What is practice and what should it look like? Ultimately the aim of practice is to improve at something, to ingrain a new pattern or ingrain a current pattern deeper into the sub-conscious creating more confidence going into a competitive environment. Your end goal is to be able to execute under the gun with trust that your technique will withstand the pressure.
Are you getting better at getting worse? Are you listening to someone who is telling you the wrong information? If that is the case then I recommend you seek out a PGA coach in person or get an online lesson to understand what you do in your swing to create the current shot patterns. Only from there will you have an understanding of what you are trying to achieve. A good coach will give you drills that will help you ‘feel’ what you are trying create and/or ‘restrict’ your ability to create the old patterns.
Time vs Quality
What is most important? The amount of time spent practicing or the quality of the practice? Well of course, both combined is a sure-fire way to become a better golfer but the quality of the practice far out ways the time element.
It is all too common seeing a player going through 200 balls in a 1-hour range session yet it’s simply not possible to improve when you are hitting 3 balls a minute. Hitting too many golf balls becomes too repetitive and you will inevitably stop feeling the new movement pattern you are trying to create. Once you reach this state, you are no longer practicing, your brain has switched off.
Ultimately the aim of practice is to improve at something, to ingrain a new pattern or ingrain a current pattern deeper into the sub-conscious creating more confidence going into a competitive environment.
How to Boost Learning
Taking your time
Taking time in between each ‘rep/shot’ will boost your learning. This could be doing an exaggerated rehearsal drill 1 or 2 times in a mirror, making a 40% exaggerated practice swing and then moving into a shot at 70% of full. When you stick to this process there isn’t a second wasted, your brain has been engaged on the new motion and you have only hit one ball within 2 minutes. This is super important when trying to change and will help promote a deeper learning. When was the last time you had an hour at the range and only used a basket of 30 balls?
It has been proven that the brain craves novelty. Newness and variety will stimulate and help re-wire the brain. When you shake up your practice and apply change you have to be extremely alert and therefore focus levels will be heightened. That is why we tend to perform better with a coach/trainer, we don’t know what to expect next and we spend the whole session in total focus.
Newness can be created by yourself in a session by changing the target, changing your club, a change in the shot shape, a change from a 30% swing to a full swing and so on.
This part of a session will help build your skill set. Try something challenging to get away from the block practice part of the session where you were trying to develop your new patterns. Keep it fun and instinctive.
Here are a couple of examples of a performance challenge:
- Take a 7 iron and try and hit all 9 shots in golf. A fade, a draw and a straight shot with low trajectory, mid trajectory and high trajectory.
- If this is beyond your skill set try and hit a draw, fade and a straight shaped shot.
End with a Challenge
It is important that you end on a challenge that you commit to completing. This will help simulate on course pressure and mirror on course scenarios. Force yourself to stay in routine and complete before you leave your session.
The task could be simple to start. Here are some examples:
- End on 6 shots with 6 different clubs and you must keep it to the right of a certain target.
- A simple ladder putting drill. Stick some tees in the ground 2ft, 4ft, 6ft, 8ft from the hole. Go up and down the ladder. If you miss you go back a putt.
When you have invested time in a challenge and recreated on course pressure you can leave your session with confidence and feel rewarded.
Ultimately, a productive practice session doesn’t need to last 3 hours. It needs to be engaging, purposeful and randomised to help promote growth and a deeper understanding.
Here is a simple example of a practice session that you can use going forward (let’s say you are going to the range to work on stopping your push slice):
First 10 minutes of the session
- Exaggerated Drills / Feels of a closed clubface position throughout the whole swing (Mirror and position work may be used).
- 40% swing exaggerated from a tee with an 8 iron observing how the ball reacts differently when the face is closed. Watch the ball start LEFT of target.
- 75% swing exaggerating the change and just letting go forgetting the outcome or trying to control the shot, think more about getting the new position correct (video may be used).
- When you feel you the ball is reacting differently (starting left of target) move to a handful of full swings changing the club
Next 10 minutes
- See how far you can hook the ball right to left
- Try closing the clubface an excessive amount and over releasing the face. We are trying to get away from the old patterns so this is an important part. Have some fun trying the exact opposite of what you used to do.
- Use your imagination to picture a line of trees (which could be the yardage markers on the range) in which you have to curl the ball around in order to get to the flag.
- Be instinctive, let the exxagreation of the first part of the session take over and go with it.
Final part of the session
- Challenge. Visualise a hole on the PGA Tour or at your home club that has all the danger down the right hand side (use the markers on the range to help visualise this). End with 10 shots changing your club each time and aim for 7/10 to stay left off the trouble down the right. Each shot needs to have a routine as you would on the course.
Hope this helps. Feel free to leave any comments
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