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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Jim Flick on Execution VS Understanding (Plus a Video)

This post is about more than golf. That's why it's so long. But if you stick with me till the end, you might be surprised at what sort of new "tools" are at your command.

The late Jim Flick worked with a lot of amateur players as well as pros. In fact, he and Jack Nicklaus ran golf schools together. So why was he so successful as a teacher?

This short section comes from his book On Golf, and it sums up why so many people struggle to get better at the game.


Every now and then, someone in a school session will say, "Well, I don't understand that."

My usual answer, unless I'm having a bad day and realize I'm being particularly obtuse, is what Peter Kostis, an old colleague of the Golf Digest schools, used to say: "Don't confuse the inability to execute with the inability to understand."

And I go on: "You understand the material very well. Right now you haven't done it often enough that you can execute it. So don't try to get more material. Spend more time on execution."

I'm not trying to be harsh. I'm trying to be realistic. You learn golf the way you learn everything else: step by step. Get too much all at once and you break down from information overload.

Let's say you're a grown-up and you decide to study French. Do you go to school for a semester and then one day wake up speaking the language perfectly? No! You practice, you absorb, you learn in stages. Golf is exactly like learning a language: there's a huge gap between intellectual understanding and physical feel. You bridge that gap with repeated execution. In other words, practice. [p44]
You don't have to learn everything about golf all at once. You don't have to learn to hit the ball both long and straight at the same time. You don't have to learn to hit both fades and draws all at once. You don't have to learn to hit both high and low shots right from the start.

Pick one basic skill. Find a drill or two that will help you get better at that skill. And then work on that skill. You'll get better.

When you go out to play a round of golf, use that skill as much as you can. Did your ball end up in a very tight lie but you can't hit the ball well enough yet to go at the green? Then don't try. Use your putter to advance the ball into a lie you can hit from, even if that's just ten feet away. Or don't try to hit it at all -- pick it up, carry to a spot you CAN hit from, and hit the ball from there.

Don't worry about your score. Just get better at that skill.

Or, to put it in Flick's language example, if you're learning basic words, you don't worry about creating syntactically correct sentences. You just focus on making your limited vocabulary understood. You use gestures -- like pointing at signs or acting things out -- to get your point across, and you don't worry about what you don't know.

THAT'S a good way to approach your golf game. And realize that the sooner you get this one skill down, the sooner you can start working on the next one and the quicker your game will get better.

In other words, folks, be patient with yourselves.

Unlike other posts I do with videos, this one doesn't have a golf instruction video. Rather, it's a video about how to learn new skills. I think it might be eye-opening for you.

I know you've heard people say you have to do a thing for 10,000 hours -- roughly five years of 40-hour workweeks -- to become an expert at it. BUT HERE'S THE TRICK: You don't have to become an expert at something to be very good at it, and you don't need 10,000 hours to become skilled. This video from Josh Kaufman shows why it only takes 20 hours to start developing a sound skill base in a new area. The key is to focus on the important skills at the start.

This video really opened my eyes when I saw it -- primarily because I realized that I had picked up a large number of skills in my life by doing exactly what he says!

So try approaching your golf -- and anything else you want to learn -- using Kaufman's mindset. And since I've been harping on it all week, let me suggest you begin this approach using the L-to-L swing drill as a starting place. It's easy to grasp and it builds basic skills you use in pretty much every part of your game.

And if you try to learn other things by using this mental approach, you might do more than just improve your golf. It might lead you in all kinds of exciting directions!

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