Originally Posted by T Shark
I registered on this website just to comment on this old thread as I have spent many hours maybe days asking myself this exact same question.
To put some perspective in the debate, before there was Y.E. Yang some people would have said it was impossible to start golf in your 20's and become a tour pro let alone go toe to toe and defeat Tiger Woods on a major Sunday considering (during his prime) he was the most dominant golfer of all time (whether or not you agree on the Tiger opinion the original point is valid). Someone is always the first to do something, so why couldn't a person start golf late in life and become as good as tour professional? It is extremely difficult, yes, but there is nothing that makes it impossible. The fact that we are seeing 14 to 17 year old competitors playing (and making the cut) in the major championships proves you don't need decades and decades of practice to get to the required level. A hacker who plays for 20 years for fun but never beaks 90 probably put more time playing than a 14 year old scratch golfer who started two years ago. Every professional will tell you that the quality of practice matters NOT the quantity.
There are advantages of starting later in life, number one being you are (hopefully) more mature, experienced, realistic and can approach the goal in a careful rational manner (always asking is what I'm doing getting me closer to where I want to be). I would love to be able to go back to when I was a golf obsessed teenager knowing everything I know now about life as well as golf now that I am I'm in my mid 20's.
The reason almost nobody has done it yet is simple, it is unbelievably difficult and requires hard work that most people just wouldn't' be capable of giving. But imagine that Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan or Bobby Jones didn't take up this wonderful game until they were in their late 20's. Do you think any of them be able to make it on tour?
I can't answer that last but I hope it will at least change the way readers will think about what is possible.
Ending with a fairly unprofessional disclaimer, I am not referencing myself, despite playing competitive golf since 12 years of age, I'm not actively trying to become a tour professional at 25 I would just like to inspire some thoughtful discussion on what is and is not possible.
Without going back through this thread Larry Nelson and Calvin Peete have already been there and done that so I don't think anyone would dispute that it couldn't be accomplished at all. It is extremely rare but not impossible, obviously. Then there's Robert Landers, a cattle farmer most his adult life took up the game at age 28 and made it through the Senior Tour Q-School in 1995 with no real prior Pro Tour experience. Perhaps not as amazing as Nelson or Peete but still quite a feat!
I will say I do disagree with you that starting the game as an adult has advantages over starting as a child. It's a case by case basis but looking at the best players in the world it's safe to say the vast majority of them took up the game somewhere between age 2 to 16. I think children are more open to learning and improving much easier than an adult with wife/career/kids/debt/mortgages/car payments/girl friends/drinking buddies/ and about a million other distractions that come with adult living.
You can do a search online and find that there has been a fair amount of research done on children learning and developing faster than adults in certain areas. Here's an exert from a sports psychology site that explains the basics of why(I work in bulk power electrical engineering. I'm not a psychologist so I have to google this stuff) :
"For those of you who appreciate the longer scientific answer this is because in adults the prefrontal cortex of the brain, where working memory is stored, is more developed than in children. A developed prefrontal cortex means that adults are hampered by a functional fixedness, causing adults to see a spade as a spade i.e a tool for digging. Or let me put that another way for you sports coaches out there…an adult sees a tennis racket or a shuttlecock as exactly that. However the under-developed prefrontal cortex in a child allows children to be far more inventive than that, as their prefrontal cortex is not limiting their ability to be creative and flexible. You’ll probably know this as “thinking outside of the box”.
So this is why a child can see a broomstick as javelin (yes that was me as a child) or the mattress as a trampoline. As a result, children are often better than adults at solving tasks that require a creative solution, such as being set a challenge with limited equipment. Put another way an adult’s brain is designed to perform, but a child’s brain is designed to learn. With that in mind (pardon the pun) it doesn’t take a child genius to work out that knowing that children’s brains operate in this way must have some useful benefits for a coach."
Yes on paper you would think it would make sense that a beginning adult would have the upper hand in reasoning and understanding so they surely must be able to pick the game up easier. But reality is it doesn't play out that way and in my experience the vast majority of really good players that can handle tournament pressure played and competed as children. That doesn't mean there aren't adult beginners out there that become very accomplished, I'm just saying the majority of scratch golfers I've played against over the years started as youngsters just as I had.
You just have to channel your inner-child and you will be on your way to shooting par