Growing up only a few hundred yards from Rossdale Golf Club- located just outside the famous Sand Belt area of Melbourne- meant one thing. Practice. I practiced a lot in my formative years.

Not only did I spend 10-12 hours a day at the course in an effort to improve,  I loved it. I truly loved practicing.

I sometimes slept in a tent on the driving range having the birds or the grounds crew mowers wake me up at first light so I could be first there to dust the dew off the grass. Call me dedicated or stupid but I was infatuated with golf and learning how to control the ball and get it into the hole in as few a shots as possible.

Do you expect results because you put the work in? Do results come from loving what you do? It's a question for any form of life- not just golf.

How do you practice? Are you practicing to improve and practicing because you love it OR are you practicing because society says you have to if you want to become better. It may not sound much of a difference but there is a unjumpable chasm stuck in between those two ideals.


If you answered the former- because you want to improve and enjoy working on your game- then are you working on the right things during your practice sessions? Do you segregate time to technique and also to your routine or visualization void of technique.

Are you a range rat constantly tinkering or do you put that work into practice where it matters most- out on the course?

I learned a great lesson in this regard back in the late 1990's. I was working hard on my game in Orlando but wasn't seeing results. I was frustrated believing I deserved some good for all the work I was putting in, yet it wasn't forthcoming.

I was paired with Lanny Wadkins in the final round of the Houston Open and he asked me where I played in Orlando. When I informed him I practiced at a few places in the area he looked at me and said- join somewhere- go PLAY golf ON the course- that's the aspect you are lacking- it's not your swing.

A week later I joined Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club and not long after I had a runner up finish in the CVS Classic near Boston. I had forgotten how to go play golf because I was too intent on "practicing".

Jack Nicklaus, the most prolific Major Champion of all time, was known to possess a short game (wedges and chipping) that was considerably weaker than the other aspects of his game. Did he see that as a downside? I don't think so. He knew his long game was so consistent and under command and his mental capacity to plan and execute so strong that he never felt it necessary to enhance his wedge play to the possible detriment of what made him so great in the first place.

It wasn't until 1980, right after his worst year as a professional- by a long way- where he finished 56th on the PGA Tour money list (his previous worst standing was 4th!!!) did he decide it may be time to try strengthen his weakness. And it paid off. In 1980 at the age of 40, Nicklaus won the US Open and The PGA Championship amongst the roars of "Jack is Back" that accentuated his every move down the fairways at Baltusrol and Oak Hill that summer.

It's a great example of continuing to thrive as a competitor based on your strong points rather than risk the chance of succumbing to a more mediocre all around game in an effort to improve one area that was lacking. He resisted the temptation for 18 years, until he knew the time was right.

It is certainly a fine line to tread. One that really pushes into the sub concious of today's professionals to a greater extent than anytime before.

With so much media coverage and stats being pasted around the internet and the Golf Channel it is almost impossible for today's pros to not be force fed the areas of deficiency in their games. They all want better.

"I am just trying to get better"... "I want to improve certain aspects of my game"... fighting words and definitely all with good intent- but we now see more and more instances of seasoned performers losing their privileges to play in their attempt to improve.

Is this because their greatest assets diminsh in their search for better stats in their poorer categories?

It's true a 1% increase in wedge shots from 120 yards or less can prove to be the catalyst to better results. Same can be said for sand saves. Same for percentage of putts made in the 15-20 foot range. Yet if the fairways hit percentage and/or the greens in regulation percentage decrease in the process has the golfer's effort to improve in one regard disrupted his game so much in another area that the net gain is nil or even negative?

Golf comes in cycles. To be honest unless you are in the game's absolute elite- who seem to play well week in and week out- most golfers make 80% of their annual earnings in a 4 to 5 week span. Out of 25 events for the year they play great in 4 or 5 events- the other 20 weeks are just noise and frustration and searching.

What if that search for better evaporated those 4 great weeks to only 1 great and 3 average weeks? It could cost a career quite easily. Better became worse.

We see Jordan Spieth having a difficult time on the course right now. For someone seemingly impregnable in the first stanza of his career this is truly a surprise. It was almost like anytime a leaderboard was erected at a PGA event his name was stencilled on it. Now things aren't coming so easy and it is impossible to miss the frustration in his demeanour and play.

I noticed last week that Jordan was on the practice green with mirrors and gates diligently working on his stroke in an effort to find the magic again. I thought this to be totally anti-Spieth's instincts to succumb to this kind of searching.

Is his putting dissatisfaction a matter of technique or just a conflict of working on other areas of his game? Has that extra cirricular work on the long game taken time away from the instinct and the natural stroke and visual belief that made him almost Houdini like on the greens the past 5 seasons?

I have no doubt his dedication to the game and his determination to succeed will win the day but it may take a new attitude to practice and in particular what he practices and how he practices to turn the streak around. Although don't count him out at Augusta. Inspiration and familiarity can snap a player out of his twilight zone very quickly.

What can you learn from the pros and the ebb and flow of how the golf God's giveth and take away?

Don't fully obess yourself with particular stats. Sure it's fun and new apps make it easier than ever to keep track of such things. Honestly though you- yourself- know exactly what let you down in a round or a tournament or over the past month- you don't need an app or a statistical figure poking you in the eye to know such a thing.

There is always reason to believe that an area could be improved upon but do so with caution. Don't neglect the great things about your game in an effort to improve the weaker areas. Those great aspects are what made you the player you were in the first place, just like Jack Nicklaus knew...