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Growing Up Golf Part 8: Deliberate Practice

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Up to this point, I have been writing on topics that are geared towards the early stages of golf introduction and development for children. I would like to switch gears on this installment and discuss some interesting information that is more focused on juniors. For those of you parents with pre-junior golfers stick around, what I am about to share with you is some very interesting information.

As an instructor, I  spent a lot of time trying to come up with practice routines or training aids that isolate swing mechanics or body movements. I found in my own experience that dissecting the swing into separate parts made it easier for the student to learn and duplicate what I was trying to teach them. One of my favorite aids was a bat handle with a piece of rope secured to it with a ball at the other end of it. The length of the rope was long enough to place the ball (which was at the end of the rope) right at the sweet spot of a bat. The player was then required to swing the handle and keep the rope taut all the way through the swing. The only way you can achieve this is to turn your body through the swing without breaking the wrists. This drill would help those players who had too much wrist in their swing. This swing fault causes a major loss of power and promotes weak ground balls to the infield. Taking swings with that training aid is known as “deliberate practice.” I had never heard of that term until just recently.

Like I stated in my first article, I watch a lot of golf on TV. If it’s not a tournament then I watch instruction. I enjoy watching and learning as much as I can. I am a true believer that knowledge is power (Yes, it’s the phrase from School House Rock commercials). If I am not watching golf, I am reading about golf. One of the shows I enjoy watching is “School Of Golf” with Martin Hall on the Golf Channel. Hall has a segment on his show where he suggests reading material that will help your golf game. During his episode on “deliberate practice,” he recommends a book called “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.

Colvin believes you don’t need a one-in-a-million natural gift. Better performance, and maybe even world-class performance, is attainable through deliberate practice. Colvin believes there is no such thing as “he was born to play _____.” In other words, he doesn’t believe people are born with natural talent and are destined to achieve greatness. That greatness or mastery is achieved through years of deliberate practice.

Deliberate Golf Practice

“Talent Is Overrated” is not a golf specific book, it’s not an instructional book by any means. What the book discusses are numerous examples and studies of  how deliberate practice has played a roll in all of the masters of their trade or the greatest players who have ever played or are playing the game.

Colvin speaks about the anti-talent theory counterarguments, the most common names that are brought up when Colvin states that there is no such thing as divine spark and greatness can only be achieved by hard work. These two examples are brought up the most: Mozart and Tiger Woods. The similarities between these two masters of their trades are extraordinary. Both of their fathers were accomplished at their given trades. They had experience working with children and they started working with their sons at a very early age. When asked, Earl Woods stated that Tiger’s accomplishments were a result of very hard work (deliberate practice).

How long does one have to practice in order to become a master? Studies have shown that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a master. So if we practiced three hours a day, it would take 10 years to become a master. It has also been noted that at the age of 6 is when the brain will be able to understand and absorb the information and feedback from deliberate practice. Colvin believes this is why mastery is revealed around the age of 16.

So now we know that it takes 10,000 hours, we need to take a closer look at what deliberate practice is. Notice that the statement is “10,000 hours of deliberate practice” and not “10,000 hours of practice.” If it was solely 10,000 hours of practice and that’s only three hours a day, we would see more and more athletes mastering or reaching greatness in their chosen sport. Knowing that it takes deliberate practice, why don’t more athletes pursue this? The answer is in the definition of the term itself. Lets take a look at what deliberate practice really is.

Deliberate practice is characterized by several elements. It is activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with an instructors help; it can be repeated often; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s a high-demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or heavily physical like sports and it isn’t much fun.

Deliberate Practice

By definition alone, deliberate practice is very stressful, tiring and monotonous. At the same time you are receiving feedback and ingraining positives in your chosen activity. Going to the driving range and hitting a bucket of balls at specified target is not deliberate practice. Going to the same range with the same bucket of balls and taking a very short back swing and working on contact and contact only is a better example of deliberate practice. Another way to look at deliberate practice is working on one specified element of the swing that you the desired skill. You need to work outside of your comfort zone to make progress. Most younger athletes I know of do not want to put time into something that isn’t fun. Remember, the key element of keeping kids interested in golf is by making it fun. Deliberate practice is just the opposite. It takes extreme dedication to put time into something that is stressful and exhausting.

For you juniors seeking greatness, deliberate practice is the first step toward the 10,000 hour mark. What should you be practicing? Well, that’s up to you and your coach/instructor to decide. I simply can’t say you need to work on this or that, nor can I map out a routine for you. The routine of deliberate practice is going to be different for each player. Does this mean that you won’t be good or great at golf if you don‘t incorporate deliberate practice into a 10,000 hour routine?  No, not at all. I wanted to share what it takes to become a world class athlete. If you have dreams of becoming one of the best in the world, it starts with deliberate practice.

“Talent Is Overrated” is a must read for every parent or athlete who have the desire to become great at something. It will give you a real good look at what it takes to reach the highest level of achievement.

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Kadin Mahmet has a passion for golf. He has coached at the collegiate level and has worked as an instructor specializing in youth athletics. You can follow Kadin on Twitter @BigKadin. "Like" Growing Up Golf on Facebook @ facebook.com/Growing.Up.Golf for more content.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Mike Drysdale

    Feb 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I’ve been looking into the realm of gamification a bit lately and it seems that some of the concepts & principles could maybe be incorporated to lighten up the “not fun” aspect of deliberate practice a bit. I mean, fun usually keeps people more engaged, couldn’t it be incorporated a little into deliberate practice?
    What do you all think?

  2. Pingback: Perfect Golf Practice - Not a Good Idea Play Golf Home

  3. Chris

    Jan 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    And here I thought my practice habits were pretty good. Thanks for the new perspective. Would love to hear some “common” deliberate practice ideas, especially in the short game.

    • Kadin Mahmet

      Apr 7, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Chris if you visit The Golf Channels web page and click on “School of Golf” Martin Hall has several “deliberate practice” drills to follow.

  4. Ben Alberstadt

    Jan 31, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Glad to see this invaluable topic and seminal book featured in your article. Fine work (& excellent series, too)!

    Sometimes, I feel like any new student approaching a teaching for a lesson should be sent home with this book to ingrain the appropriate mental framework, and as a gauge of the sincerity of the student…of course, this would be a governor on a pros’ earnings, as the average student is probably just looking to get off the first tee without embarrassment, or advice on how not to skull chips across the green…

    • Kadin Mahmet

      Apr 7, 2013 at 8:41 am

      Thanks Ben I appreciate the kind words. I agree this book is at the top of my “Must Read” list, no matter what the activity may be.

  5. Kadin Mahmet

    Jan 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks G…It’s a love, hate relationship for sure.

    See ya on thte green…Kadin

  6. G

    Jan 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Yeah. Deliberate practice is THE only way. You have to love the process, as it is said. And learning to love the process is a part of deliberate practice too.

    Great article.. Love this stuff.

  7. Kadin Mahmet

    Jan 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for the kind words Lawrence! Good luck to you as well!

    See ya on the green…..Kadin

  8. Lawrence Montague

    Jan 29, 2013 at 2:32 am

    Thanks so much for writing your article on deliberate practice methodology. I am a great fan of Professor Karl Anders Ericsson and his theory of deliberate practice. I read his first paper he published on it in 1993 and to this day it has had a huge impact on my coaching. At our golf college deliberate practice underpins ever aspect of our elite player development program and we constantly remind our students of the 10,000 hour rule. Thanks for posting and the best of luck with your coaching.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Podcasts

Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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