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The Essence of Improving




When I was teaching drum lessons, students would complain that they weren’t getting better. I would ask how much they practiced since the last lesson and then listen to the excuses. I would tell them that if they really want to get better, they need to spend 3-4 days a week practicing for at least 15 minutes. Just taking lessons from me was not going to make them improve. The purpose of the lesson is for me to teach them what they need to practice, but practice is where things happen. I would explain that they can’t do 60 minutes on 1 day and call it a week. They need to practice almost every day.

I would cover the principle of practice with students up front and they would agree. They would be dedicated for a week or so and then fizzle out. Just like golf, drumming is hard. If you take a second and try to make each arm and leg do something different, you will get what I mean. The basic rock beat is to have your right hand tap a repeating 4 count, your right foot tap on the 1 and 3, and your left hand taps on the 2 and 4. To add some spice with 4-way independence, have your left foot tap on every 1 count. Once you have that down, you need to double the times that your right hand is tapping counting, “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”. If you have never played drums before and was able do that with ease at a pretty fast pace, I would buy some drums today and rock out! People usually can't, BUT I can usually teach someone how to do that in less than 30 minutes. It’s very slow at first, and then slightly faster, then faster and faster. Now you have all had your first drum lesson for free.

I'm not a golf teacher (yet), but I believe the same principle applies. Sadly, most drum students give up after a month or so. This is why there are so many used drum sets for sale on Craig's List. It doesn’t make sense to take lessons unless you are willing to put in practice time on your own. “Why do I need an instructor if all I have to do is practice?” you might ask. The instructor is there to check up on you and make sure you are going the right direction much like an airplane pilot is monitoring the navigational instruments and making adjustments. Sometimes they have to make major adjustments and other times a small one, but they can only make one adjustment at a time. The plane will not change course if the rudder and ailerons do not respond. This would be like a student who doesn’t practice.

I think that most instructors teach something different on each lesson to make the student feel like they are getting value for their money, even if the student has not progressed from the last lesson. I think they are doing a major disservice to the student even though the student is more likely to stay engaged for more lessons. The student thinks that they are progressing when they really aren’t, and after a few months, their scorecard will confirm that. A math teacher does not progress to calculation before a student is competent with addition and subtraction. I hope not at least. If a student sees results from good teaching, they will be a student for life.

I went to a drum clinic with a famous drummer a few years ago. It was Todd Sucherman who is currently playing for Styx. This guy is really awesome! I arrived early and got a seat in the front row. He played for a while and blew everyone’s minds. Then he started taking questions. He picked me and I said, “Since you’re a drummer, you have to be working on something, so what are you working on now?” He first looked shocked that someone would ask that question. After all, he is a master at drumming and making a living doing it. He then cracked a smile, let his guard down, and said he was working on some stuff from Buddy Rich, and it was “totally kicking his butt”. Even masters who are proficient at their craft are always trying to improve and learn something new.

To apply that to golf, I think everyone needs a teacher if they want to get better. For someone who is content to play the game and enjoy doing it, that’s fine. For most of us, time is not in great supply, but trying to do the 5 Minutes Daily Practice Challenge has opened my eyes. I realized that I was like one of my students who wasn’t putting in the practice time needed to get better. I also learned that 5 minutes a day is not a lot of time. I hear a lot of people asking on TST how to find a good teacher, but I would say that first you need to commit to being a good student. Commit to a regular practice regimen, and then go find a good instructor. Anyone who is trying to improve should be posting in 5 Minutes Daily Practice threads regularly



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Great post and dead on in terms of message.  

I spend a lot of time at the range at my golf course and the local golf range, I rarely ever see anyone "practice" I see them hit golf balls.  

When I go to the range, I'm always there to work on something or if I'm playing a course I've never played before I'll go there with the course layout and play a round of golf in my head mentally, hitting each club I'd use on the course.  

I take a lot of time in between shots so I get to observe what most people at the range do and it amount to; hit 5-10 full swing shots with a wedge, then a 7i or 8i, then a hybrid, wood and driver, finish the practice with some pitching and chipping.  Half the time they don't even seem to have a real target or they are really inaccurate.

Some people also refuse to learn from their mistakes.  One of my playing partners almost always ends up in the green side bunker on the first hole which he struggles to get out of. The clubs he chooses often leaves him a 60-70 yard shot that has to carry the bunker 55-60 yards.  He usually ends up hitting the shot fat and ending up in the bunker or thinning it over the green.  The bunker only covers the middle to right side of the green so I've suggested to him that he should aim left to take the bunker out of play so that at least if he hits it fat he's not in the bunker but he didn't like that idea.  

His solution to the problem was to buy an XE-1, go to the practice area and spend an hour hitting out of a bunker, which I commended him for but I asked him why he wasn't also working with his wedges to gain comfort with them so he didn't end up in the bunker at all, he gave me a puzzled look and said "I hit my wedges okay, it's the bunker I have trouble getting out of."  <face palm>

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While practice is truly a necessity in any given experience for many, in everything in life, golf is a different challenge for many.
Many have natural athleticism talents, while others must first overcome the lack of skills like eye-hand co-ordination, balance, muscle control, or the simple touch and feel of motions.

In many sports, many have advantages of size, speed, strength and knowledge and benefit over those who have greater skills and abilities.
While golf is a sport which many can reach a certain level with or without training or lessons, improvement at some point in time still requires guidance, coaching, lessons in a manner which is so very different for many.

What many struggle with is the moment things click which could be a simple thing or something they work on repeatedly over and over and it never happens. Then one day it may happen.

To me, to reach a higher level over the years of playing and practice is truly a gift of dedication to achieve.

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