I learned to play golf on my own with my own imagination and thoughts. I played 100s of rounds by myself (still do because I like the solitude) Self-motivation, self-organizing and digging for the 'secrets in the dirt' was the name of the game.
I learned by doing and playing. I played to learn and I learned to play. Golf was hard but it rewarded hard work, your own hard work. That was the joy of it.
I was attracted to golf because it was an individual game. I won or lost on my own. I didn't need teammates who didn't try as hard as I did. It is the most enjoyable way to learn too if you think about it but it wasn't efficient and it took too long.
A lifetime, if the truth were told, by which time it was too late but it made for an interesting way to spend my life.
News of a new kind of 'smart' golf ball being developed in Silicon Valley, California is most alarming. If successful we may as well all give up on flagellating ourselves, and start playing virtual golf on our devices instead of on the golf course.
There will be no need to join a Club or get out of bed. But, in reality, will it be golf at all?
The investors behind the smart ball project is developing Distance Measuring Device, "laser-rangefinder' technology so it can be incorporated into sunglasses and golf simulators (in our homes) that will let us all play The Old Course at St. Andrews in a way that really feels like we are at St. Andrews. “Smart ball” technology will be able to track every shot and record its launch conditions, flight direction and distance covered. (Doesn't Trackman do this already?)
The “haptic suit” which has been designed to help the disabled walk "could be the same suit that make you become a super golfer capable of swinging like Rory McIlroy.
If this kind of thinking when applied to the game of golf goes any further along the path of taking away the traditional integrity and challenges, what will we be left with?
For the ruling bodies to state that today's game is still the same as it was before oversized driver heads and multi layer balls is rubbish.
Instead of nature dominating golf, it is now the other way around with all sorts of mechanical devices and smart technology dominating nature.
Humankind's tendency is obliterate nature makes for a most unhealthy state of affairs in all areas of activity not only in the game of golf.
If overcoming natural hazards on the golf course goes much further, the word game will not apply. If golf isn't a game where will its attraction lie?
Without its 'good walk' and the health benefits that flow from that aspect, what wiull be the point of it all?
How To Practice
Tennis is practiced on a tennis court. Football is practiced on a football pitch. Swimming is practiced in a pool.
Applying the same principle to golf, in my case, isn't entirely accurate because I hit thousands of balls around our garden and along the banks of the River Shannon, which would not be feasible now due to health and safety issues and tree-planting programmes.
So, when, where, why and how does one practice these days? A driving range springs to mind and the DR does have its uses. With good instruction we can certainly learn to swing at the DR but that isn't the same as learning to play golf.
Playing golf involves being on the course as often as possible - playing more golf, learning to play different shots and overcome challenges. Not to mention keeping score. Lowest score wins, after all.
As soon as you have a swing that gets the ball airborne - go play, 6-holes at first, then 9. Give yourself goals. Be your own opponent.
As long as you don't forget that scoring low and winning isn't everything, you'll develop a lifetime commitment. Learning to play the game 'in front of the ball' is something you'll never learn at the DR.
By that I mean: Golf is where the ball goes and learning to plot your way around the course efficiently is the essence of the game. Some golfers never even try to do this and it is why they will never improve.
By using your imagination, you can learn to do this at the driving range too - you don't have to be on a golf course.
Boil all of what I'm saying down and it is that you have to get a proper balance between playing and practicing. Why not? All it takes is a bit of hard work and dedication.
Everyone can do that, if they want to and the pay off in satisfaction and sense of achievement is well worth it!
Words of the Wise
By a long way, the best way to practice is by playing on the golf course on your own at a quiet time with two or three golf balls - when you hit a poor shot, drop a ball and try to hit a better one. When you hit a 'perfect' shot - drop a ball and try to do it again. The ability to repeat your best swing over and over is what will make you a better golfer!