By Tom Ward
When you head out to practice you’ve got to have a clear and concise program to maximize your time and energy wisely. Remember, “Failure to prepare, is preparing to fail.”
There are those golfers who will go to the practice range and pound balls unmercifully for hours and there are those players that have a specific goal in mind about what they are trying to achieve. A lot of recreational golfers, especially with high handicaps, fall into the first category. Most of the time those golfers don’t get anything out of their practice sessions because they don’t practice playing golf, just hitting balls.
How often have you heard people complain, “If only I played as well as I practiced?” Many times these golfers hit great on the practice tee because they are swinging freely, without any fear of failure or mechanical thoughts to burden their minds. Once they reach the course it becomes a different matter. Now they have to aim their shots toward targets like the fairways and greens. All of a sudden that free-wheeling spirit they exhibited on the range is gone because it becomes bogged down by swing thoughts and preconceived outcomes, thus creating stress and pressure. Their swings become jerky and quick, their tempo is inconsistent, and they become upset when they hit the ball where they shouldn’t. They can’t transfer their practice game to the course because they haven’t prepared properly.
Quality, not quantity that counts
Just going to the driving range every day putting in the time isn’t enough to become a great golfer. You can have all the determination and diligence, but you need to have a game plan that will compliment your work effort.
In golf, trying harder is admirable but, it’s all about quality not quantity. You can practice all day long and reap very little results once you tee it up on the course if you don’t practice correctly. I realize most people don’t have the luxury of time to work on their games like the pro’s do, however, when you do go out to practice make sure you’re working on the right things.
We’ve all grown up hearing the expression, ”Practice makes perfect.” But this isn’t always true when it comes to golf. Long and hard practices can give you a good workout and help you become a better player, but probably not a great one. An hour of quality practice can derive greater results than three hours of mindless banging of balls.
We can only focus on the task at hand for so long before we become spent, both physically and mentally.
So what does a quality practice session involve?
First, you need to have a clear defined goal of what you want to achieve as a golfer. I’ve taught numerous top athletes from all types of sports and they all have all told me they had a defined goal in mind to reach their dreams of success. This means every shot in practice means something. You have to put yourself in the same frame of mind as when you’re out on the course, where every shot you make counts.
You need to fully concentrate on each shot at hand and pick your target, and stay with a pre-shot routine because that’s what you should be doing on the course. By practicing this way, you’ll create good habits that will stay with you when the heat is on; by having a solid pre-shot setup it will enable you to put your swing on cruise control. All of my students know that I will place them in game situations on a regular basis to simulate what they will encounter during the course of a round. It’s all about being prepared and being accountable for your actions that will help you grow as golfers.
Hit it where it lies – even in practice
Next, practicing from good and bad lies will help you to know what to do when that situation occurs. Also, hitting from side hill and downhill lies as well as awkward stances will help you work on your overall balance, which is a must.
Once they feel confident with your swing fundamentals I have players practice hitting controlled hooks and slices. Again, learning to shape the ball around a tree, for example, is a good way to become a great shot maker and it empowers you as a player to be in control of your swing. Another good way to use your practice time wisely is next time you’re on a Par 3 hole try this hitting three shots (if no one is behind you) to the hole with clubs you wouldn’t normally use. If the shot calls for a 7-iron for the required distance go ahead and hit a 6-iron instead. This can greatly help your rhythm and tempo and because there is no need to over swing or try to hit the ball harder than normal.
Then hit a 5-iron and choke down on the grip slightly and make your swing. You want to become a consummate shot maker and not be one-dimensional as a player. It’s a good rule of thumb to always have a few options on how to play the hole without having to go all out and try to hit the ball as hard as you can to get it there. Dialing it back a bit and taking more club and keeping a smoother tempo will make a world of difference. Learning to play with only one shot in your arsenal is like driving a car in only one gear. Finally, keep your practice session short on time, but high on quality. After you’ve worked on what needed tending to it’s time to move on to another phase of your game like chipping or putting.
These are just a few quick examples of how to approach the game with renewed vigor, as the game demands discipline to achieve your goals. It can be a painful process if you aren’t prepared properly.
Speaking of pain, that reminds me of what my father once told me about the two pains of life. “There is the pain of discipline that weighs ounces and the pain of regret that weighs tons.” My hope is that you change your game plan on how you practice as it will lighten up your work load and free you up to having fun and success on the course.
Tom Ward can be reached at www.teetimewithtom.com.