You're having a laugh: Tucker’s Point’s Paul Adams with his new pupil Randy. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
You're having a laugh: Tucker’s Point’s Paul Adams with his new pupil Randy. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead

How long does it take to learn anything?

The book ‘The first 20 hours' by Josh Kaufman is one of the best of 2013. The concept and inspirational message is that it does not take 10,000 hours to be good at something as it says in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers but in actual fact you can learn a skill with the right coaching and practice in 20 hours. 

Could I get someone to be able to play golf in 20 hours? 

And not just be able to play, but actually compete and enjoy golf?

With the challenge set, all I needed was a willing student and some benchmarks.

The Guinea Pig 

Randy has never played golf. His interest was piqued when he started working at Tucker’s Point Club this year. 

The coach’s point of view

 Randy, a recent new employee at Tucker's Point, and an absolute beginner is to be the 'learner' and I, obviously, will be the coach. 

The key word here is the term coach, not teacher or instructor. The golf industry has been selling golf lessons in discrete 30-minute sessions and a few lessons are seen as a way of starting out. But the problem is that, typically, that it is woefully inadequate and then people give up.

So I am to be Randy's coach, spending longer periods of time coaching rather than instructing, but with a number of short-term goals to inspire ourselves. They are:

To compete in the Bacardi National par 3 on January 17-18th, to score respectably and to qualify for the World par 3 in March.

Randy has had a go on the range and played his first round of golf at Turtle Hill and scored a creditable 90 already, but that will not be anywhere good enough to qualify and by his admission it was very frustrating. This means that he is unlikely to continue playing unless he improves — and fast!

Randy’s Point of View

When I took a job at Tucker’s Point Club a few months ago I had no idea how to play golf. I’d gone to the range with friends and such, and hacked around a golf course once or twice, but until I talked to Paul, I didn’t even know that I was holding the club incorrectly. So a few weeks ago he comes up to me.

“You’re going to play in the National Par 3 Championship at Turtle Hill Golf Club in January,” he told me.

“Neat,” I thought, and then “what? No! I just learned how to hold a club properly a few days ago.”

I hit a couple baskets of balls after work, got my confidence up that I could actually make contact most of the time, and set out to play Turtle Hill with a couple friends last Saturday to get a benchmark. Ha! 36 over par! When I told Paul he seemed unperturbed, though. 

“We’ll get you ready” he said. “We still have lots of time. With 20 hours of focused training and practice we can significantly reduce your score. Read ‘The First 20 Hours’ by Josh Kaufman. I’ll base your training schedule off of the premise of that book”

“Not a chance I’ll be even close to ready to compete at any level,” I thought. “Doesn’t it take 10,000 hours to get good at something? “Only 20 hours of training? He must know something I don’t.” 

The Golf Challenge is a new weekly column. Paul Adams is director of golf at Tucker’s Point.