Are you one of those individuals who loves spontaneity and enjoys flying by the seat of your pants? Or are you always calculating and feel compelled to plan out every activity for which you participate? Count me in the latter group. And for those ultra-organizers out there, you understand the trait is both a blessing and a curse because while you’re always organized, others start to expect you to organize them as well.
So for the organizers, a couple tips about practice. First, you get much more benefit if you have an idea of what you are trying to accomplish and how to get there. I’ve tried it the other way (just show up and bang balls or chip and putt) and it doesn’t work. You don’t have to plan out minute by minute or ball for ball, like Tiger Woods (read Max Alder’s April Golf Digest Column), but structure your time according to your objective. Last weekend after my disastrous opening round on Saturday, I headed out Sunday morning and videoed myself hitting the 58 degree wedge shots that I had struggled with the day before. I planned what technique I was going to work on and stuck to it. The film review and planning were great because I uncovered a couple flaws and didn’t have to stew all week on my mistakes. Thanks to Vetforgolfing51, for suggesting that the best time to practice is as close to after your round as possible.
Second, introduce an element of game simulation into your practice. On full swing, work your technique, and then play an imaginary nine holes at your home course. Use different targets and shot shapes on the range. Don’t get stuck raking balls after a bad swing; move on to the next shot and try to hit the recovery as if you were on the course. For short game, play nine holes (or 18 if there’s time) of Up and Down. Drop balls in various lies and use different clubs to go after holes requiring all the techniques you’ve been working on. Count each hole as a par-2, with a chip or pitch in as the only way to make birdie. Mark and clean your ball just like you were out on the course and even write your score on an old card. See how close you can stay to even par. I usually score about four or five over and it’s a wonderful challenging game to build nerve and technique. I always wrap up my short game sessions with Up and Down. Today I was even par through seven and the pressure was intense! Great stuff for transitioning practice to the course. I bogeyed #8 but my one-over score was the best I’ve had in years and left me filled with confidence and feeling like my practice time was well spent.
A final word about Tiger’s practice habits. Yes, the guy is quite anal but he’s been the greatest player on the planet for the last 15 years and you’d be smart to emulate some of what he does. I’ve been using the Two Tee drill, that he implemented while under the tutelage of Butch Harmon, to practice putting before rounds for the last couple of seasons and it really promotes a solid putting stroke on the short ones. More advanced players should also copy his use of the Nine-Shot drill to build confidence and add different options to your repertoire.
Got any tips for good practice? What’s your most effective technique? Please share!
Just finished The Big Miss by Hank Haney (Crown Archetype Publishing – 2012) and readers who are looking for an inside look at the world of Tiger Woods need to get this book. Haney has been criticized for writing a kiss and tell book but I found the insights into the inner workings of Tiger Woods profoundly interesting. After the well reported sex scandal broke in 2009, Tiger has been so reclusive and withdrawn it’s almost maddening to watch an interview with him and try to learn anything of substance. His guard is always up and the book digs into some very good detail behind the scenes. Strangely enough, even Haney admitted that while Tiger often referred to him as his close friend, he often felt shut out as Tiger rarely opened up to him. But for the casual golf fan, the insights go way beyond what we are fed by the mainstream media.
I had always thought the title of the book referred to the concept of what went wrong (Big Miss) with Tiger’s career after the scandal broke, but the term “Big Miss” is used by both Haney and Tiger to describe a golfer’s worst shot. That Haney used the term for the book is interesting because it may be prophetic in the higher sense when Tiger’s career is eventually summed up. Haney doesn’t actually focus much on the scandal and thankfully keeps golf as the subject.
Some of the content I found most interesting: The work Haney and Tiger did to avoid the ‘Big Miss’ off the tee and how Tiger actually feared using his driver in clutch situations. It was great to get inside the brain of one of the world’s best golf coaches. I also found Tiger’s fascination with Navy Seal training interesting and how detrimental it may have been to his career and health at the time. The section on how his team prepped him for play while on a broken leg at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 was fascinating. A lot went on behind the scenes to make that victory possible that the general public is completely unaware of. I also found it interesting that Tiger, and many other tour players work on their swing mechanics right up to tournament time, and then between tournament rounds as well. This is diametrically opposed to the theories of Dr. Bob Rotella, where he espouses removal of as many mechanical thoughts the closer one gets to competition. I’ve never found it beneficial to work on my swing, or think mechanics that close to playing on the course, but heck, I’m not a touring pro. Still, you would think that as human beings, we’d be more effective without mechanical approaches at game time.
The only part I didn’t enjoy was the book’s ending where Haney compares his record to that of Butch Harmon as Tiger’s swing coach. It seems he’s trying to justify the approach he took and the decision to quit when he did. His analysis of Tiger’s “Big Miss” with his driving is way off too. At the time the book was written, Tiger had just started working with Sean Foley in 2011 and Haney points to Tiger’s ranking of 186th in Total Driving in 2011 as proof that Foley’s swing changes will not work. Now I’m no Sean Foley fan because I think his approach is too mechanical, but Tiger’s Total Driving stats were 5th in 2012 and 17th in 2013 which speaks for themselves.
Most of all, we learn in the Big Miss that Tiger has made many significant sacrifices in his life to achieve his level of greatness. What will be interesting to see when his career is over is if those sacrifices are judged to be worth the ultimate record of accomplishment. Get the book; it’s a good one.