of this saying when it comes to the most talented people in their fields, however.

In the golf world, athletes such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are thought to be gifted with a golf club like Michelangelo was with a paintbrush. When we watch golfers like Tiger and Phil play and practice, it looks as though they were born with the skills to be the best golfers in the world, and that their development must have been very easy. But according to Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code, nothing comes easy for anyone. Not for Tiger, Phil or even Michelangelo.


Coyle contends that talent is acquired. It is not an innate quality or gift that is given to some chosen few, nor is it something we are born with. Talent is the result of a definite process through which the learner acquires a brain composition (a substance called myelin) that separates them from the average learner.

As a golf professional and surely not a neuroscientist, I would do Coyle’s work a disservice to elaborate. But in my role as a golf instructor, I found the book extremely beneficial to both me and my students. This article summarizes some of Coyle’s findings and offers a guide for those interested in ways to improve your game.

The first thing we learn, and probably the most eye-opening concept in the book, is this:

Learning comes from deep practice, and deep practice arises from trial and error.

There simply is no learning or talent development without trial and error. The author cites numerous examples of learners going patiently through this process; budding musicians playing a piece of music time after time until it resonates with their musical sensibilities, young Brazilian soccer players learning to move the soccer ball with their feet despite falling over it time after time, dart players, scrabble players, and so on. Regardless of the skill, the common denominator is how it is acquired.

“Struggle IS NOT an option,” Coyle says. “It is a biological requirement.

“Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways — operating at the edges of your ability where you make mistakes — makes you smarter. Or to put it in a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors and correct them-as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go — end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.

“The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does.”

The residual effect of this deep practice is that it actually alters brain composition. Coyle tells us that ALL great artists and accomplished professionals have an abundance of a substance called myelin in their neural structures. According to Coyle, we acquire myelin through hours and hours of deep practice, and as the practice deepens, the myelin continues to build and insulate nerve synapses (the structures that permit a neuron to send a signal to another cell, neural or not). This process is called myelination, and the effect of a profusion of myelin, is that the transfer of signals becomes much faster and more direct. And the outcome is, simply put, genius.

Coyle researched areas of the world he calls “myelin hotbeds” and found this in case after case. As I mentioned, I do want to do a disservice to this very informative work, but I do suggest a thorough reading of it.

“Skill is myelin insulation that wraps around neural circuits and that grows according to certain signals,” Coyle says. “The story of skill and talent is the story of myelin.”


So when we have deep practice, we’re building myelin. Now comes the firing of those neural cells. Just how much practice do we need? According to Coyle’s findings, 10,000 hours is a strong suggestion. If we do the math on 10,000 hours we get something like this: 50 hours a week, every week, for four years! For those of you who think you hit a lot of balls, think about just how many balls you could hit in 50 hours a week?

So how does the theory of myelin growth and 10,000 hours explain phenoms like Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko, who have competed on the LPGA Tour since their early-to-mid-teens? It’s clear from interviews with the two that they had a golf club in their hands shortly after they were out of their cribs, so they likely reached the 1o,000 hour mark before they even entered their teenage years. In any case, the trial and error repetition over and over and over again is clearly an integral part of talent development through myelination.

How does all this affect the average golfer? Well, let’s discount the 10,000 hours; that simply is not realistic for most people. But I think there is a lot to learn about the trial-and-error method of practice. When Coyle talks about deep practice, he is describing the type of work I have seen most effective in learning the game.

For example, it is beneficial for any golfer to watch new players at a driving range. See how they miss the ball, look puzzled, smash the club into the ground, look puzzled again and then out of nowhere smash one. One way or another, they solved the puzzle using the trial-and-error method simply because nothing else was available to them.

A golf lesson is, or should be nothing more than guided practice, providing opportunities for the student to problem solve and learn from their errors. If, as a student, you can embrace your errors and learn from them, you are on your way to deep practice and long-term improvement. It is only through fascination, a total awe for the subject matter, that one can practice deeply. If hitting better golf shots is your sole motivation and you put in the right kind of practice, you can improve. If your motivation is anything other than fascination, say perhaps, “to be better at golf for my job” or “to have a hobby with spouse or friends,” you may find more limited success. But the really great thing about the game of golf is that it can be enjoyed on so many levels.

I strongly recommend The Talent Code, both for it’s lively discussion of how genius develops as well as help with your own game. I’m always in search of new ways to teach and learn and this book enlightened me on both ends.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Your Reaction?
  • 2
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at



  1. Nagah

    May 30, 2014 at 8:39 am

    You guys have missed a great book called Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. This will give you a clear picture on this topic.

    • Straightdriver235

      Jun 28, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      I don’t buy it. I knew several future tour players when they were younger–in high school, I watched them develop from close up and I can say they uniformly had superior natural hand eye coordination and came upon the game far more easily than the average good player they rose above. Even someone like Hogan was more than happy to let the myth persist that he self created himself through practice and thought. In fact, Hogan was exceptionally gifted with his hands early in his career. He was a far more naturally gifted player than commonly thought. This kind of thing is what people want to hear, inspirational, etc. It sells and gives people hope, but it is not based in reality.

      • Dennis Clark

        Jul 8, 2014 at 3:14 pm

        When Hogan first turned professional, he was quite bad. Missing cuts, almost gave it up. Valerie’s persistence was the thing that kept him on tour. He found the answer in the dirt hour by painstaking hour.

  2. Tony Wright

    May 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Dennis, thanks for this timely article. Seems like it has generated some good discussion. I totally buy into the concepts discussed in The Talent Code.

    If you are not aware of it, there is a very interesting blog that is being published every day related to Golf Mastery. It is the Eye on the Tour blog, done by Bill Rand. Well worth reading every day.

  3. Norm Platt

    May 17, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    I’m going to share some quotes from a coach I had when I played squash on the national team in Canada. My coach who was a former world champion and also had a brother who played Davis Cup Tennis for Australia used to say “to be good, you have to be different” He also used to say that champions “are always in a hurry because they have tunnel vision” . In my own personal experience with NHL hockey players, when they were young they were dominant and they made the game look easy.and because they won so much, they played a ton of games. See a trend.
    Getting to a Tiger Woods level, which is generational (once every 25 years), it’s clear he altered the perception of golf. And for about 15 years, he had no peers except a Nicklaus or Hogan or a Jones. You can pick out most sports, identify the generational stars and see that because they were that dominant and won, they played more than anyone else.
    That’s how you get to 10,000 hours. We used to say that it took 10 years to become a pro.

  4. AJ

    May 16, 2014 at 8:42 am

    To credit this author with the 10,000 hour theorem is wildly off the mark – worse still if he claims in his book that his ‘research’ led to this number.

    Malcolm Gladwell (in his book, “Outliers”) actually first came up with it. Matthews Syed (“Bounce”) followed it through and Dan Coyle is seemingly next up.

    Syed, it must be said, constantly referenced Gladwell’s theory and publication throughout his own text.

    It should also be noted that this is a typical figure for an average learner to go from total Novice to ‘World Class’ status – clearly if you play other sports involving hand to eye coordination you will not need the full 10,000 hours and just as important, the 10,000 hours must be put to good use.

    In summary then; this is not an original idea, the 10,000 hour principle has been in circulation for ages and the premise of having to work incredibly hard to achieve your goals in golf have been advanced for decades.

    Therefore I find it hard to understand the importance of the article given this topic has been covered numerous times over the years.

    “The Secret Is In The Dirt” – anybody? B. Hogan, referring to thousands of hours of practicing to achieve proficiency.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      How can anyone interpret 10,000 hours literally? This author and others are making a clear simple point: It takes a LOT of practice to be great. Ask Lee Trevino, Vijay Singh, Ben Hogan et al.

    • Travis

      May 18, 2014 at 8:47 am

      I would argue that Gladwell really didn’t come up with the 10,000 hour theorem. In his book he credits K. Anders Ericsson and other researchers, scientists, and doctors who did. He does however discuss it in detail as it relates to becoming the best in certain fields.

  5. Dennis Clark

    May 16, 2014 at 8:21 am

    I get a free pass on this one, Im just reporting on Coyle’s work 🙂 He has another book titled “The Little book of Talent”. Thx for all the interest. DC

  6. marcel

    May 15, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    great article – its all in hard work

  7. Thatsamiam

    May 15, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Another excellent book along these lines is Bounce …….the power of practice by Matthew Syed.

  8. RG

    May 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I hate to bust the bubble but this is not true. Bo Jackson never practiced. His basaeball coach said all they did was get him in his uniform and get him to the field on time. After baseball he played football as a “hobby”. He didn’t go to training camp, run sprints or practice. He put on his uniform, stretched a little and went out on the field and was the best. Conversely no one on the planet works harder than Tim Tebow. He works and works and practices and works and he is no better. He cannot throw the ball to the corners and edges with any accuracy and he will never play QB in the NFL. Tim is a great guy and to this day he works harder at being a QB than most guys in the NFL but he doesn’t have the talent and it’s not god’s will for him.The truth is that those who can’t do teach, and hard work is for people who don’t have talent.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 16, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Does Bo Jackson’s ability prove the author wrong? He did work out 2-3 hours a day. As I said, we have to separate the physical from the mental. a guy 6’8” 250 lbs is a product of genetics, but he has to train those muscles to become proficient at a physical skill. Thx

      • Uncle Bob

        Jun 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

        The are definitely cases where talent shows and definitely short-cuts the road to greatness. And there is a difference between talent and Ability. Physical attributes cannot help but play into this. in golf, certain peoples hands and fingers are able to grip the club differently than others. Look at Hogan’s book where he shows how the left hand holds the club. The way his thumb bends at the 1st knuckle is something that most people can’t do.
        Two or three “wunderkind” pros come to mind where innate talent made their greatness possible in very short time. Greg Norman, purportedly never played golf until he was 17 or 18 years of age.
        He was a scratch golfer in a year and played in the Masters in his early twenties. Larry Nelson and Tom Weiskopf went from nothing to terrific in less than three years. Legendary gambler and hustler, Titanic Thompson, supposedly developed at the same speed.
        Undoubtedly, practice is required. But not all talent is learned. Some is in our DNA, gene pool, however you want to put it. The ability to mimic someone else’s moves..some people can’t do it. Regardless, I agree that a certain amount of digging it out of the dirt is critical to success. Some people just don’t require as much “shovel time”

  9. Andy

    May 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    My son and I go to see Geoff Jones at Texarkana every year. One of the first things he required us to do is read the Talent Code. You can go to the Instruction forum on this website and see that his thread is the longest on there. There is no doubt that the worst thing he says, ” hey that kid has a lot of talent”, because then he probably will not work very hard. A hard working and practicing golfer will do much better than anyone who has talent. Tiger has a lot of talent, but this came from countless hours of work.
    If you read this book there so many truths in this book. For one, you can work and practice hard but, if you are doing it fundamentally wrong, you will not improve. You are doomed before you even start. Also, when you are practicing, practice slow, because if you can’t do something slow. You sure can’t do it fast. Just ask any musician that.
    Great story.

    • RLL

      May 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      I agree, Andy. There’s a ton of great stuff about learning – a point I tried to make earlier was that the book should be called The Learning Code. For instance, without giving anything away for free, Coyle describes a way that all top talent practices — from prodigies to superstars — that makes practice work properly. Just integrating this one method into my work on my game finally allowed me to crack the single digit handicap wall that I’d been up against for a long, long time. Like I said, great book, bad title.

    • Mike

      Jun 6, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Hi Andy,

      Any contact information on Geoff Jones? He seems to have disappeared from the web. I’ve read and watched all his material and want to visit him for the initial start. Being in Baton Rouge, I’m only 5 hours away.


  10. TheFightingEdFioris

    May 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    For every one time you read “The Talent Code”, I suggest you read “The Sports Gene” twice.

  11. Jake Anderson

    May 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

    There really is no German proverb that means “You will become clever through your mistakes.”

    • Dennis Clark

      May 15, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      And page 11 “The Talent Code”.

      • Matt

        May 15, 2014 at 5:11 pm

        Dennis is right. There is a German proverb that has a very similar meaning.

        Greetings from Germany! 😉


        • Dennis Clark

          May 16, 2014 at 8:14 am

          It’s not Dennis but thx. I just copied what Daniel Coyle had put in the book! hows the weather in Germany right now?

    • Chris

      May 16, 2014 at 3:03 am

      That´s true.

      Closest thing there is:

      “Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen”

      freely translated

      “There has never been a champion that just fell out of the sky”

      • Matt

        May 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

        Actually, it is not my favorite proverb but you definitely hear people say “Aus Fehlern wird man schlau/klug.”.

        @Dennis: The weather is a little bit cold and rainy for May. Rather changeable. More April-like. 😉

  12. Rod

    May 14, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    This looks like an interesting read and yes you can develop talent but I believe knowledge is more valuable than doing, especially at this scale. It’s more valuable to be taught a technique, understand it and be able to break it down before you can effectively practice it and ultimately deliver it. As a junior golfer I had no talent around eye hand coordination, but got my handicap to 4. It was a natural progression through spending so much time practicing and playing over six years. I had massive holes in my game through developing bad habits and although I didn’t have lessons, I knew the issue was my lack of knowledge on the technical components of the swing. 20+ years later my return to golf has been supported by getting fitted (although I insisted on a set of blades), kicked off with a few lessons and I started to again live on the course. It wasn’t working so I started my golf education and spending time researching, reading, exercising with a focus on golf flexibility and strength and most importantly using gadgets like golfsense, Ping putter app and filming my swing. Got my handicap to 15 within 10 months and more importantly I’m building some amazing foundations in my swing that will help me get to 4 or better in the future. We live in a fantastic age with so many resources available and the clubs these days are amazing. Acquire the knowledge and after 1,000 hours of practice, you will be building myelin (whatever that is).

  13. paul

    May 14, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    If someone is gifted with a good memory as one year old, does that mean its a talent or trained? If a kid plays with a hockey stick when he is two and when he is 5 years old he goes to school, will he be talented or trained? I would say that I don’t know for both. I have a brother who is good at everything mental. He learned the alphabet at a year and a half and said it backwards the next day, now a mechanical engineer graduating at the top of his class. And I am the brother who couldn’t compete at that, so I did sports. So I am viewed as talented at sports and he is viewed at talented at problem solving. Does either of us have talent? Or training?

  14. leftright

    May 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    It makes no difference how much you practice. You can practice perfectly and if you don’t have the talent you can only be so good. Then comes the head part when you reach a certain level in the game. It is the hardest obstacle by far. I know for a fact the best I can be at golf mentally and physically and realizing this is the first hurdle to jump. Unrealistic expectations lead to failure physically and mentally. There are wealthy men and women taking lessons every week from Class A pros who cannot play worth a damn and never will. They have no talent. They will reach a level but never get above that level. Just because you shot par one time does not make you a scratch golfer. If you can shoot par 10 out of 20 rounds the USGA says you might be a scratch golfer but “what course is it on.” I have found the ratings to be abject failures to say the least and everything is based on opinions. Experts change everything they know every 2 decades anyway. Drink red wine, now red wine is not worth a damn, fat kills you, now it is helpful. Strong grips ruin golf swings, now strong grips are the way to go. Manufacturers promise more distance, accuracy but we all know it is not the arrow but the person shooting the arrow. If golfer are not anything else they are gullible, me included.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 14, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      actually “scratch” in golf means shoot the course rating 10 out of 20. Things change pretty much at the rate of other fields, that is to say we learn things. Unfortunately some are still teaching concepts that defy modern know science in golf instruction. We have Flightscope, Trackman etc, so no guesswork should be long gone from diagnosing swing problems. Thx

  15. leftright

    May 14, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Talent is something you are born with and then there is the talent between the ears that no one can figure out. Two people of my generation had both…Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Phil, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros to name a few are one step below those guys, tons of talent but did not master the between the ears part. If golf was so easy why out of billions do we have basically 50 guys who are the outright best of everyone and another 50 who are just as gifted striking the ball but don’t have “it” between the ears quite as much. The book is a rehashing of what any true golfer already knows. The best golfer who ever lived probably never took up the game.

  16. Dennis Clark

    May 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I think there is a theme running through the thread here. In the book I did not get the idea that the author is saying 10,000 hours, deep practice and myelin accumulation AUTOMATICALLY creates world class talent. The point he makes is that in the studies he has done, those profiled have gone through the process he describes. Furthermore, there has to be SOME distinction between the physical and the mental disciplines. Playing the piano needs somehow to be dissociated from running the 100 meter dash I would think. And I think when we see juniors who seem to have a natural inclination for certain disciplines, prodigies if you will, these may be the very ones we could follow Coyle’s path to true greatness. The operative word being true. While a 5 handicap may be a fair golfer by national standards, he/she is light years from great, thx for all the comments, a very intersting discussion.

    • jjmule

      May 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

      I’ve read this book and it’s a good starting point on this subject. David Epstein’s ‘The Sports Gene’ gives a more complete “picture” of defining what actual talent “is” and how it is developed. He dispells many myths regarding this subject matter in his book. Really a great read.

  17. Mike A

    May 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    While I appreciate the spirit of this article, I was hoping for a description of the peculiar set of physical, mental, and neurological characteristics that every good (5 handicap or better) possesses. There is something innate that allows one child to swing a club well at first touch, while another will play golf for a lifetime without ever making a great swing. Why? Certainly, the attributes of a golfer are less obvious that other sports. Michael Phelps is a great example. If he had applied himself to meaningful practice, but had been 5’4″ with small feet and short arms, none of us would have heard of him. Without his long arms, oversized webbed (yes webbed) feet, none of us would have heard of the best swimmer in Northern Maryland. The combination of outstanding predisposition to an activity, combined with unrelenting hard work and opportunity is what creates excellence.

  18. James

    May 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Takes talent to do about anything much better than anyone else and golf is no exception to that. The approach this book describes can maybe maximize one’s potential but doesn’t mean you will be a PGA Tour caliber player by any means. It’s funny how most golfers would say that they wouldn’t be able to play professional baseball but doing essentially the same thing, hitting a ball with a stick, with golf they believe they can be a professional if they just practice enough. Even your current job takes talent. Those who are the best have the talent for it, those who aren’t but do try don’t. All the training in the world may not make those people better at it either. This is a fact of life.

  19. James

    May 14, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Talent cannot be learned. If it can, then everyone on the planet would be a professional golfer with the right teaching. Not even all professionals get good enough with proper coaching to be earning a living playing golf. I would say, at best, that people can reach their maximum potential with proper coaching and their maximum potential will vary.

    Some people have talent to play the piano for instance. It is a mechanical thing if you think about it. You are practicing to learn to use your fingers a certain way. But what separates someone average from someone great is talent plain and simple. Some people maybe have the neuron connections in the brain that others don’t that give them the talent to perform a task much better than someone else could. This does indeed apply to golf. The notion that anyone can learn to be a top tier golfer is a huge fallacy.

  20. cj

    May 14, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    I have three children. 2 boys and 1 girl. My oldest is 14 and he has a gift for golf. At 14 he has little interest in the game but can flat out play. We’ve played twice this year so far. With no practice He’s beaten me once for 9 holes and pushed me to a playoff the second time. I’m a 7 handicap. He just has pure natural talent. He can go out without touching a club in months and make pars. Nobody had to teach him how to hold a club or how to hit the ball. It really is incredible to watch. If he had the desire to go out and practice he would quickly become an amazing golfer. I hope someday he takes an interest.
    My other two children can not hit a ball off of a tee in 3 tries. The are the exact opposite. Talent really does exist.

  21. Ewan S Fallon

    May 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Practice should be of quality not quantity. Anyway practice in itself is not enough. Bobby Jones was not that big on practice. I think a better way to go about it is to watch and copy a golfer about your own size and gender. Imagine yourself in his shoes and in the mirror check yourself against your model. If fascination sets in whether your good or bad, then get on a course at 5 in the morning and play three balls for your amusement. Chances are the good shots will stick and your mind will let you progress. Play is the best practice.

  22. RLL

    May 14, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    I had a conversation with the author a few years ago when the book came out, and the bottom line is that he understood the main point (and objection) I was making to him about the book — which is that it should be called “The Learning Code,” not “The Talent Code.” The book in its entirety is an argument for learning, not talent, and titling it “The Talent Code” was like Sontag titling her book “Illness As Metaphor” when the argument the book makes is that illness cannot and should not be thought of as metaphor.

    There is much to be valued in what the author says about learning, but to characterize it as “anyone can become Tiger Woods (or Mozart or DaVinci…) if they put in the time and effort” is ludicrous.

    To say that pro’s and superstars all understand the value of hard work and have put in something like 10,000 hours to get to the top is true. But to say they didn’t begin with a talent that is different from the average Joe is, well, ludicrous.

    Something like “touch” or “hand to eye coordination” differs vastly from individual to individual, and it will always be thus. The gods DO have favorites, and no amount of “learning” can overcome that reality. To think otherwise is a term as old as civilization: hubris. Life isn’t fair in part because talent isn’t democratic. With the same amount of hard work, some will excel. Period. End of story.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 14, 2014 at 6:53 pm


      What was his response to your suggestion of a title change? I think you make a good point and possibly one quite misunderstood about the book. I do not get the impression Coyle is saying that 10,000 hours, deep practice, and myelin accumulation invariably creates talent; more like all the talented people have followed this course. There is an essential difference. We also need to separate the physical from the mental/creative. It seems limiting to group 6’8′ 240 lb athletes with much smaller, weaker physiques. But Lebron James’ “talent” may not have been developed without the requisite process the author describes.

      • RLL

        May 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm

        We basically shared a smile, as it was the publisher who set the title — a process I’m familiar with myself…

  23. Philip

    May 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    My thoughts on this subject …

    When I first heard about the 10,000 hour concept a few years ago I was pissed because it logically stood in the way of my goals. However, in hindsight it has likely helped push me forward as I hate being told I cannot do something. That was then, today I understand the concept and have seen lots of evidence to support it. Yes, there are those born with natural talent which can give them a head start.

    Consider the following:

    * They must want to do something that takes advantage of those skills … I imagine that is often not the case.
    * Even if they happen to choose something that takes advantage of the skills, they will eventually fail at some level – failure is the great equalizer
    * Once they fail it becomes work, it is no longer just effortless fun
    * Their future ability is now determined by their mindset and their desire to work past each and every failure until they reach the level they desire

    For me, it is not enough to just rely on natural talent, and putting 10,000 hours into something is no guarantee of success.

    “You must put 10,000 hours of failures into your goal, enjoying moments of success between your failures” – such is my current mindset and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    It is only through failures that we learn how to achieve what we want. Whenever we try to do something past our current abilities we risk failure, sometimes small, sometimes large, and yes sometimes we don’t fail in reaching the next step (not often, but sometimes).

    I believe if you are not failing in your pursuit of your goal then you are simply not pushing yourself to your maximum level. You’re playing it safe.

    Most people play it safe, they like to feel success, but the greats among us often push themselves into failure – that’s why they got so high. As Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

    I have the following quote in my office by Michelangelo I believe, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – translated, of course.

    My goal, become a scratch golfer after a 30 year hiatus (I’m 48 now) – my mountain, retire on a professional tour. I don’t care what people think, because it doesn’t matter – if I succeed, holy crap! If I don’t, I will have pushed myself to the end of the mountain, have no regrets and will have applied the secret to success – hard work and tenacity – and be able to play some pretty wicked golf. My genetics allow me to grasp things faster than most and my reflexes can give me an edge when I’m pushing myself, but only a bit.

    I’m BenHoganSlam1953 … why did I choose that name for my GolfWRX ID, because for me what he did after the accident is my source of inspiration that it is never too late and that quitting is not an option. For me, his slam exemplifies what I wrote above.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      yes good points. Another thought for your quest”

      “It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive”.

  24. PBrowne3

    May 14, 2014 at 10:01 am

    As Macklemore says in his song 10,000 Hours, “The greats aren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats are great because they paint a lot.”

    • DrRon

      May 14, 2014 at 11:47 am

      I agree with your comment and it reminded me of an experience when I was studying TaeKwanDo. My instructor was working with me and I was struggling with a particular kick. He is a Korean 8th degree master and simply said “Dr Ron, you be perfect when you do 10,000!!”. Interestingly he took golf lessons from me at the time and we often found ourselves saying nearly the same instruction and motivation for to completely different athletic endeavors.

  25. Dennis Clark

    May 14, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Tom Brady was selected 199th in the 6th round of the NFL draft, His father said, All the had to do was cut Tom open; then they would have picked him first.

    • leftright

      Jun 2, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Dennis, to this day that really amazes me, how the NFL teams could be so wrong about Tom Brady. They weren’t to right about Joe Montana either, I believe he went number 7 in the 3rd round from Notre Dame and of course, Portland taking Bowie instead of Jordan.

  26. dapadre

    May 14, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Agree for the most part, but genetics must play a role in this. Example, at the gym I get lots of complements on my physique, but truth is Im blessed with good genetics. Another case in hand, I introduced my son to golf when he was 10 or so. He complained so much that he wanted to swing the club and guess what he first swing was as if he played for years. At 22 he plays once in a while maybe 2-3 rounds max per year BUT when he plays he usually around 90ish. His former golf instructor called in dutch bal gevoel, meaning having a feeling for the ball. Remember Greg Norman was scratch in one year.

  27. Dennis Clark

    May 14, 2014 at 6:40 am

    This from the author’s blog:Do you have an eye for identifying talent?

    Can you watch people perform, talk to them, and then choose the person who’s destined to succeed in the long run?

    Most of us instinctively answer “yes,” because it feels like we do.

    In fact, science shows us that we’re mostly flattering ourselves. Because the truth is, long-term success is extraordinarily difficult to predict. Interviews are notoriously unreliable. Sports drafts, in particular, are expensive casinos.

    The problem is that a person’s progress ultimately depends on factors that are extraordinarily difficult to measure — stuff like character, emotions, discipline, motivation. How do they respond to failure? What’s their vision for themselves? Can they persevere in the toughest situations?

    We call this “the soft stuff” but in fact it’s not soft at all — it’s the hardest, most vital stuff there is.

    The real question is, how do you measure it?

    I came across a great answer developed by San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback before becoming a successful coach, has developed a simple way to measure the soft stuff of his quarterback and receiver prospects.

    He plays catch with them.

    That’s right — he plays catch, throwing a football back and forth. He does this at pro days, when prospective draftees try out for an audience of coaches and scouts. Every other NFL coach treats the event as a spectator sport, standing on the sidelines with clipboards and video cameras. Harbaugh, on the other hand, uses it as an opportunity to engage.

    Here’s the trick: with Harbaugh, it’s not an ordinary game of catch. Because after a few warmups, Harbaugh starts throwing harder, with more and more intensity. He makes the player run out for passes, making tough throws. He challenges the player, sees if they instinctively rise to the occasion. Some players back down, get uncomfortable. Others embrace it. From the Wall Street Journal:

    Harbaugh first took a liking to [Colin] Kaepernick, who played in college at Nevada, when they played a supercharged game of catch at his pro day in Reno. Harbaugh threw hard; Kaepernick threw harder. Kaepernick, Harbaugh came to understand, had the drive he was looking for. Although he wasn’t considered a top prospect—San Francisco took him in the second round in 2011—Kaepernick has started in two straight NFC Championship games and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.

    I love Harbaugh’s litmus test because it measures two things at once: interpersonal chemistry and competitiveness. It operates at the gut level, where the most important factors reside.

    In short, this is not talent ID — it’s temperament ID.

    It reminds me of a master teacher I researched at the Bolshoi Ballet, who tested new students by teaching them a difficult and strange new move that none of them had ever done before. The teacher wasn’t interested in how well they performed so much as whether they embraced the process. Did they rise to the challenge? Did they struggle well? Like Harbaugh’s test, it was a gut-level litmus test of temperament and character.

    The next question: are there ways to apply this idea to other disciplines? What’s the business version of Harbaugh method? What’s the music version?

    Do you know of any similar temperament-ID tests that might be worth sharing?

  28. Neil Murphy

    May 14, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Check out ‘The Dan Plan’ website. This is a guy who has quit his job and is devoting 10,000 hrs of his life to see whether he can reach the PGA Tour.
    He started as an absolute novice and spent the first 6 months on the putting green. He didn’t hit a drive until after 12 months!
    At present, he is at 5,000 hrs and is now a 3.3 hcp.
    Regarding the book, Dan Coyle clearly depicts a trigger in each of the ‘genius’ lives such as Mozart( father was a classical musician and Mozart was listening to 10 hrs of music in his house daily from birth!) and Bobby Fischer the chess Grandmaster. It is debatable as to whether a person is born a genius.
    Having said that, as a medical doctor, I can say for certain that people are born with an individual DNA code. People inherit certain genes that may be beneficial to certain sporting, musical or artistic vocations. Read ‘The Sporting Gene’ by David Epstein. A great book on this very subject. You’ll learn that around 90% of all elite Kenyan runners can be traced back to one tribe.

    • leftright

      Jun 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Genetics plays an even larger role than I think anyone perceives. My grandmother and all her sisters, except one lived to be over 90, her mother lived until 101. My dad had a mustache, I had one, we both had a peculiar habit of taking our right index finger and sort of combing the mustache with it. I didn’t notice this until I was in my 30’s and it was kind of weird. My mother’s dad and I have a skull protrusion over the occipital area in the exact same place. No one else, not even my uncle has it. There are things I think even genetics can’t explain although we do know many male criminals are XYY and how many gays have Klinefelter’s.

  29. Phat

    May 14, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Great article thanks Dennis. I think the myelin theory is 100% correct. Whatever your talent, the top rung will always be inaccessible without those 10,000 hours (sometimes described as having a bit of ‘mongrel’). Good excuse as any I can think of, to go play golf.

  30. Steve

    May 13, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Just a friendly heads up to the author…the biology in this article (and book) is wrong.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 14, 2014 at 5:51 am

      Does this imply I have interpreted the book incorrectly or that the author is misguided? Are you a medical Professional? Please elaborate. Thx

      • Steve

        May 14, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        Yes, MS Biomedical Science. Myelin insulates the axon of the neurons, not the synapses. Additionally, myelinated neurons are predominantly found in the peripheral nervous system (everything except the brain and spinal cord) because these nerve cells are much longer, which means the signals need to travel longer distances, which means they require more insulation.

        But the main points of the book (repeated actions build more myelin, or that extra myelination is somehow associated with muscle memory or skill-building) are unproven, as far as I know. If you could point me to the scientific papers which Coyle cites in his book I’d be happy to take a look at it, as I am interested in this as well.

        • Dennis Clark

          May 14, 2014 at 6:02 pm

          I think the best way to explore his work, might be to go to the reference section of his book. He also an online blog you might investigate Thx

  31. Sean

    May 13, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    I disagree. Of course there is talent. Some people have “it”. Not everyone can play professional golf, baseball, or basketball no matter how deeply they practice.

    Creating new neural pathways through focusing and hard work is nothing new.

    To suggest that a talent or gift is not innate is disingenuous at best. Mozart? da Vinci? Yes, any kind of focused practice can make us better golfers, but unless you have “it” (the talent/gift), all the “deep” practice in the world will not take you to the PGA Tour or NBA.

    Face it, there ARE a chosen few. That doesn’t mean we can’t become better golfers, but the author is planting false hope if he convinces his readers that some abilities/gifts/talents are not innate.

    • Dennis Clark

      May 13, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Sean. I am assuming you read the book? We as laymen are clearly entitled to our opinion, but it does scientific research a disservice to dismiss it out of hand. Thats why i made it clear that as a golf pro i would not demean the book or the author’s efforts through detailed explanation; I merely suggest that it is worth a read. Thx/

      • Sean

        May 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm

        Dennis, I wasn’t demeaning the book, I was simply disagreeing with what the author’s premise.

        For example, a Michigan State University study last year suggests that “natural talent and other factors are more likely play a role in establishing whether someone can master a complicated activity.”

        Professor Zach Hambrick, the author of the study, went on to say that, “Practice is indeed important to reach an elite level of performance, but this paper makes an overwhelming case that it isn’t enough.”

        So you see, I wasn’t doing scientific research a disservice. 🙂

        • Dennis Clark

          May 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm

          Sean, I get it, as a regular reader of my blog, I know you would never demean science! 🙂

    • MHendon

      May 13, 2014 at 11:57 pm

      I See what you’re saying Sean and I agree it does seem to imply that greatness comes from countless hours of practice not an innate ability. I believe it’s the combination of both. I guarantee you there are a rare few people who through relentless practice of say the 10,000 hour rule will ever come close to running as fast as Usain Bolt, jumping as high as Michael Jordan, or throwing a baseball as fast as Nolan Ryan etc. These people are gifted period!

      • Dennis Clark

        May 14, 2014 at 7:43 am

        Larry Bird could not run as fast as Bolt or jump nearly as high as Michael. He played pretty well. I think the author’s point has more to do with how to develop what one has to it’s fullest extent, and if they do, they CAN become world class.

    • JohnB

      May 14, 2014 at 10:15 am

      Completely disagree with this especially about the golf part. I love golf precisely for the opposite of what you said. NOBODY imo is born with any special golfing talent and the best golfers are the ones who are willing to do what the others dont want to. I strongly believe that anybody can play professional golf but the “it” factor is opportunity and DRIVE, not “talent”. I believe you must posess a certain kind of single-mindedness to reach a goal, wheather its making it to the PGA tour or getting the job youve always wanted, and you need to have the resourses to make that happen. Drive, opportunity, and resources. Those are what you need and with the drive you will create thos oppertunities and find any resourse to get where you need to be. Some people are put in a better position to be succesful by being born with the oppertunity and resourses to flourish, but without the drive they will eventually fade out, hence, child prodegies that after a few years burn out and you dont hear from them again. Its not that they didnt posess the talent its that the drive to suceed wasnt there. They probably listened to something like what you wrote, which is false imo. Drive, opportunity, and resources. Not “Talent”. I respect your opinion but just wanted to give mine as well.

      • Scott

        May 15, 2014 at 9:12 am

        Wow, you just demeaned every professional golfer in one sentence. To be a professional, you not only have to be able to hit every shot imaginable but a whole bunch of shots that you cannot even think of. And be able to control their direct and distance. (See Bull Haas in the Tour championship a couple years ago.) To be a professional, it takes the right temperament and golf intelligence to control your emotions and execute when your paycheck is on the line. Not everyone has this ability.

  32. David

    May 13, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Combine this with the 10,000 hour principle and you will have yourself a mid- to high-grade scratch golfer.

  33. Philip

    May 13, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Trial and error is how I do my job when I need to solve problems – giving up is not an option when the client is paying and relying on myself and my team. My project this year is to apply my work ethic to my golf.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the more consistently one practices to solve a type of problem the quicker and easier the solutions come to them in that area. This has also been the case for me in my golf practice over the last four months. Each practice session of a bucket of balls often moves me forward each time, sometimes I stumble, but I quickly recover and leap ahead within a few sessions because I realize anytime I try something new I will fail. I look forward to each failure because it means with a little extra effort success is just around the corner.

    • Josh

      May 14, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Great points here Philip, most golfers would be served better with this attitude.

      I totally agree with the article, that we can’t become completely proficient without putting the time in. No professional golfer ever claimed they got where they are without hard work.

      One point I’d like to make though, is the ‘IT’ that people often refer to. Personally I cringe when I hear this. There is nothing mystical about these great golfers. Some people are more gifted athletically, or seem too have greater spatial intelligence (to visualize putts and shots), or strategic intelligence for course management, but there is no scientific basis saying these can’t be improved.
      The bottom line is, the constant with ALL great talent is hard work. To say you’ll never be great at something cause you don’t have ‘IT’ is a cop out. It’s an excuse for defeat.
      Hard work and 10,000 hours will make you good at whatever you’re doing. Combine that with smart work or a good instructor to guide you, and great is there for the taking.

  34. Michael

    May 13, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    We’ll I think we need to be careful we are not “deep practicing” the wrong things. That will do nothing more Than ingrain problems. I do like the concept though.

  35. PooterMcStabin

    May 13, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    People always ask me that my swing is so nice and effortless. I practiced and hit a million balls through trial and error I learned to use my body, turning hips and legs to provide strength through impact. This in turn led to me to swing easier, and more controlled than before and hitting it twice as far. If you love golf and are highly fascinated on learning from others like Tiger you can see how he uses his core and legs, not his arms. Learn from the pros. Watch the PGA tour on tv.

  36. Tom Stickney

    May 13, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    A lesson is “Guided practice” so true! As a teacher we can only inform and expain while you (the student) must absorb and apply.

    • paul

      May 14, 2014 at 12:27 am

      i could really absorb some putting skills right now. Just shot 45 on 9 holes at a 3300 yard course. Hit 7 greens in reg. 1 disaster hole (stupid trees). Hit 7 approach shots within 10 feet. pulled my wedge out for the two missed greens and chipped it to within 10′. Putting was a disaster. couldn’t sink it outside 4′. 3 putt so often my buddies were falling over laughing.

      • jason

        May 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm


        Do not worry. Just go spend 10,000 hours on your putting and you will be like Ben Crenshaw.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training



If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.


Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

Your Reaction?
  • 8
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading


Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers



Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

Your Reaction?
  • 5
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading


Clement: How to turbo charge your swing



The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

Your Reaction?
  • 6
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW1
  • LOL2
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB2
  • SHANK7

Continue Reading

19th Hole