I was attracted to golf because it was an individual game. I won or lost on my own. I did not need teammates that I thought did not train, or try, as hard as I did.
I learned on my own by observation, reading a lot and using my imagination. It was a solo effort. I played 100s of rounds by myself (still do because I like the solitude) Self-motivation, self-organizing and digging for elusive 'secrets in the dirt' was the name of the game.
I learned most when I played with better players whenever I could. I played to learn and I learned to play. Golf was hard but it rewarded hard work, my own hard work. That was the joy of it.
What influenced me to mention this subject is the alarming news of a new kind of 'smart' golf ball that has been developed in Silicon Valley. If successful, we may as well all give up and start playing 'virtually' on our devices instead of on the golf course.
There will be no need to join a Club, or get out of bed. There will be no walk in the park. No fresh air. Buy a simulator, put it in the garage and play any course you choose but it won't be golf at all!
The smart ball project is based on developing "rangefinder' technology incorporated into sunglasses and golf simulators that will allow us to play The Old Course at St. Andrews, or any course of our choosing in a way that will feel like we really are at the Home of Golf.
“Smart ball” technology will be able to track every shot, its launch conditions, flight direction and distance covered. Even better still (or is it?) if you wear a haptic suit (designed to help the disabled) you will (virtually) be capable of swinging like Rory McIlroy in spite of your physical limitations.
What would be the point of all of that? What sort of a game will we be left with if such scientific and technological approaches go any further? We will live in a virtual world with no challenges.
For the ruling bodies to state that today's game is 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, not only in the game of golf. If overcoming natural hazards and our own shortcomings goes much further, the word game will not apply.
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 used to hit thousands of balls around our garden, along the fields beside banks of the River Shannon where I grew up and on the beach at Lahinch (beyond Liscannor Bridge, where it was quiet and there were no walkers).
None of which would be feasible today due to 'strangling' health and safety issues.
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 there but that isn't the same as learning to play golf.
Playing golf involves being on the course as often as possible - learning different shots and how to overcome hazards and problems (of our own making)
Not to mention the 'inconvenience' of keeping score. Lowest score wins and there are an infinite number of ways of recording the lowest score.
As soon as you have a swing that gets the ball airborne consistently - go play, 6-holes but keep score, then play 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 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.
Bring your full set of clubs and practice as if you are playing a game on the golf course.
There has to be a proper balance between playing and practicing. To become a better golfer requires hard work and dedication but it is worth it.
Everyone can work harder if they really want to. The pay off in satisfaction and sense of achievement is well worth it.
Words of the Wise
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 shot' is what will make you a better golfer!