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Bad Practice: Golf Pro Steve Elkington Shares How to Avoid it In Golf and Business

What is essential to being a successful golf tour player, and being successful in business? According to PGA Tour Champion and founder of Secret Golf, Steve Elkington, success comes down to one thing: practice. But not just any practice – good practice.

Good Practice vs. Bad Practice

Whether you are working on your swing, or your sales pitch, not all practice is equal. Good practice requires an honest and objective evaluation of weaknesses. In a UK study, researchers found that adult learners who are provided a consistent feedback loop learned more than students who were not offered any ongoing feedback about their learning performance. 

For professional training – be it golf skills or sales skills – that feedback is often a combination of coaching and continuous analysis offered through simulations. The challenge is to take that feedback and choose to work on your weaknesses, rather than on the skills you have already mastered. 

But Elkington says, “It’s hard work to practice your weakness.” It’s something you need to decide to do, and do consistently. But the results can be amazing – and satisfying.

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“What gives me the most satisfaction is when I pull off a shot that is a weakness. If I can do that, I know I’m on track to have a good game. I remember to this day the Pebble Beach Tournament in 1986. I hit a terrible 6 iron shot out to the right. I tricked myself and got myself excited about the walk. I had been practicing. I knew the steps it would take. I had to set my feet here. I had to put the blade here. I took some practice swings, and I hit the most delicate shot that came straight up so I could just tap it in the hole. That propelled me the rest of the round.”

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But bad practice isn’t only spending time honing skills you’ve already mastered, it’s also:

  • Skipping steps
  • Practicing too fast
  • Practicing too slow
  • Not working through your full routine
  • Not imagining shots

Elkington stresses that practice takes time, and that the focus of practice should be identifying foundational weaknesses and devising strategies to help you improve in those areas of weakness. Even after decades of playing professional golf, Elkington says he – and his coach – still spot mistakes that are caused by gaps in foundational skills.

“Every foundation has cracks. You have to identify them and practice filling them in.”

Steve Elkington, golf pro

Golf isn’t so different from sales. Even seasoned, top performing sales pros have room to improve and develop skills. And when you consider the impact to the bottom line that middle performers would have if they upped their skill set and sales results collectively – even slightly – through practice. It only underscores how impactful the implementation of a sales training and ongoing sales skills reinforcement program could be to your sales organization.

Author: Dario Priolo

Dario brings over 20 years of experience in the sales enablement and talent development industry. He has led marketing and strategy as CMO for leading companies like the Hay Group, Miller Heiman and Profiles International and has been part of 4 successful exits, including his own start-up.


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