Getting The Most From Your Practice Sessions
Effective practice is pivotal to speedy improvement. You might feel cheated having spent hours on the driving range, baskets of balls, hands red raw but frustratingly showing little or no progress. The secret lies in the quality of the practice session not the quantity.
Tips for successful practice sessions
Effective practice when working on a swing change, position or new feeling
Here are a few keys tips to successful practice when undergoing any swing changes or implementing new feelings into your swing – It is worth noting that some form of short physical warm up for the body prior to any form of practice session is also greatly beneficial. A great resource for this can be found at www.mytpi.com
- When working on a new feeling/movement, start initially with a mid-iron, 7 or 8 to build up confidence. It’s tempting to see if changes will implement themselves straight away with the distance clubs such as the driver or fairway woods but the longer the club the more it has the tendency to highlight any fault if you are slightly out of position. This is not great for the confidence levels and delays creating trust in the new movement. Also a club with less loft will generally impart more side spin if the ball is not struck correctly at impact, which again is not great for trust and confidence. Once confidence and consistency are gained with the short and mid-irons, gradually work up towards the longer clubs.
- Place the ball on a small tee peg in the early stages of learning a new movement in order to build confidence and trust in any new feelings or positions. It also helps to take away the worry of trying to get the ball airborne and places greater focus on trusting the new movement/feeling. Imagine learning to ride a bike as a small child, using the small stabiliser wheels to start with. If these were taken away too soon the child would fall off, get back on again, fall off, get back on again and so on until eventually all confidence would be lost and it would not be fun anymore. Picture the tee peg having the same effect. Once you feel confident in repeating the new movement successfully, remove the tee peg and get used to the new movement hitting the ball from the turf/practice mat. The best golfers in the world will still use the aid of a small tee peg whilst initially ingraining a new move or feeling into their swing, often during their non competitive, off season periods.
- Take a limited amount of balls onto the practice area. This will ensure you focus and spend quality time on each shot. If you have several, full, baskets of balls, there is the temptation to make sure you hit every ball and empty the basket/s, this then becomes the primary focus and quality is lost over quantity.
- Spend time working on any drills your professional may have given you. Often drills that don’t involve hitting a ball, but recreate the new move or feeling you are working on, benefit your progress greatly. Generally, when hitting a ball there is a greater tendency to want to trust the old habit no matter how much the brain intellectually knows what it needs to do. In removing the ball during certain drills the mind and body will be more open to trusting a new feeling.
- Create a disciplined routine of correct alignment during your practice session. Place a club or cane on the ground aligned with your chosen target. Once you feel comfortable in repeating the new move and you are gaining repetitive consistency, start to vary your target and vary your club selection, creating a more real life scenario of being out on the golf course. Once the changes are confidently in place, at least some portion of your practice session should replicate the focus and situations you would face on the golf course; this means changing your club and target every couple of shots and also imagining yourself in certain situations either on a certain hole or in a particular competition. Simply hitting the same club to the same target throughout the whole of your practice session on the range may feel great at the time; however, it is not fully preparing you for what lies ahead on the golf course.
- They say a picture paints a thousand words and with this in mind using a mirror can be a great learning aide when you are practising. Often a driving range or practice facility will have a bay that has a mirror positioned on the wall either in front of you, behind the target line or ideally both. Even working on certain drills and positions at home using a mirror can be highly beneficial. Often what you feel you are doing is not actually what is happening in reality as the old habit tends to be the familiar and most prominent in the early stages of change, hence a visual check provides great feedback. Something as simple as working on your posture in front of a mirror at home for a few minutes a day can provide great benefits and be more fruitful than countless hours firing balls on the range.
- Enjoy your practice session. If you approach it with toil, effort and struggle it is unlikely to be a fruitful exercise. Take your time, enjoy the challenge, create variety and make it fun!
Effective practice for a pre round warm up
When practising prior to a round purely to warm up, an alternative routine, specific to the round ahead, would be more suitable. The following tips would be advisable:
- Ensure that a pre round warm up session begins with the short game/clubs first, working up to the longer clubs to finish the session. Short pitch shots maybe be built up to full swings with a wedge, followed by full shots with mid irons and finishing the session of with the longer clubs, hybrid/fairway woods and driver.
- If you have a limited amount of time, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, spend it wisely building up feel and timing by pitching, chipping and putting rather than purely hitting shots that are based on distance, avoid rushing to the range solely with the intent on hitting your driver.
- Aim towards a set target where possible or at least have a target in your mind’s eye. Ideally include blocks of target specific practice, hitting a repetition of balls with the same club to the same target, blended with variable targets, hitting balls to different targets with differing clubs. This combination will enable a sound repetition of movement, developing feel, timing and confidence along with also re enacting similar scenarios to the ones you will find out on the golf course.
- Play one of the holes you may come across on the course you are about to play or even a hole you know well on your home course. Imagine yourself on the 1st tee and play each shot on the range in exactly the same way as if you were playing the hole. This creates the same on course scenario and focus whilst being on the practice area and begins to blend the transition between the two.
- Practice Drill: Up and Down Scramble – This is a great short game exercise. Take 9 balls and scatter them around the green in various positions. Some may land in the rough, some on a sloping lie. Chip or pitch each one on to the green and putt out. Keep your score and each time you do the exercise aim to beat the previous score. It may be done with 3,6 or 9 balls. The emphasis is on recreating the focus and situation you would find yourself in on the golf course. A degree of repetitive/block practice is great to develop consistency in both contact and distance control. However to then build on this with an exercise that provides variation and on course simulation helps to instill confidence during the round as the up and down scenario has been recreated several times before in practice.
- Take yourself out of your comfort zone and practice the shots you have the tendency to avoid. As golfers, when on the range or short game area, we often practice the shots we like and feel more comfortable with! Unfortunately this doesn’t fully equip us when out on the golf course. If it is the short 40-60 yard pitch shot rather than the full wedge shot, be sure to blend these into the practice session. If you are still finding difficulty with these shots consider seeking guidance from a professional, any form of attention and TLC given to this area of the game, the all important scoring zone, will definitely reap its rewards!