Taking Your Range Game To The Course

How To Take Your Range Game To The Golf Course

 When golfers hear that I’m a performance coach for golf, the most common question I get asked is “So why can’t I take my range game to the course?”

A golfer will often tell me how good they are in practice on the range, but that same game doesn’t transfer onto the golf course, which is the source of a lot of frustration. 

When I ask them how they practice it becomes clear why “taking my range game to the course” is a challenge. 

An “Illusion of Competence”

When you’re hitting one ball quickly after another, it becomes an unproductive exercise. Research shows us that very little long-term change occurs from practicing in this way.  

Even with a bad golf swing, with enough repetition you can figure out the timing to get the club-face and swing path matched up to hit a good shot. You are making small adjustments (consciously and subconsciously) after each shot based on the sensory feedback of visual, feel and timing, which enables to you hit the next one slightly better. Essentially, you’re playing from your short-term memory which you don’t have the benefit of on the course. Ben Hogan called this “range rhythm”, which is why he was often seen switching clubs and taking breaks in between shots, so he didn’t fall into that trap.

The problem is that there is an appeal to this way to practice because it feels good – there’s a lure to the ego. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy hitting purely struck golf shots to the target? But the reality is, it’s probably not taking you closer to better play on the course. Essentially, all that most golfers achieve in a practice session is an “illusion of competence” and high expectations for the upcoming round. But when their game is exposed to the conditions of the golf course (with consequences, variability and time between each shot) and they don’t have the benefit of range rhythm, the realities of their game doesn’t meet their expectations which leads to frustration and poor performance. 

The Driving Range Does Not Resemble The Golf Course

The way that most golfers use the driving range doesn’t resemble the golf course at all. The only time you get to hit the same shot twice on the golf course is when you are hitting a provisional ball. Instead, the golf course requires you to adapt to continually changing terrain a different challenge for each shot, and you only get one attempt at it. So why not train for this during your practice? 

Effective Practice: Training To Perform

When you add variability, consequences, accountability and space between each shot, you get a practice environment which more closely resembles the conditions that you will have to master to lower your scores. 

Effective practice for golf is about challenging yourself to recall these movement patterns for new and unique shots with time in between, just like on the golf course. With this type of practice, you can train your brain to access your best swings, without the benefit of hitting that same shot a few seconds earlier. After all, movement starts in the brain! 

Training Focus and Behavior

It’s important to realize that practice isn’t only about honing your technical skills. To perform better, we need to train our focus and behavior, and a good practice environment is the optimal time to do it. 

When pressure and frustration is added to your practice, you can train yourself to deal with it by focusing on your process (your shot routine), developing resilience, and managing performance anxiety.

As you might have learned in the Mental Training Program For Golf, your performance practice/training is an opportunity to experiment with your Shot Routine, and find the optimal way to for you to increase commitment, engagement and have a quiet/athletic mind over the ball. 

Effective practice:

        Is focused on the things that will help your game, specifically. Every session has a clear purpose.

        Is challenging and interesting, to keep you motivated and engaged, so learning potential is high.

        Trains you to focus under pressure

        Trains you to be adaptable

        Helps you discover what you focus on when hitting your best shots.

        Simulates the scenarios that you’ll be faced with on the course.

        Increases confidence

        Gives you constant feedback on your progress.

        Is about developing playing skills as much as it is improving technical skills.

If you’d like drills to help you achieve this, please check out the Golf State of Mind Practice System, by clicking here. Here’s a sample of a Performance Training Session (the constraints can be altered to fit your current skill level) to help you take your range game to the course. Go through your Pre Shot Routine each shot.

Level 1:

Hit a drive down a 50 yard wide fairway

8 iron to within 10 yards of the target

Chip and run to within 6ft

Hole a 4 ft putt

Level 2: 

Hit a drive down a 30 yard wide fairway

6 iron to within 15 yards of the target

Medium trajectory pitch shot to within 6 ft

Hole a 6 ft putt

Level 3:

Hit a 3 wood down a 20 yard wide fairway

Hit a 5 iron to within 20 yards

Hit a flop shot to within 6 ft

Hole an 8 ft putt

Change the constraints to fit your current skill level. You don’t want it to be too easy or too hard, but it must be challenging. You can also customize it to focus more on those areas of your game that are most important for you to improve. If you miss a shot, you have to go back to the beginning of the level. Having these conditions during each practice session will create pressure and consequences and lead to behavioral change and you’ll have more success taking your range game to the course. 

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How To Practice More Effectively

David MacKenzie

is a mental golf coach and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind, a teaching program designed to help golfers condition their minds to overcome fear and play with confidence.

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