Since I spend the majority of my hours on the practice range, I felt like an article on practice would be worthwhile. If I am not teaching, I am often practicing and it has always has been a labor of love for me.
I have learned a bit more about how to practice and believe that if more golfers understood how to practice, the transition from the practice range to the golf course would be easier and play would improve. This is basically learning to separate practicing golf swing from practicing golf. They are two totally separate entities and, as a teacher, important to understand and stress to students working to improve their game.
The first type of practice is about learning a position in the golf swing, incorporating a swing fundamental, and creating a new habit. It is technical and mechanical practice, the kind of practice that is repetitive and sometimes frustrating as your progress often times has nothing to do with where the ball is going. When the practice session involves learning a new position, the goal is not where the ball goes. The goal is learning a new position, creating a new habit. It is believed that it takes a figurative 21 days to learn a new position. For 21 days, you simply cannot care where the ball goes. This is a very challenging and difficult thing to TRUST. When you are practicing this way, you are working on positions, basics, and fundamentals (grip, posture, alignment, ball position). This is the practice to be used after a round or in preparation for a tournament. But not during a tournament or before a round.
The other type of practice is practicing golf, practicing the way it is played on the golf course. The emphasis is on target and ball flight, not positions and mechanics. Tempo and balance are emphasized in these practice sessions and your thinking goes from “in here” to “out there”. This is the practice to use to get your game from the range to the golf course. Usually, this type of practice should be employed before a round of golf or during a tournament. The more you remove golf from the target (which is the whole point of the game), the more problems any golfer is bound to have. By thinking target and using good rhythm and timing, any golfer can reset priorities and get back to playing golf. If you are struggling with your swing and you really don’t know how to fix it, with good rhythm, tempo, and balance, you will be surprised how the golf swing can repair itself. If you can turn your attention strongly enough to the target, and how you want the ball to look going to that target, the body will tend to react and do those things necessary to make good things happen. This is also a difficult thing to TRUST.
PRACTICING GOLF SWING (positions and basics)
- Don’t worry where the ball goes
- Always have a practice plan based on your stats from playing
- Objective is to create something technical in the swing
- Repeat new position until you begin to feel progress
- It takes 21 days of work to create a habit (patience!)
- Fundamental positions must be practiced too
- Don’t mix practicing golf swing with practicing golf
- Build a practice station (aim, alignment, ball position)
- Don’t mess with your individual “style”
PRACTICING GOLF (target and ball flight)
- Think target and ball flight
- Think rhythm, tempo, and balance
- No thoughts about positions
- Think “out there”, not “in here”
- Know your distances
- Stick with your “style”
- Eliminate guesswork…TRUST
- Develop and use a choreographed physical and mental pre-shot routine
- Always use this practice to carry you from the practice range to the course
Perfect practice is not about how many golf balls you hit, but the quality of practice. Ben Hogan was once asked what his secret really was and he told that man to go dig it out of the ground as he had. There is a lot of truth there. To learn this game, you must practice. To play this game well, to play it to the best of your ability, all it takes is hard work. There’s nothing that about 300 buckets of balls won’t cure. LARGE buckets.
I am a bonafide Range Rat. I love everything about the practice experience…I don’t have to beat anybody or shoot an incredible score…I just love to hit the golf ball. I practice to improve my game, but relish the experimentation that comes with practice. I offer the advice to practice with a purpose, the way you want to play. In golf, it is not the practice that makes perfect, but the perfect practice that makes perfect. Be positive, be patient, and TRUST that what you are doing is what you should be doing. See you on the range!