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Practice, Not The Pro-Shop, Makes A Swing

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(credit: CBS) Mark Rosen
Mark Rosen is WCCO-TV's sports director, anchor and reporter. Ma...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We all know that practice makes perfect, right? Well, everybody except the folks who responded to a new golf survey. They picked lessons, custom clubs, and a few other things ahead of what actually helps the most.

WCCO-TV asked PGA Master Professional Craig Waryan and University of Minnesota sports psychologist Nicole LaVoi to help us learn the best way to improve your game, and why so many golfers avoid it.

The survey in the new Golf Digest asked 1,700 golfers to rate how many strokes they save by doing a variety of things, and the top responses were six private lessons (3.1 strokes), custom fitted clubs (3.0) buying the best irons (1.9), and buying the best driver (1.8). All ranked ahead of playing an extra round of golf each week (1.6 strokes), the closest thing to practice on the list.

“I want them to practice 10 hours after I work with them on a particular topic,” said Waryan of his students, pointing out that practice on the driving range is the best way to master his tips.

“It didn’t surprise me,” LaVoi said, “Because it’s easier to go out and buy a new piece of equipment than it is to get on the range and pay money and spend time and effort to practice to get your stroke.”

Still, there may also be something else at play, the lure of the golf ads, the pro shop, and something LaVoi calls “the new equipment club.”

“If I show up with my new fancy T-2000/2001 super extra long driver burner, I’m in the club,” she jokes. “So I have the newest technology, and at least the perception is that I know what I’m doing.”

“Give me a Stradivarius, and I can make it sound like a cat screeching,” Waryan joked.

Still, some of the survey results are absolutely eye opening. Playing more often barely beat out buying premium golf balls (1.3 strokes), the best putter (1.2), new grips (1.2), and a distance device (1.4).

“Most people don’t know far they hit it anyhow,” he said. “So it’s 149 yards. They don’t know what club they hit 149 yards.”

Golfers aren’t alone. LaVoi says we’d probably see the same results in other sports. In other words, the survey tells us less about golf, and more about ourselves.

“We want immediate access to information,” she said. We want to go through the drive-through, we don’t want to wait in lines; we don’t want to be in traffic. We want everything right now, and so the hard work and effort, that’s now the ethos in our society right now.”

And if you want more perspective, despite all the equipment advances in the 40 years that Waryan has been teaching, the average handicap – the average score of all golfers – has only dropped by one stroke. And the USGA actually attributes that to better golf courses, not better equipment.

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