I took up golf when I was 23. I had played some rounds at a pitch and putt as a kid, but I didn't really get hooked on the game until I was already finished with college and engaged in post-graduate studies. It seemed I was always scrounging for time to play. Like most of us, I was hooked quickly and wanted to be a good golfer - a scratch. That made it seem like I needed even MORE time.
In his autobiography, Jack Nicklaus describes his early to mid-teen years as a virtual gluttony of golf: entire summer days, dawn to dusk, spent at the course....hours hitting practice balls...anywhere from 36 to 63 (yup, he once played sixty-three in one day!) holes, late day short game and putting practice, etc. He says his family never took vacations, and that in those early years, he doubts if he missed more than a day or two per summer of this routine, apart from weather related interruptions. And he did it all on a top-ranked golf course (Scioto CC in Columbus), under the tutelage of an accomplished PGA pro (Jack Grout).
Did he become great because he spent all that time learning the game - simple repetition-based learning - or was it something else? Malcolm Gladwell would place Nicklaus firmly in his category of people who achieve greatness because of special opportunity: How many people have the opportunity to practice golf so much, at so young an age, on such a great golf course, with the financial resources to supplement it with teaching? Not many.
Yet how many people, given those opportunities, would have done as Jack did? For a teenager to pursue ONE activity, to the exclusion of all else, for ONE day? Sure...just about any kid can do that. For a week? A few would drop out. A month, or an entire summer? I'm sure we would be in single-digit percentages at this point, if not lower.
Golf is a great game, maybe the greatest of all, because it challenges us in so many ways. What is the greatest challenge? Is it to have enough time? Or is it how to use the time we have?