I hear this all the time on the lesson tee. “I can hit these shots now but I can’t do it on my own” Or “I understand what I have to do, now all I need to do is practice.” What if your practice was the reason you couldn’t hit the shot on your own? What if your practice prevented from doing what you know how to do? What if your practice was causing you to fail?
Do you ever go to the golf course just to practice? Or does all of your practice occur before you tee off for your round of golf? If you asked yes to the second question, then there is the reason you are struggling. What if the only practice your favorite team had was right before the game, how well do you think they would play? Sure but Tim, those are professional athletes who are paid to play the game. This is true, however if YOU want to play better you HAVE to put the effort into it. So now that we have established that you need to have dedicated practice sessions, let’s discuss how we can maximize what little time we have.
This is the practice that is done when you are undergoing swing changes. This is the initial form of practice where you will use your mind more than your body and use a golf ball less than 1/3rd of the time. When undergoing a swing change of any kind its all about learning a new motor skill and movement. This is done best initially VERY SLOWLY. Take whatever swing change you are working on, be it posture, takeaway, core rotation or transition and execute it in slow motion. This will slow motion action will help you feel the specific changes. Repeat this slow motion movement over and over again. Finally, once it is becoming comfortable and consistent, it is time to add the element of speed. Initially you need to add speed in increments, not all at once. Make swings at 30% speed at first and repeat them over and over.
Now its time to add the golf ball into the equation. When initially adding the ball, it does not matter where it goes or what it does. The goal is to achieve contact and get the ball airborne with the correct form. As this gets more consistent at slow speeds, you can add more speed and look to get consistency in ball flight.
At this stage you are several weeks into the swing changes and its time to move on to the next form of practice:
Random practice is practicing a similar skill in a random variety of situations. This will avoid multiple identical movements that is often what consumes most individual’s practice sessions. This is how the game is played on the golf course and this is how it should be practiced.
By now the new skill you have been working on has been acquired. Now its time to learn how to utilize it and call upon it under any situations. This is very easy to do on the driving range. For each shot you have to do the following:
- Identify the target, including the distance of the shot
- Choose the correct club
- Go through normal pre shot routine, including practice swings.
- Execute the Shot
- Analyze the shot and collect feedback
- Identify a new target and repeat the process.
This type of practice is what is most similar to what you do on the golf course and therefore will benefit you the most the next time you play.
So the next time you learn a new skill or change your swing, do not hit hundreds of golf balls right away. Take the time to learn the motor skill thoroughly as this will help you in the long run to produce lower scores.