One of the biggest problems I notice as a golf professional is that amateur golfers have no idea how to practice. Teaching golf lessons not only allows me to watch my students practice, but affords me the opportunity to watch others work on their games. One of my biggest frustrations is watching players hit thousands, if not millions, of golf balls and see little to no improvement in their swing or score. Repeatedly making the same improper golf swing only implements bad habits. Einstein himself defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results. Another problem I see in those obsessed with practice but not with improvement is taking every tip they hear on the Golf Channel and applying it to their game. I am a big fan of Michael Breed, host of the show The Golf Fix, and frequently use his tips in my teaching. However, notice what he says at the end of every show: “be sure to see your local PGA Professional.” I view this as his disclaimer to the world that his tips are not the cure to everyone’s game. What I hope to accomplish with this post is to educate my readers with some tips on how to practice effictively.
Step #1: Take a golf lesson with a PGA Professional (shameless plug: book a lesson with me at boggspga.uschedule.com). This will help take the guessing game out of your golf swing. Use your lesson as a road map, giving you a game plan on how to practice
Step #2: Don’t just whack range balls. One of the things I notice with almost every single one of my students is they don’t have a target. I start almost every lesson asking the student where they are aiming. The most typical response is “I don’t know, out there.” With that logic, the only way to hit a bad shot is to miss the ball completely. I can not stress enough the importance of having a target. It is the only way to measure the success of your practice. I recommend (actually I require) that when practicing you put down some sort of alignment aid (golf club, stick, and my personal favorite the Swinkey). Don’t just check your foot alignment, but look at where your shoulders, hips, and club head are aimed. I can trace most swing flaws back to a simple error in these fundamentals. Now that we have your alignment sorted out, you can move on to actually swinging the club. Remember, practice without a target is just exercise.
Step #3: Practice with purpose. When arriving at the driving range, have an idea of what you want to work on. It could be the drill your PGA Professional gave you in your last lesson or the 3/4 swing PW that gave you fits in your last round. Know the problem and have a solution. Do not go out there and just hit balls making the same bad swing over and over again. You may say “I’m hitting the ball really well right now but want to practice and keep the swing grooved.” Well I promise that if you continue to hit aimless range balls you won’t be hitting it well for much longer. Play games with your practice. Change target greens from shot to shot. Hit different types of shots with the same club. The key is to be creative and make the practice challenging. A great way to warm up or just practice is to simulate the golf course. Visualize hole #1 of your favorite course and use the clubs you would need to execute the round. This method really helps keep practice fun and exciting.
Step #4: Don’t just hit range balls. It drives me nuts to see players day after day spend 99% of their time on the range. The 10 putts you hit before you make it to the tee box is not practice. The putting green is where you can take some serious strokes off your game. I would recommend spending 50% + of your practice time on and around the green. While on the putting green it is important to use the same keys I recommended for the driving range. Keep it fun and fresh. Don’t just hit the same 10 ft five times and then hit another 10 ft putt. All that does is give you a back ache. Go all over the green hitting chips and putts. Grab a friend and compete in different games and contests. Many students and customers tell me that working on the short game is boring, so make it exciting. The putting green is an easy place to be creative plus it’s FREE!
While practicing, make an effort to put yourself in on-course situations. This way when you see these obstacles on the golf course you will be filled with the confidence necessary for success. We live in an age where time is money so it is critical to use your time wisely. Following these few simple guidelines will make your practice more efficient and effective. Best of luck and can’t wait to see you at the golf course!!