If you want to maximize the quality of your practice time and improve as quickly as possible, you’ll need to split your sessions into the 3 parts: Block Practice, Random Practice and Competitive Practice.
Block practice is where you will consciously focus on how your body is moving – this could be drills to make swing changes and improve your mechanics. Where the ball finishes in relation to the target is not important during this type of practice. But solely doing Block Practice does not transfer well to the golf course, which is why you need to include Random Practice.
Random Practice, is where you hit different shots to random targets, such as a driver to one target and then a 7-iron to another (no two consecutive shots are the same). What this does is train your brain to adapt quickly – you have to think on the fly. With each shot you have to solve a new problem which quickens learning and makes it easier to recall that same motor sequence in the future. Daniel Coyle (in his book “The Talent Code”) calls this “Deep Practice”.
Random Practice not only makes your practice sessions more effective, but it increases engagement and makes it more fun. E.g. when I’m working with juniors on the range it keeps them far more interested to hit each shot like they are on the course, instead of hitting the same shot over and over again (doing this they quickly lose interest).
Random practice drills for golf
Hank Haney said that when he was teaching Tiger Woods he would continually practice “The Nine Shots” Random Practice drill.
“The Nine Shots” Random Practice Drill
During your driving range session, attempt to hit all of these nine shots. This could also be thought of as a competitive practice drill (one where you test yourself with a challenge).
Hitting The Nine Shots random practice drill involves moving the ball around in your stance, changing your alignment and learning the effect of opening and closing the club-face through impact.
Another Random Practice Drill
If The Nine Shots drill seems a bit too advanced, you can try plenty of other random drills. E.g. simply “play the course”. Hit no more than one shot with each club and go through your full routine for each shot. Although this will take longer and you’ll hit less shots, the random element of this practice will make sure your learning is deeper and your time is spent more effectively. You can obviously do this with putting and short game (hitting to different holes and pins without hitting the same putt or chip).
With this continued practice comes quick improvement of a key skill: adaptability. On the golf course you never hit the same shot twice, you have to adapt to different situations continuously throughout the round, so why not get better at this with random practice. If you do, you’ll definitely see an improvement in your scores.
Photo courtesy of Tour Pro Golf Clubs