It’s hard enough focusing on the parts of your game that need improvement, but once you have an honest grasp of where your skills lie, it can be even harder to know what steps you need to take in order to improve. As an LPGA Teaching Professional, I’ve seen more than my fair share of students who equate practice with mindlessly hitting a bucket of balls at the range before a round. But if you’re like the thousands of golfers who want to lower their scores and attain mastery in golf, then please consider a simple method called Deliberate Practice.
Think of Deliberate Practice as purposeful practice—quality over quantity.
The concept is deceptively simple, but I find that many players new to the concept are a little uncomfortable with it at first, and I want to tell you right now that that’s okay. You will get comfortable with the uncomfortable as you progress—both in your game and life in general. Essentially, if you can do quality practice that is specific to the area of your game you would like to improve upon, you will become more skillful.
Physical, Mechanical, or Psychological?
The first step towards deliberate practice is to do an honest evaluation of what is going on with your game, whether that be an error in the mechanics of your swing, a physical limitation, or a psychological block tugging your focus away from your practice.
Let’s say you want to work on your short game, specifically chipping onto the green. No matter how much you try, your ball always goes too far. So you spend all of your practice time chipping and chipping and chipping, but even though the ball might not go as far anymore, it has started going to the left. You start working on that until it goes straight, but eventually, you start making all the same chipping mistakes and feel even more frustrated.
If this sort of thing happens to you, it could be because you believe that you won’t chip the ball correctly. And believing you will fail is almost a guarantee that you eventually will. That would be a psychological block. Or you can’t hit short and straight because you’ve unconsciously loosened your grip on your follow through and the clubface turned (aka an error in your mechanics). Or maybe an old injury limits your follow through, which would be a physical limitation.
No matter the limitation, a certified LPGA or PGA Teacher will be able to observe your game and help you plan your Deliberate Practice.
Next, focus on the core concepts of Deliberate Practice that you should always keep in mind.
Start with getting out of your comfort zones by challenging yourself. Don’t think you can’t do something just because you haven’t been successful before. We all have to start somewhere.
That being said, don’t get discouraged when your skill level hasn’t yet caught up to your goals. Work on the skills you need but take baby steps to get there. Aim for just a step or two above your current ability before advancing to more complicated concepts. Make sure you can confidently roll 25 putts from 5 feet more often than not before working up to 50 putts. Remember, improvement takes time.
And finally, a certified teacher is invaluable. If you’re not sure where to start with your Deliberate Practice, try working with a golf professional to create a practice routine that will help you reach your goals.
I hope this gets you excited for reinvigorating your practice routine. Let’s eliminate the mindless ball beating and start planning your improvement with Deliberate Practice!