The 5th Secret
After inertia has been overcome, attention should be directed toward modifying your environment so that learning is automatically stimulated by your surroundings. The earlier this is done, either by accident or design, the more learning will take place. This accounts for the fact that good golfers have historically developed from two groups: caddies who from necessity were immersed in a golfing environment, and players with the means and the time to become so immersed.
Although the average amateur cannot modify his environment as thoroughly as these two groups, his golf can be insured a more or less automatic improvement if he will do as much as he can to place himself in a situation that makes it easier for him to play and practice.
It is not an accident that the greatest golfers have developed in areas in which the climate was advantageous, and that many of them lived in close proximity to courses. For several years I deliberately lived close to a driving range, and I feel sure that this accounts for the fact that I am more accurate with woods than with irons. I have always tried to live close to a range or golf course.
In addition to living as closely as possible to golfing facilities, it is wise to make a permanent provision for play or practice time. It has been found that a college student does not have trouble buckling down to work if he has a special time and place for study. At the designated hour, strong habits take over, and almost like a robot, he goes to the “study place.” Once in the “study place,” he pulls out a book; then other habits take over and the work is done automatically. One can build up a series of automatic actions so that long and arduous work can be done without straining to stick to the job.
Let me illustrate in a simple way how you can make the environment put you to work. For years I had the problem of not being able to keep the putter blade straight. Too many putts were either cut or pulled. I bought a putting gadget which enabled me to practice on the rug. Experience taught me how easy it was to lose interest in practicing, so I took several precautions. First I placed the putting gadget in a spot where I often saw it —near a dresser in the bedroom. Then I kept a supply of balls in a dresser drawer. I bought a duplicate putter and placed it next to the gadget as an additional reminder, also avoiding the problem of having to go to the bag for a club. I kept a prominently displayed score sheet to see how many out of each hundred putts were dropping. Finally, I made it a habit to putt just before going to bed.
Years ago, when my game was in the middle and high eighties, I had little time for play and had a good bit of trouble hitting tee shots. I had no car at the time and the bus took me from the city to the place where I roomed. Not too far from the bus line was a driving range. Although this range was only a few blocks from where I lived, I did not take full advantage of the opportunity offered. I then made a decision, essentially a psychological one, which led to the straight tee shot. I found a room situated so that the range was between the bus line and the house. Each day when I got off the bus, I had to pass the range to get to my living quarters. It became very easy to establish the habit of hitting a bucket or two before going home. This solved the problem by making my environment work for me.
The above are rather commonplace suggestions and are given merely to highlight what can easily be overlooked: that you must place yourself in a situation that will give your wants a definite place and time to find expression. Although we are all handicapped by various unfortunate duties, there is still much that can be done to provide better-golfing situations without affecting what the world has come to believe are more important things.