Why Skill Practice is so difficult

Why Skill Practice is so difficult

The Navy SEALs famously quote “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training”. In a FAR less dramatic sense, golf practice is the same concept. Golfers will always fall to their level of training when it comes to tournament golf, it is a rare day when we play unexpectedly well, and we never miss a shot. If we practice easily and comfortably, once we get into a difficult situation our golf game falls apart, those who practice hard are unphased when the going gets tough. This is why skill practice is far more effective than technical practice, it forces us to practice harder than the course.

Improvements in anything shouldn’t happen overnight, improvement is a slow building of small victories. Victories that may not immediately translate to your score, but wins nonetheless. Gains will be almost impossible to see from a week to a basis, but zoom out to a month by month and the growth will be evident. It’s trusting the process that leads to permanent improvements, it's committing week in and week out to a few key drills and working on them without any promise of improvement. This is why skill practice is so difficult, we are trained to expect our practice to result in hitting it 20 yards further in 20 minutes. The late-night infomercials give these snake oil fixes when they know that improvement comes from effort and it has become the expectation of golfers. Skill practice is centered around picking three or four challenges and continuing to grade your performance in that challenge. As you see your performance in challenges improve then, and only then, will it start to translate to the golf course. Improvement in practice does not equal improvement on the golf course right away. 100% improvement in practice may only equal a 10% improvement on the golf course. It's the slow compounding effect of this practice that leads to lower scores. That compounding may start at a 10% improvement but in another week it's 12%, then 16%, then 25%, and continues to grow over time.

Skill practice is difficult because it has to be in order for practice to show results. Easy practice leads to soft gains which come and go without warning. Hard practice leads to strong gains that we can count on. I believe a lot of people lose sight of why we are practicing to start with, it's to lower our golf scores. Many people treat their practice time like the fact that they showed up to practice means their scores will be lowered, unfortunately, it takes more effort than that to produce a result. Practice for practice's sake will do nothing, practice with intention and determination is what creates change. Skill practice is a frustrating and difficult form of practice, but so is the game of golf. That is why skill practice will result in improved scores if we learn to trust the process.

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