How Long Does It Take To Be Good at Golf?

Realistically, it should take about twenty hours to start playing decent golf.

Well, here's the thing: you will not become Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth after 20 hours.  We're not talking about mastery-level golf.  As much as I hate to say it, because of all the hours that Tiger Woods has put in, you'll never be that good at golf.

That's no reason why you can't be better than you are currently, though.  

But twenty hours will take you from zero (or your lowered perception of your ability) to competent... if you do it the right way.

How do I know?  Someone I have a lot of respect for said so.  This guy:

josh kaufman will help you get better at golf faster!

Josh Kaufman source

That book in his hand?  I've read that!  It's easy to read and understand.  If you're also interested in running a business (like I was when I found it), you should definitely pick it up.  How about here?

Anyway, Josh has a way of making complicated things sound easy.  In 2012, he released another book, The First 20 Hours- How to Learn Anything... Fast!   It's about effectively learning a new skill quickly.

The good news is, you can apply this to your golf game!  I really recommend you pick it up (here), but if not, we're going to go through a basic overview, with a golf slant.

First off, you need to practice intelligently

According to Sources of Insight:

Practicing intelligently is the key to learning any new skill the most effective and efficient way possible.

But how do you do this in golf?  

You need feedback, for starters.  Sunscreen (or foot powder spray) is a good way to get feedback on what's happening at impact.  

You should also consider the fundamentals at all times.  The setup- your posture, grip, and alignment- all should be paid careful attention to when you're going to hit any shot.

The minute you start hitting balls mindlessly, STOP.  You're no longer being productive, or practicing intelligently.  You can try to fool yourself, but don't bother.  Just stop yourself, gather your thoughts, and either switch things up or try again.

Breaking it down, or, the swing deconstructed

What I mean here is, instead of trying to learn the full swing all at once, break it down into tiny bits:

  • The takeaway
  • Getting to the top of the swing
  • Getting down into impact
  • The release/impact
  • The finish

When you look at it like small, bite-size pieces, it becomes easier to digest, doesn't it?

That's the key: if ever you want to learn something, be it improving your swing, how to hit a draw, or improving your chipping, breaking it down into smaller pieces and tackling each step on its own can increase your effectiveness. 

Learn to Self-Correct

I brought up Tiger earlier, but he's going to be helpful here, as well.  When Tiger left Sean Foley, he was looking to find a coach that would help him find ways to learn how to self-correct on the course.

You should be able to do this, too.  The ability to feel when things are off can go a long way towards helping you right the ship when out on the course.

But how do  you learn it?

Well, the number one way is lessons.  Realistically, can you afford to see an instructor once-a-week or bi-weekly?  

If yes, cool!  If not, there are all kinds of resources.  Books (like these seven), YouTube videos, web sites... they can all help.  But there's a catch: 

Don't go off the deep end.  Stick to one or two different instructors, whatever their preferred medium is.

If you're wondering why, it's because there are inconsistencies in instruction.  At least the wordings, and sometimes, even the concepts.  Too many voices in your head will lead to paralysis by analysis, and you'll get nowhere.

You still need to get out and practice.  We'll cover that in a different section later.

Remove Barriers in Your Practice

Sounds kind of simple, right?  But it can be difficult.

Some people like to practice with headphones.  That's not a bad idea, really, because it can help you tune out all the outside noise at a range.

This also means cramming in bucket after bucket on the range, as well.  That's bad news and isn't helpful.  My best tip for that is to go over your pre-shot routine with every single swing you want to take.  This helps clear your mind and gets you ready to swing.

Practice For 20 Hours

This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say.

Twenty hours?  That's it?!

Well, yeah.  All you need is 45 minutes a day for a month.  If you can only swing 20 minutes a day, that's OK; just know that it'll (obviously) take longer than a month.  Cut yourself some slack and allow for that extended time.

Remember, we're looking for competence, not mastery.  There's a big difference.  As Kaufman puts it in his book:

”Now, most skills have what I call a frustration barrier.  You know, the grossly-incompetent-and-knowing-it part?

That’s really, really frustrating.  We don’t like to feel stupid.  And feeling stupid is a barrier to us actually sitting down and doing the work.

So, by pre-committing to practicing whatever it is that you want to do for at least 20 hours, you will be able to overcome that initial frustration barrier and stick with the practice long enough to actually reap the rewards.”

Apply the 80/20 Rule

If you've ever heard of it, it works like this: 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.  Find the 20% that matters to you, and concentrate your efforts there.

Always cut yourself some slack.  As in, start by stop saying stuff like you suck at golf.  Focus on the smaller learning curve of  just getting good; you'll find your game will improve.

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