Golf Tips Newsletter
Issue 572 - Wed. August 28th, 2019
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USGTF Class "A" Teaching Professional
WGTF "Top 100" Teacher
IGPA Certified Golf Psychology Coach


If you don't take action, you'll never improve.
Prepare to play your best golf by doing something now!

Tom's Featured Tip: Skill Development - 10,000 Reps. or 10,000 Hours?
Lesson Comments: What Students Have To Say
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Tom's Featured Tip: Skill Development - 10,000 Reps. or 10,000 Hours?

For simplicity, all advice on actual swings or drills is provided from a right handed perspective.

During my Ball Striking lesson, I cover what it takes to develop skill in golf, and one of my students said that I really should write a newsletter article about it.

I did a similar newsletter article about five years ago, and the facts have not changed. Here's the gist of it again.. It's a little deep, but I think you'll like it.

I want to preface this answer by saying the information that I used for this answer is from the book - "The Talent Code", by Daniel Coyle - and from my additional research on myelin.

Tiger Woods once stated that it would take "10,000 good reps" to develop his "myelin pattern" for his new swing method, and that "you might hit 50,000 reps to get 10,000 good reps".

Maybe he was mis-quoted or just chose the wrong words, but according to everything I've read the 10,000 number usually is applied to the number of hours it takes anyone to attain mastery of a skill, not 10,000 reps. ("Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell)

Also the myelin "pattern" is normally referred to as "myelin wrapping".

Myelin is the substance that literally wraps around neural pathways when a person is in a deep practice state of mind for whatever task is at hand. We've all heard the brain referred to as grey matter, but the white substance that would be present if you saw an open brain is myelin, and the white matter matters. Myelin wrapping is the essence of skill development.

For the rest of this article, when I refer to skill or skill development, it refers to mylenation of neural pathways due to deep, focused practice. And by the way, this skill development isn't restricted to physical skills like those related to golf. It also applies to mental skills like those required to be a champion chess player, a high level mathematician, or a skilled violinist.

For this newsletter we'll keep it to golf.

Once you've obtained skill correctly, it needs to be maintained or grown by recurring correct practice or it will diminish to a degree. The greater the time off from practice, the greater the diminishment. Coyle's book stated that the simplest way to diminish the skills of a superstar talent like LeBron James (short of inflicting an injury) would be to not let him practice for a month.

If you stop a skilled person (like Tiger Woods with his back injury) from firing his or her circuit for a mere thirty days there will be noticeable skill diminishment.

That's why daily, quality practice matters - especially as we get older. I say quality practice, because mindlessly going through the motions is a waste of time. Quality mindful repetition is invaluable and irreplaceable.

The good news is that it doesn't take 10,000 hours to get it back. The circuits can be regenerated fairly quickly with enough quality reps. Just to compare to Tiger's situation again - he's not necessarily regenerating older skill circuits that have already been insulated with myelin. He's actually building a new swing, so it's going to take time and reps. But I actually believe he can get there faster than most. When he wants to, he seems to be able to flip into full concentration mode quickly.

It's like your neural pathway is a two inch dowel, wrapped in myelin represented by bacon. When it first wraps, it wraps in layers, with each wrap of bacon abutting tightly to the next. As we age, gaps appear in the myelin (as if each bacon strip has shrunk in width). This opening slows down the transmission time of the impulses necessary to fire the circuits that activate the skill. Like a leak in an oil pipeline would slow down the flow of the oil.

That's why older people walk slower than when they were younger.

Myelin production potential is abundant up to about age thirty, then it starts slowing down. It's still available as we age, but it takes more effort to make it happen. The message here is to build your skill set while you're young and your myelin is available in abundance.

There was an interesting reference in "The Talent Code" to a study that shows why Michael Jordan (and every other athlete who depends on speed) had to retire at around age forty: George Bartzokis "Lifespan Trajectory of Myelin Integrity and Maximum Motor Speed" available online through PubMed.

10,000 REPS or 10,000 HOURS

The answer is neither and both.

10,000 reps would be useless if they were done sloppily without deep concentration. In fact, one could build an incorrect skill if practice is done incorrectly. The same holds true for 10,000 hours of practice.

When I teach a student, I demonstrate a part of the golf swing it in a certain way then ask the student to practice that way. This means getting the same mental pictures, internally reciting the same phrases that we used at practice, and using the same swing motions - partial or full - that we used at practice. A good skill pathway can be built and myelinated at lessons and practice as long as there is deep concentration and words that trigger actions. For skill building, the quality of the repetitions done in deep practice trumps non quality reps done in abundance.

I use partial movements until the student can piece them together and make a full motion. Speed comes as skill is developed and automacity occurs.

I normally tell a student to practice the movement for a certain amount of time (two to four minutes depending on the student and the drill) for thee or four days per week vs counting their reps..

My goal is for students to start to build skill circuits at their lessons, and for them to understand how to practice to continue the process. Good instructors connect students with what it will take for them to hone their skills and accomplish their goals.

The difference between the really good players and the really great players is this: after the really good players have reached automacity (when all the partial swing training pieces join together and produce an automatic swing), they quit deep practice and rest on their laurels. They don't do it consciously, they just don't take themselves into the deep practice state of mind again until they notice a leak in their technique.

One reason might be that deep practice is hard. It takes energy to concentrate deeply for an hour or two at a time, and after it starts to pay off it's very easy to coast for awhile.

The really great players continue to build their skill set to higher levels through proper instruction, proper thinking, and deep practice. That's the value of continuing lessons with an instructor after you've attained skill. A good instructor will keep the skill building process moving forward.

And players in older age brackets need to work a little harder to continue to improve. It's my personal belief that aging players without lofty goals simply won't put in the right amount of quality work to keep getting better. When we are young, but even more so as we age, the goal needs to be a driving force in order for anyone to muster up the energy to execute deep practice.

If you don't already have a goal, set one today.

Keep (Deep) Practicing!


Love your practice, own your swing, own your health,


Golf Lessons

I conduct lessons at The Plum Creek Driving Range & Practice Facility
there's a link for Plum Creek info here:

Lessons are available for all ages and skill levels, please contact
me - Tom Tucker - at (716) 474 3005 or email me at
for more information.

Outdoor Lessons Details and Rates:

Indoor Lessons Details and Rates:



Click here to buy this swing speed training aid and increase your distance off the tee. I bought the Coaches set and I love them. Browse their site for great FREE swing speed training outlines and great FREE webinars on demand. Buying through my affiliate also helps support this free newsletter. Try 'em, you'll like them.

Plum Creek Driving Range and Simulator  Outdoor range and play indoor golf on any of our 40 Simulator Courses. Call 585-993-0930 or email Mark at to reserve time for simulator play or practice!

Batavia Country Club   (585) 343-7600
Great rates, the best greens in WNY.
Golf Digest Four Star rating for public courses to play in New York State.
Tee times online or by phone in season.
FISH FRYS AT BCC and other delicious dinner specials with soup and salad bar - Fridays, 4pm - 9pm Served in the dining area of the lower level snack bar for the summer season.

Chestnut Hill Country Club   (585)-547-3613
Only minutes from Buffalo, open to the public.
Tee times online or by phone in season.

All the best,

Tom Tucker
Teaching Pro, Plum Creek Driving Range & Practice Facility
WGTF ' "Top 100 Golf Teacher"
USGTF Class "A" Teaching Professional
IGPA Certified Golf Psychology Coach
Cell: (716) 474-3005

"There are no substitutes in the quest for perfection!"
~ Ben Hogan