Practice with a purpose for best results

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014

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By Tom Ward

As we wrap up the month of March and with the golf season is officially about to begin. I have a word of caution for all of you and that is to make sure you’re using your practice time wisely to get better on the links. Let me give you some examples of what I mean:
There are those golfers who will head out to the practice range and pound balls unmercifully for hours and there are those players that have a clear, concise goal in mind about what they are trying to achieve.
A lot of recreational golfers, especially with high handicaps, fall into the first category. Most of the time those golfers don’t get anything out of their practice sessions because they don’t practice playing golf, just hitting balls. How often have you heard people complain, “If only I played as well as I practiced.” Many times golfers hit great on the practice tee because they are swinging freely, without any fear of failure or mechanical thoughts to burden their minds. Once they reach the course, having to aim at fairways and greens and avoid trouble like sand, OB and water, it becomes a different matter.  All of a sudden that freely wheeling spirit is gone.  They can’t transfer the practice game to the course as they haven’t prepared properly.
Just going to the driving range every day putting in the time isn’t enough to become a great golfer, you need to have a game plan that will compliment your work effort. In golf, trying harder is admirable but, it’s all about quality not quantity.  Most people don’t have time to work on their games like the pro’s do, however, when going out to practice make sure your working on the right things.
We’ve all grown up hearing the expression, “Practice makes Perfect”, which isn’t always true when it comes to golf. Long and hard practices can give you a good workout which helps become a better player, but probably not a great one. An hour of quality practice can derive greater results than three hours of mindless banging of balls. We can only focus on the task at hand for so long before we become spent, both physically and mentally.
So what does a quality practice session involve? First, you need to have a clear goal of what you want to achieve as a golfer.  This means every shot in practice means something. Put yourself in the same frame of mind as when you’re out on the course, where every shot is important. Full concentration on each shot, pick your target, and begin the pre-shot routine because that’s what you do on the course. By practicing this way, you’ll create good habits that will stay with you when the heat is on. Place yourself in game situations on a regular basis to simulate what you will encounter during the course of a round.
Next, practicing from good and bad lies will help you to know what to do when that situation occurs.
Also, hitting from side hill and downhill lies and awkward stances will help in working on balance which is a must. Once you feel confident with your swing fundamentals, practice hitting controlled hooks and slices. Again, learning to shape the ball around a tree for example is a good way to become a great shot maker and it empowers you to be in control of your swing.
Another good way to use practice time wisely is on a par 3.  Try hitting three shots to the hole with clubs you wouldn’t normally use. If the shot calls for a 7 iron go ahead and hit a 6 iron instead. This can greatly help your rhythm and tempo and because there is no need to over swing or try to hit the ball harder than normal. Then hit a 4 or 5 iron and choke down on the grip slightly and make your swing. You want to become a consummate shot maker and not be one dimensional as a player. It’s a good rule of thumb to always have options on how to play the hole. Dialing it back a bit and taking more club, keeping a smoother tempo, will make a world of difference. Learning to play with only one shot in your arsenal is like driving a car in only one gear.
Finally, keep your practice session short on time, but high on quality.  After working on your main task, move on to another phase of your game like chipping or putting.
These are just a few quick examples of how to approach the game with renewed vigor.  The game demands attention to detail and discipline in achieveing goals. It can be a painful process if you aren’t prepared properly.
Speaking of pain that reminds me of what my father once told me about the two pains of life. “There is the pain of discipline that weighs ounces and the pain of regret that weighs tons.” My hope is that you change your game plan on how to practice as it will lighten your work load which result in having more fun and success on the course this year.
Tom Ward can be reached at www.teetimewithtom.com

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