A Natural Aptitude for Golf ... or Not?

Just how important is natural ability when learning to play golf?

I ponder this quite often, because frankly, I know myself, and I know I do not have a lot of natural ability for the game I love so much. I just don't.

Yes, it's hard to admit, especially because I'm constantly being told, "you're so athletic - you should be really good at golf" but athleticism and golf ability do not necessarily go hand in hand.

This is my third season and I'm hoping to break 100. I think that's pretty normal. But I have a couple of friends who've been playing just over a year and already break 100 routinely. They practice and play about half as much as I do. And rarely, if ever, take lessons. So what's that all about?

I think it's about a certain natural aptitude...or lack thereof. They have it - and I don't. So, naturally I hate envy them.

Now, what does this natural ability consist of ? They say golf requires flexibility. I've got that. So much so that If I weren't a marketing executive I'd probably be employed by Cirque du Soliel as a contortionist. Seriously. Flexibility isn't my problem.

Neither is balance. I was a gymnast in school, and the balance beam was my event. Strength and endurance? I run 5Ks and 1/2 marathons, and work out on my Bowflex every other day. Yes, I'm in excellent physical shape. So it's not that at all. It's something much more subtle.

I think it has to do with a combination of inborn senses; like spatial perception and positional sense. These senses allow one accurately and intuitively judge speed and distance, and to feel how hard to hit the ball and know what direction to aim it in. And you see, I'm lacking in those areas, that's why it's so hard for me to parallel park (I don't - ever) ...and why when I toss a crumpled paper towards the trash bin it's likely to end up on the other side of the room. That's just me. And other things like focus, imitativeness and muscle memory...not my fortés either, though I do try to work on them. And my damn friends don't. Not as hard as I do anyway.

I guess what I'm saying is that, with golf, not everyone's created equal, and I'm living that clearly this summer. Not that I'm not enjoying every single round... I am. In fact Nick will always insist that that's way I'm not improving faster, because I'm not agonizing over it enough, but I don't buy that. I am having fun, but I'm also applying myself on the course, at the range and on the putting green. I'm just a little...slower...than some others. So be it.

I would love to hear what other golfers of all levels think on this. How important is natural aptitude in golf?