I’d like to share with you some practice time suggestions to ensure you get the most out of this valuable time. If you’re not 100% sure that your practice time is going to make you a better player, then you might want to reconsider your plan.
The key to practice is building upon on solid mental and physical game fundamentals, not swing tips or searching for the quick fix. We need a plan and goal for each practice session.
Division of your practice time
You’ve heard this many times before but I’ll say it again. On average, 50% of shots are hit within 40 yards of the hole. So why not make sure you spend 50% of your practice time on the short game and putting? If you do, you’ll notice the difference on the scorecard.
Ideas for short game practice
Practicing the short game is fun and so is getting up and down for par on the golf course! The key to a good short game session is to practice as many different shots as possible and work on visualization and feel. Try Golf Psychologist, Karl Morris’ Par 18 game:
You’re going to drop 3 balls in 3 different spot around the green, 3 easy, 3 medium and 3 difficult and make every “hole” a par 2, so the total par for the game is 18. Make 18 your target but keep track of your score and try to beat it each time. The keys here are you practice a variety of different shots and put yourself under pressure while doing it.
On that note, variety is the spice of life, when it comes to practicing the short game. There are so many ways to play shots within 40 yards, so you can be as creative as you want. Just make sure you mix it up, not hit ball after ball from the same spot. E.g. try shots that:
- Roll more on the green (7-8 iron)
- Stop quickly (56 or 60 degree)
- Come out of different lies (tight, fluffy, deep rough and bunker)
- Have different trajectories (move the ball around in your stance and open the club-face to varying degrees)
The key to short game practice is experimentation and noticing the feeling of shots. Soon you’ll develop a full range of scoring shots and you’ll get up and down a lot more. Be sure to work on your visualization too, by seeing the trajectory and picking a clearly defined spot and seeing the ball go in…
Putting practice tips
Your putting needs a full work-out with a variety of drills, here are a few from a previous post, Great Putting drills for for Distance Control, Ball Striking, Visualization and Pressure.
Practicing on the driving range
A good range session should involve working on your fundamentals and hitting a variety of shots to different targets. The range can give us false confidence and waste time if we let it. Think about practicing “golf shots”, not “golf swings”. To make your practice sessions more effective (and fun), try treating the range like the golf course, by aiming at precise (small) targets and changing clubs as often as possible. Every shot needs to count and not just be “another ball”. You need a consequence for missing, like you do on the course. That famous golf question of “how do I take my driving range game to golf course?” is not realistic if you don’t practice on the range like you play on the golf course. Anyone can stand on the driving range, get their body into the rhythm of hitting the same shot over and over again. Listen to what Dr. Parent says in his book, Zen Golf.
The rhythm you develop on the range happens while you’re hitting shot after shot with the same club from the same spot, often to the same target. On the course it’s completely different, almost never hitting the same club twice in a row from the same spot. – Dr. Joe Parent, Zen Golf
Even though I’m a mental coach, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of working on the fundamentals. Always have an alignment stick (or club) down so you’re improving or maintaining good alignment (so your feet are aligned parallel left of your target). Before each shot, make the checks on your fundamentals – ball position, grip, posture, alignment and stance.
Visualization and feel
A good practice session involves improving your visualization for shots and ingraining the feeling for shots. You want to get into the habit of trusting your swing to produce the shot you are visualizing. This will help you more than trying to learn the swing mechanics involved in hitting every shot perfectly straight. Try to hit draws and fades and hooks and slices and notice how they feel.
Put pressure on your practice.
I always get my students to play games against themselves when they’re practicing. We want to feel pressure, even in practice to get better at handling it on the golf course.
Ben Hogan used to practice by playing a whole round during a driving range session, changing clubs and targets for every shot and going through his routine. He’d even visualize where the pin was cut on the imaginary green. That’s real practice.
Practice is supposed to make you a better player. But unless you do it with a real purpose and plan, you’ll find it hard to get better.
Photo by Keith Allison