Learning any motor skill requires practice. I tell all my students that your golf game will only be as good as your practice habits — both mental and physical.
Quality practice can be time consuming and complicated, but there are ways to make your time at the practice range efficient and productive.
First you must establish the concept and technique, then practice the motion repeatedly until the two become intuitive. It’s easier for your brain to learn once you’ve set up the sequence: concept, technique, execution.
There are two important aspects of playing the game. One is to develop a perfect practice program and the other is how to take the skills honed in practice to the course.
I say the same things to my students that I say to the tour players I coach: Your practice requires a focused effort and a program that allows you to work not only on the mechanics of your golf swing, but also on how you respond to on-course situations. In most cases, failure to reproduce your driving-range swing on the course results from inefficient practice sessions.
Here are some guidelines:
I teach my students to set aside time for two very different types of practice — fundamental practice and competitive practice.
Fundamental practice is devoted to perfecting the mechanics of your swing, like grip, posture, takeaway, and your initial move back to the ball. You should spend just enough time on fundamental practice to either keep your swing in top form or to make a swing adjustment.
Unless you’re a beginner who’s learning the swing from scratch, I suggest that you spend no more than 50 percent of your practice time working on fundamentals. The key is not simply to develop a skill that works on the practice range, it’s to develop a skill that works on the golf course.
Competitive practice is used to sharpen all areas of your golf game by practicing competitive situations.
Most golfers hit from a pile of practice balls one after another, rapid fire and with no real plan. If the ball goes off line, they make an adjustment. They might strengthen their grip, close their stance, or move their hands forward. And if all those don’t work, they swing a little easier or perhaps try a friend’s advice to “keep your head down.”
All those changes won’t help and, as a matter of fact, they’ll ruin your swing. Golfers who practice this way are just tinkering, and it doesn’t take long to tinker yourself into a poor golf swing.
Here’s my recommendation:
- Start each shot with a pre-shot routine where you stand behind the ball and visualize the shot to a well defined target.
- Make a plan for each practice session and each shot in that session.
- Break up your practice sessions into smaller segments of a long game, short game, and specialty shots.
- Avoid long, tiring sessions of full-swing practice.
- And finally, evaluate your practice session just as you would a round of golf.
The real difficulty in golf is not trying to make the perfect swing on the course, but trying to first perfect that swing on the range.