Madeleine Winnett compares skiers to golfersJune, 2015
Practise makes perfect - on the course and the slops
My ski trips seem to be an endless source of inspiration. Not just for the magnificence of the mountains, the purity of the air, the sunshine and the thrill of skiing, but also for observing people.
Throughout my latest stay, I was constantly reminded about the similarities between skiing and golf and the mentalities of the people who participate in them. It is difficult to define skiing ability, but if handicaps existed, I would probably be around five or six.
It was immediately apparent that four of the men in our party were only concerned with getting down the runs as fast as they could, even though their technical abilities didn’t match up with this approach.
They couldn’t comprehend that a woman could be in front of them, so after two runs where they were just a liability, I was quite happy to let them go ahead.
It was the equivalent of men just wanting to hit it as far as they can off the tee. It doesn’t matter where the ball goes as long as it goes further than anyone else.
This is not only true amongst fellow males, but is equally applicable in pro-ams – especially with ladies. Female pros play off the same tees as their male amateur partners, and all the men want to do is knock it past them.
This is also true for every other shot. Alison Nicholas said the most common question she was asked in pro-ams is what club she used. If she said a 7-iron, for example, the man would gleefully reply that he used an 8-iron – to which the inevitable response would be, “Yes, but I’m on the green!”
Of all the chalet guests, on the first day, one person stood out above the rest. Having previously spent three seasons in the resort, I knew he was a good skier, but since he was behind me, I hadn’t really seen him.
As the more technically inept brigade careered haplessly down, they then derided our more reticent member of the party with cries of, “What happened to you then?” as he arrived last. His quiet and unashamed reply immediately made my ears prick up. “I was practising.”
This was somebody I suddenly wanted to watch!
He wasn’t just good. He was excellent. And now I wanted to follow him. He didn’t say much, but he didn’t have to. Watching him working at his craft spoke volumes. On every run, on every turn, he was honing his technique, so I just wanted to glean as much information from him as I could to see where I could improve.
Why is it that the best players feel the need to practise more than the higher handicappers? The correlation with golf was unavoidable. Category 1 players make up the lowest percentage of most golf clubs, and yet they inevitably seem to make up the highest percentage of players on the practice ground.
Why is it that the best players feel the need to practise more than the higher handicappers?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but my own personal motivation for golf, skiing, or anything else I do, isn’t because I want to be the best – it’s because I want to be the best I can be.
For the majority of people who ever visit the practice ground, how much time do they spend working on their weaknesses rather than their strengths?
How many people hate playing bunker shots, or lob shots, but would never think of having a lesson on anything other than their long game – if indeed they have lessons at all?
Venture onto the practice ground, and the people you will see working on their short game and sand shots are the same people who are already very accomplished in those areas. But they never shout about what they are doing.
Before we even head to the first lift, I can invariably tell how well or badly someone will ski based on their conversation. The more places they tell you they have been to, the more their technique will leave to be desired.
The same is true in golf. I have surmised my fellow golf journalists’ abilities on press trips long before the first tee shot is struck, simply by listening to them hold court. The more courses they insist on telling you they have played, and the equipment they use, the more lessons you want to suggest they have when you see them in action.
My strong, silent skier isn’t the loudmouth pontificator in the golf club bar telling everyone else how to do it. Every club has one – the person who has never been down to single figures, but who can spot a dress code violation from two fairways away. He isn’t the 20-something handicapper instructing his wife how to play – badly.
He lets his skiing do the talking. And when they say, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch – never was a truer word spoken!