When It’s Time to Practice, and When It’s Time to Perform.

that's a photo I took while golfing with my dad on Nantucket, MA

In the year or so since I’ve started playing golf again, there have been good rounds (I shot in the mid-80s last week — a fantastic round for me!) and lousy rounds. Sometimes, I’ll feel super confident with a particular part of my game (hitting shots from inside 100 yards, for instance), and then play again a week later and be unable to hit the same shots. This sort of fluctuation with golf, I realize, is normal. It’s a remarkably difficult sport, one that requires a combination of strategy, strength, speed, skill, and luck. Even great golfers can be inconsistent with their play.

A lot of golf is about feel. I’ve played enough now that I have a decent golf swing, one that I can repeat on a regular basis. But some days, the feel for a certain shot isn’t there. Often, I can feel what’s off, and make an adjustment. But sometimes, I’ve got absolutely no idea what might be wrong, and feel tempted to try to fix things on the course.

That’s always a mistake. Trying to make major changes on the course — where you don’t have the freedom for trial and error — usually leads to more frustration.

Practice is where I have the chance to test and learn. On the driving range, I can experiment with different concepts. What happens if I move my hands forward, or the ball further back in my stance? What happens if tee the ball higher up? What if I try a shorter backswing, or a longer follow-through, on short iron shots? Practice is where I can see what works, with the intent of putting those strategies into play on the course.

When I’m playing a round, that’s where I’m expecting to perform the shots that I’ve practiced. Some days, I don’t have a certain shot, and I’m learning how to adjust on the fly. If my driver’s not feeling right that day, I’ll keep it in the bag and use something else off the tee. There’s a part of me that can feel too proud to do that, a part of me that tries to force a shot that isn’t there that day. That’s when I usually find myself hitting my second shot from somewhere deep in the woods.

When you’re doing the work, there are times to practice, and times to perform. Recognizing which is which gives you the chance to focus on what’s most important for that specific moment, and the best chance to succeed that day.


That’s a photo I took during a round with my dad, a few weeks ago in Nantucket, Massachusetts.