After spending tens of thousands of hours on the driving range over my life, and watching many amateurs practice, I’ve seen lots of ineffective practicing. Most golfers go out there with high hopes for their practice session, only for it to end in frustration. They spin their wheels, beating range ball after range ball, not seeing any improvement.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you and other golfers could spend that time wisely and constructively, getting in quality practice with results? Think how much happier that would make you on the golf course, not to mention less grumpy when getting home. Here are some ways to get the most out of your practice time, have your efforts pay off, and to see your skills actually improve:
1) Smart Practice – Misalignment is one of the biggest problems golfers have on a consistent basis. There is no excuse for this while practicing, as you have the wherewithal to put a club or other alignment device down so you are aligned correctly when working on your swing, pitching or putting stroke. If you practice while out of alignment, you are wasting your time.
2) Five Physical Aspects of the Game – The game of golf is comprised of long game, pitching, chipping, sand, and putting. Most people neglect to practice these 5 aspects, preferring to just practice their long game. However, on the golf course only one third of their shots are long game, and none of those shots are the ones that get the ball in the hole. Split your time up: If you have an hour, spend 1/3 with long game, 1/3 with pitching and sand, and 1/3 with chipping and putting.
3) Be Creative – When practicing your long game don’t just try to hit the full, long, straight shot over and over again. This limits your familiarity, feel and creativity with your clubs, that which you will need in your arsenal in order to execute shots in demanding situations on the golf course . Include specialty shots like the low punch, hooks, fades, and half shots in your practice. And when practicing your pitching and chipping mix it up as well, giving yourself different lies, different distances, different angle, trying to hit it higher and lower, as well as with more or less roll.
4) Different Types of Practice – Separate mechanics practice from course ready practice. There is a time to build your swing, and then there is a time to practice feel, routine, and visualization. Split your practice time up to do both, perhaps spending 2/3 of your time on mechanics, and 1/3 on making yourself and game ‘course’ ready. When working on mechanics you do drills and look at different positions of your club and body in your swing, analyzing and evaluating your moves. Whereas when practicing to make your game playable, you try to create golf course circumstances on the range, making mock situations, and reacting to them like you would on the course. Get behind the ball to line up your shot and go through your whole routine in real time, just like you would for the approach on say hole #7 of a course you are familiar with.
5) Don’t be ‘result of shot’ oriented – That is, do not react subjectively to what the ball does, but rather objectively, trying to feel, sense, and notice what went wrong with your swing, routine or mental play. Good or bad, don’t react in an emotionally charged way (excited, sad, gleeful, or angry), but rather be calm and even-minded if you want to get the most out of your practice and not waste time and energy.
6) More Starts for Quicker Results – If you want to see results sooner, you’ve got to get out more often. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending more aggregate time out there, or having to spend 10 hours a week practicing. This means spending a spare 10 minutes in your day making putting strokes on the kitchen floor lines, swinging in front of a mirror, practicing your grip while standing and watching TV, doing a pivot drill with basketball in between legs, watching and working on your footwork while making dry swings at the office, or doing my club on belly drill in your backyard. Often I see people who don’t practice all week, come out once every couple weeks for 2 or 3 hours to practice on a Saturday or Sunday. They could get more out of their practice if they would have had more little starts each week, rather than one long session on the weekend. The more starts the better, as the more times you wake up the neural pathways the more chance for habit change and remembrance. So instead of one long session on the range, mix it up and have a few 10 to 30 minute sessions sprinkled throughout your week as well.