If you could have everything you could possibly dream of, in terms of practice facilities/training equipment/coaching expertise/weather… do you think it would automatically lead to improvement?
It’s the idea of the grass always being greener on the other side. But when you get there, is it really? It’s greener where you water it…
I’ve had this blog lingering in my mind for a while without getting round to writing it. For one thing, I couldn’t think of a title for it. And then when I was in Arizona for a few days, I was lucky enough to stay in a place called Paradise Valley… ever think some things in life are more than just coincidence?
While I was at home in January and February, I got into the habit (for the most part) of getting up around 6. I knew it was cold and dark outside but once you’ve adjusted your mindset to accept that, you just get on with it. If you want the results, you put the work in… because if you don’t, someone else will. But when I was in Florida the last few weeks (and Paradise Valley), I found it harder to have that discipline. Most of the time I was out there it was between 20 and 30 degrees, and then there were a couple of days it dropped to 10… and suddenly my brain was telling me that was too cold to spend a full day practicing in. Yet 10 degrees in England is close to shorts weather. 10 degrees in Sweden will have you not able to get on the golf course because there are too many people out. It’s not always about your circumstances; it’s about your perception of those circumstances.
Something about poorer facilities or poorer conditions can create an added internal motivation, I think. It makes you get more out of your time, because otherwise why are you doing it? You’re not going to intentionally spend hours outside in freezing temperatures if you’re not doing something that can show measurable improvement. But that mindset can be harder to achieve when you’re somewhere more comfortable. Getting out to practice might be easy, but that is far from the only thing that counts.
Of course, having access to better facilities can make things easier. It’s why I spent the last month in the US. If someone has an area where they can hit shots from 40-100 yards to a good quality green, chances are they will be a better pitcher than someone who doesn’t have an area like that. Trying to build your confidence by holing hundreds of 3 footers is probably not going to go well if you’re on a hollotined bumpy surface running 7 on the stimp. But facilities and conditions aren’t everything. The more you’re challenged in practice, the more opportunities you have to learn. Being able to hit a perfectly flighted 7 iron from a perfectly flat lie on a perfectly manicured fairway is one thing, but being able to hold up that same 7 iron in a right to left wind when the ball is above your feet, that lands in the middle of the green and leaves you a 15 footer for birdie to the pin tucked away on the right hand side…. that’s another thing altogether. More people can do the first than the second. It’s not about where you practice, it’s about how you practice.
I think there’s a danger in having things readily available. It can lessen our drive to find improvements for ourselves, to challenge ourselves, to make ourselves uncomfortable. There was a discussion about this in a book called ‘The Gold Mine Effect’, and how it was reflected in Chelsea FC’s academy – the equivalent of a 5* hotel, yet failing to produce success. It was contrasted to the training methods of one of the world’s best sprint coaches, who refuses to invest in any high tech equipment or training facilities, choosing instead to separate the best by figuring out who’s willing to sacrifice the most for success. I’m sure there have been loads of studies and actual research done, but whatever that might show, I know it’s something I’ve noticed lately. Getting too comfortable can make you lose your edge.
Being somewhere like Paradise Valley sounds like the end goal. But once you get there, can you remember what the real end goal is? And what you have to do to get there?