Here are my thoughts on practice. You can improve your ball striking, chipping and putting by practicing, but the only way to improve your game is to play. Some people enjoy practice, sometimes to the extent that they would rather practice than play. Others don’t practice much because they would rather use the time they have to play the game. Let’s face it, if you want to improve you are going to have to do both. It has been written that it takes 10 years and thousands of hours of practice and playing time to become a touring professional. Average golfers don’t have that kind of time, so it is essential that if they want to improve they need to practice with a purpose every time they go to the range.
Beginners are going to have a different set of goals than more experienced players when it comes to practice. To keep practice fun and productive, have a plan before you go to the range. Do some stretching first and then warm up with the club that you feel the most comfortable with. The reason is that if you start with a club that you have less confidence in and it does not go well, the rest of your practice session may not either.
The goals for the beginner in those first practice sessions should be to work on what was learned in their lessons and to begin to determine how far they can hit each club. Improving on accuracy and consistency is going to take a while, but having to select a club for each shot is going to be required the very first time you play. Allocate at least half your allotted time to the short game. More experienced players know that a good short game improves scores significantly and therefore devote more time to that part of the game.
A more experienced player is going to have a different set of goals when they practice. First, on days where you have some time, decide what and how you are going to practice before you get to the range. Include time for working on your strengths along with your weaknesses. Visualize every shot before swinging. Try different shots similar to those that you might encounter on the golf course. Every shot on the golf course results in a consequence. Rotate your clubs every 5 to 10 shots and always aim at a target. Utilize practice swings and make sure to work on your pre-shot-routine. In other words, the more you practice things that you might encounter in an actual round of golf the more comfortable you are going to be when you do play.
Another idea is to simulate playing each hole on the course that you are about to play in the next day or two. This is a great way to prepare for that next round of golf. By doing the above you may be able to avoid being one of those players that complains that they can never hit the ball as good on the course as they do on the range.
Every golfer (whether they know it or not) already has a pre-shot routine. Some go about their pre-shot routine in a methodical way and others go about it in more of a haphazard fashion. Since a consistent and repeatable pre-shot routine lends itself to a consistent and repeatable golf swing and game, it makes sense to say that every golfer should strive to develop one.
It really doesn’t matter what your pre-shot routine is as long as it is consistent. Professionals spend a lot of time developing their pre-shot routines. Once this is done, they stick to it and always strive to make sure it does not change during a round of golf.
Just like working on swing fundamentals, professionals also use the practice range to work on their pre-shot routines. What they are trying to achieve is a set sequence of actions that lead up to the time that they swing the club. Additionally, they want the duration of the sequence about the same every time so that it fits into the rhythm they have established for their swing. Accordingly, fast players usually have fast pre-shot routines and slow players usually have slower pre-shot routines.
So, what should be included in a pre-shot routine? Some common things that professionals do during their pre-shot routines are to check wind direction, line up their shot, take a practice swing, approach the ball a certain way, set-up properly, execute their waggle and what ever else is conducive to making a good swing. Checking to make sure you have the correct grip and grip pressure are other things you might consider incorporating. Also, you might want to check and take steps to reduce tension throughout the rest of your body. After developing your pre-shot routine, use it every time you play and every time you are on the practice range. Try to be consistent with the time it takes to go through your routine. Yes, you will hit fewer balls during your allotted practice time, but after a while you should see noticeable improvement in your consistency.
If you want to develop a consistent and reliable golf game then, first and foremost, you must have the right equipment. It amazes me how many people still go into the sports and golf stores and purchase golf clubs off the shelf without any idea as to whether those clubs will provide the best results for them. They are either on sale or the sales person somehow talks them into buying clubs that probably are not suited to them. In fact, I know people who buy clubs every year this way. The irony is that anyone can buy a custom set of clubs at no extra cost nowadays. The only drawback is having to wait a couple of weeks for the manufacture to build them.
There are two main considerations when buying custom clubs. First is set makeup and second is finding someone you can trust to fit you properly. I can tell you from experience that getting fit for clubs in a sports store or golf store may not be the best way to go. Just to satisfy myself, I went to several stores a while back and went through the fitting process at each one. As I suspected would happen, the specifications did not match. I was able to determine later that there is a reason for this.
It finally dawned on me as to why the major sport and golf stores had all fit me with different specifications. You see they need to sell the clubs they carry. The fact is, what you see in the stores is only a fraction of the clubs that are available in the market place. On top of that they don’t have the shaft selections for doing a good fitting job. They would have to carry 10 or 12 clubs from each manufacture, each with different shafts in order to do that. They usually carry a fitting set from just one manufacture. Therefore, they cannot fit everyone properly one hundred percent of the time. Oh, they can come close because most average golfers fall into a certain range of shaft flexes, lie angles, grip sizes and so on. But, if you have unique requirements or are a better than an average golfer then it would be best for you to determine what brand you like the best and then be custom fit by the manufacture.
Go to the manufacture demonstrations that usually take place during the spring and throughout the summer. You can find them going on at stores, golf shows, golf ranges and private clubs. Once they help you decide your set makeup, determine and write you a specification, it is best to purchase your new clubs from who ever is sponsoring the demonstrations. You stand a good chance of getting a discount by doing it this way (be sure to ask for one). Once the clubs are ordered it normally takes a couple of weeks to get them. Since most golf club manufactures are affiliated with golf ball companies, ask them if they can recommend a ball while you are being fit. They usually have different balls you can try and you might get a sleeve for free.
If you are trying to get your game up to bogey golf level or better and nothing you do seems help, you may be paying attention to the wrong things. First, you need to realize that bogey golfers are in the top 22% of all that play the game. The second is that to get there may require a lot of effort over time with improvements coming in small increments. This may be time that you do not have. Better golfers spend a lot of time working on their golf swing and need to practice regularly just to maintain a certain skill level. For those with limited time, it would be beneficial to spend at least some of that time on what is going to result in a more consistent and reliable game.
Swing fundamentals are important, but what I am referring to may have nothing to do with swinging a golf club. For instance, it could involve paying attention to other details like making sure your equipment is right or that your course management skills are up to par or that you maintain the proper mental attitude or that you have a good pre-shot routine, etc.. These types of details can take a little effort to get right, but once they are it doesn’t take much more to maintain them. Playing at a higher level requires a certain amount of confidence. Knowing that you can still make pars or birdies after a bad hole or two and end up with good score is a comfortable feeling. This comes with practice and paying attention to the related details. They can’t be separated. Everything must work together harmoniously.
In subsequent posts on this subject I will discuss these types of details and how you can incorporate them into your game.
Building a reliable and consistent golf game takes a conscious and ongoing effort. The level a person reaches is a direct result of how much effort they put into quality learning and practicing. It is true that a person has to decide whether or not they like the game before they are willing to commit (or have) the time to learn the game. Improved levels of play are reached rather quickly in the beginning as basic fundamentals and game management skills are acquired. As time progresses it takes much more effort to learn or perfect the few things that are going to get a person to the next higher skill level. Sometimes it can take months or years before the next level is attained. Some people reach a certain skill level and are satisfied realizing that to go any further would require more effort than they are willing to put out. On the other hand, I often hear the complaints from fellow golfers about their bad play. Simply put, they would rather complain than put in the effort required to improve their game.
With some effort, eventually a person should get to the point where they are making a few pars and even a birdie or two during an 18 hole round of golf. The problem then is a very common one. That is, being able to maintain a reliable golf swing and consistent course management skills throughout a round of golf. Those double and triple bogies always seem to pop-up at inopportune times resulting in golf scores that should have been better. Most likely the cause is lack of concentration, trying to make shots that one is not capable of or lack of attention to details. It would seem that these things would be easy to correct, but sometimes it is the smallest things that cause the biggest problems. In fact, a person may not even be aware of them. For instance, if the lie of a person’s irons are off too much the ball may consistently go to the right of left. Not being aware, the person then constantly tries to correct a perceived swing fault when in fact there is no problem with their swing at all.
I need to give this subject some more thought as I do plan on doing a few posts on how to develop a reliable and consistent golf game. I welcome any ideas related to the subject.