Whether it’s golf, computer programming, or learning to drive a car, anytime you try to acquire a new skill, you’ll need to practice. Instruction without practice is like reading the comics. You enjoy it at the time, but don’t retain much in the form of long term benefit. If you’re a dedicated player, one of the great things about taking a series of golf lessons is that it forces you into beneficial regular practice. As I re-engage in regular practice, I’m reminded of a few pointers to make the best use of your time.
- Find a quiet isolated spot; it improves concentration. Approach like Vijay Singh. He has it right when he sets up alone down at the end of the driving range. Unless you’re the type who could do your homework with the TV blaring, you’re better off in solitary. Hitting balls at Top Golf with your friends or on the simulator at Dave and Busters is fun but is not practice. Nor is working one stall over from the dad trying to give his young son well-meaning but awful swing advice. Focus on your task at hand.
- Move slowly through your basket of balls. Ever see the range rat raking ball after ball, never changing clubs, and hitting one every 15 seconds – usually with the driver? Don’t be that guy. If you want a cardio workout, go to the gym. Warm up slowly and start with a wedge, making small swings. Resist the temptation to quickly hit another ball after a bad shot. Think through your miss and attempted correction. Rushing will only get you tired and frustrated.
- Bring your rangefinder and use it. Hit at specific targets and change them often; it will help you to concentrate and stay fresh. This one is difficult because you’re most likely working on swing mechanics, but never forget golf is a target-oriented game. Often, if your swing is somewhat grooved, just focusing on the target will free your body from your mind and allow you to perform your best.
- When you finish full swing practice, go putt for 20-30 minutes. Putting is a simple repeated stroke that doesn’t require much physical effort. It’s a wonderful way to cool down and is also 40% of the shots you’ll take during a normal round. Draining putts is always beneficial to your game. If your range session was less than satisfactory, it can take the edge off and remind you that getting the ball in the hole is the objective of all your hard work. Don’t confuse putting after full swing with short game practice. This putting is just about seeing the ball go in the hole. Short game practice (chipping, pitching, putting, and bunker play) should have a completely different time block allocated, and is often more time consuming than full swing.
- Keep playing golf – it’s important to stay engaged with the objectives of the game. Shooting at targets, getting rewarded for good shots and penalized for bad, and working on your course management. While you’re trying to make swing changes, this can be very difficult. You need to persevere and not beat yourself up over some bad scores. Know that the more you play AND practice together, it will elevate your overall performance. Plus, when you pull off those shots you’ve been working on during practice, it’s a great feeling.
There you have it. These tips are working for me and I hope they do for you. Right now, I’m off to the practice tee.