Most of us practice in a very 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 an upcoming round. But the reality quite different.
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 “process” (where you put your focus during each shot) and have a big effect on your performance.
The question is this: “Can you fully focus on the process of hitting every shot without getting caught up in the outcome?” This is what we need to train ourselves to do during pressure practice for golf.
How to simulate the golf course with pressure practice for golf
The players I work with track their scores for these drills in their practice journal which they share with me to further increase accountability.
Running on the spot
When you’re nervous, your heart rate is going to be a little (or a lot) higher. Prepare for this. Try running on the spot in between shots to raise your heart rate and use your breathing to calm yourself down and focus on the steps of your routine.
Go through your full pre shot routine and randomize the clubs you use
Unless we hit the ball out of play, we don’t get to “reload” like we do on the driving range. Prepare for this. With each shot you hit during your pressure practice, choose a different club and go through your full Pre Shot Routine. This might seem like it’s slowing down your practice, but it’s actually not. It’s this sort of deliberate practice and making it more difficult that deepens the learning process.
8 x 5 ft Putts
This is just one of many pressurized practice drills you can do for putting. Dave Alred had Francesco Molinari do this before each round of The Open. It only took him 9 attempts (he missed just one) but the concept is that he was doing pressure practice for golf during his warm-up to get ready for how he might feel during the round. Try it and see how many it takes you and try to beat it each time.
5 up and downs
Pick 5 different spots around the green (of varying difficulty) and see how many attempts it takes you do get up and down. Go through your full Pre Shot Routine and record your score to try to beat 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!
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 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.
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.