I am fascinated by what I’ve learned from being on the golf driving range on a more frequent basis recently, and how many similarities there are between the golf practice range and the practice rooms in the typical music conservatory.
Instead of being in the basement in sound-proofed, phone-booth-sized rooms with no windows (which describes almost every music practice room I’ve seen), with golf one is outdoors with no barriers between you and the next person hitting ball after ball into the vast open space. This allows for more observation of certain behaviors, but I’m here to shed some light on the similarities between practicing music and practicing a golf swing.
- Golfers want a quiet practice environment. Only the “whoosh” and “ping” of clubs swinging and contacting the ball is typically heard on a pratice range. Talking is taboo. Deep in swing thoughts and pre-shot routine development, the practice range is a serious environment. Real practice and learning require this kind of seriousness. And remember, all the golfers are out there with the goal of having more fun on the golf course!
- If you look around, you won’t improve your own golf swing. You can tell some guys (and some gals too) have come to the driving range not for their own improvement but to make the sound of that “ping” and “whoosh” for the benefit of those around them. They may be watching their ball’s flight as they hold their follow-through, but out of the corner of their eye, they’re watching to see if anyone else witnessed their shot. They hit ball after ball after ball, with barely a pause. They seem to go through several large buckets in the same time it takes me to hit a handful of balls. I am tempted to ask myself what I’m doing wrong, until I remember that I’m there to improve my own golf swing. Which leads me to my next point…
- Don’t take advice from anyone on the practice range. This is not an anti-social manifesto, but it’s what you’ll hear from any golf pro you take lessons from. Once you have a teacher you’re working with, work on the things your teacher has suggested, not what your neighbor on the next mat has to say. Your neighbor may not have ever seen your swing, does not know the particular things you are trying to work on, and may not have a swing of their own to merit giving advice!
- Bigger clubs don’t mean better golfers. OK, we all know that buying new equipment is all part of the fun of being a golfer, and that “needing” a new club (preferably a huge-headed driver) is the best remedy for a swing flaw. But part of what I love so far about my golf journey is the discovery that so much unfolds from just focusing relentlessly on the fundamentals – grip, posture, and all the elements of the swing. I recently experienced the joy of actually hitting a golf swing (not with my arms, but with the large muscles of my body), and it makes me want to keep going! Not because of where the ball is going (by the way, it’s farther than I’ve ever hit before) but because of that unequivocal feeling of a great shot.