Most of us practice in a convenient and comfortable way. We hit it well on the range and make a few putts on the practice green and leave feeling like our game is in good shape ahead of the upcoming round. But are we in a better position to deal with the mental and physical challenges of a tournament? Probably not.
Golf is easy in the “consequence-free” environment of practice. However, on the golf course you are accountable for every shot. Unless you’re being accountable for at least part of your practice sessions, you’re not practicing for the changes in “arousal” you feel during play, which can interfere with your mental process and how relaxed your body is. Deliberate practice should ask these questions of you:
“Can I fully focus on the process of hitting every shot without getting caught up in the outcome?”
“Can I calm my nervous system down enough to stay in my optimal level?”
This is what we need to train ourselves to do during pressure practice for golf.
Pressure Practice Drills For Golf To Simulate Tournaments
Let’s design our practice drills to include pressure practice drills for golf that you will enter the score of into your performance journal.
When you’re nervous, your heart rate is going to be a higher. How high it gets is dependent on how well you can control your mind and calm your nervous system. Let’s train this by increasing your arousal level in practice. Good practice drills will do this, but in between shots try running on the spot to raise your heart rate and use your breathing to calm yourself down and focus on the steps of your routine. Try using your imagination to put yourself in situations you could be in when playing in a tournament. One of my mentors, Dr. Glen Albaugh says:
“When it comes to proper practice, your own imagination is perhaps the most important club in your bag. It not only prepares you for both the shots and the emotions you may face during the tournament, it also makes practice more fun.”
8 x 5 ft Putts
This is just one of many pressure practice drills for golf you can do for putting. Before Francesco Molinari won The Open Championship in 2018, Performance Coach Dave Alred had him do this practice drill. It only took him 9 attempts to make 8 x 5ft putts in a row. Pressure practice drills can be done not just in a practice session, but before a tournament too to get your focus and intensity higher. Give this a go and see how many attempts it take you.
Leap frog drill
This is a great drill for increasing feel under pressure. Jordan Spieth said in his interview on the “Earn Your Edge” podcast that this is one of his go-to putting drills.
- Hit your first putt to approximately 15 ft away (you could put a tee in the ground at the 15ft distance and aim for that).
- Hit your second putt beyond the first ball, but no more than 1ft past it
- See how many balls you can past the previous ball, but no more than a foot past. Once you get to 30ft (very hard to d0) give yourself 2ft of room beyond the previous ball and beyond 50ft, give yourself 3ft. Jordan Spieth said in his interview that the week he won The US Open at Chambers Bay he got 53ft away (his speed control was that good that week).
9 up and downs
Pick 9 different spots around the green of varying difficulty. Try to pick a tight lie, rough lie, ball above and below feet, sidehill lies, and varying carries and trajectories. See how many out of 9 you can up and down. In your performance journal, write down the shots that you failed to get up and down, so you know which types of short game shots you need to practice.
Proximity to hole drill
Pick 3 targets at 100, 150 and 200. Establish a realistic expectation for proximity to the hole for each distance. To put in in perspective, the PGA Tour player average from 125-150 yards is approximately 22 ft. Start at 100 and try to get your ball within your chosen range. Move to the 150 and then to the 200, going through your full pre shot routine for each shot. See how many attempts it takes you to get 3 within your range for each target. Record this number and try to beat it each time.
The Narrowing fairway drill
The goal here is to put pressure on your driving. Start with a 50 yard wide fairway on the driving range (pick 2 targets 50 yards apart to represent the fairway). Attempt to hit 3 drives down this fairway, resetting and going through your pre shot routine before every shot. If you are successful with getting 3 out of 3 shots down this fairway, move on to a 30 yard wide fairway and try for 3 consecutive shots down this fairway (you can only move onto this level if you complete the first one). Repeat with a 10 yard wide fairway. If you can get 9 balls down these 3 fairways, it’s going to make the golf course seem easy!
Adding drills such as these to your practice (I’ve got many more in my Ultimate Mental Game Training System) will add pressure and frustration to every session and train you to focus on your process in the way you need to play your best on your course.