Golf is known as being a traditional sport worldwide. That perception extends across so many areas of the game from what we wear on the course, to the rules of the game that we abide by and probably most of all how we “Practice”. These are all things that have been passed down from generation to generation. However, at a time where we are trying to make the game more attractive to children, teenagers and young professionals, we should also look strongly at the practice habits that we currently share, and furthermore we are handing down to our next generation of golfers.
For me the problem begins with something as simple as the definition of practice:
1) The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
2) The customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing something.
When I look at this definition words such as “Method”, “Customary” and “Habitual” really stand out to me, and almost tell the story of what most of us as golfers do almost every time we arrive to a driving range.
Set the scene
A golfer shows up to a driving range, purchases a bucket of balls and heads straight to his bay where he is greeted by a brand new matt, a tempting tee and perfectly aligned targets straight down the middle of a huge range! It is almost instinctive to stand there and beat 10 – 15 balls with a few different club’s…… You guessed it…… straight down the middle of the range! Once the bucket has finished and they have messed up those last few drivers, they head for one more basket just to work out the kinks! Sounds familiar? This is probably the most common practice that I see amongst many of the golfers that come to me for lessons. But how useful, or constructive is this to actually lower your scores on the golf course?
As you read this I’m sure alarm bells are ringing with so many of you! The problem I see with this type of practice is that while that driving range is great for hitting shots, off a nice (and forgiving) lie, in a very stable and controlled environment, with another ball at the ready should we mishit it…….. unfortunately it could not be further from what we experience when we actually play the game!
The golf course is probably the most variable environment that we could possibly enter! When do we ever attempt to hit the same shot twice on the course? Every shot has different requirements from distance to wind adjustment, every lie has to be accounted for, our fears and doubts need to be dealt with when there is trouble around, and of course….. every shot counts! Despite this our practice rarely reflects these challenges and as a result our expectations are usually not met.
Train like you play
For me golf should be looked at exactly like other sports, we should TRAIN rather than practice. The word train itself stands out to me for the simple reason that when I think of training, I think of preparing for what is about to come. Training for the good and the bad, training for the fairway and the rough, training for the days that things are going well as well as the days where you have to grit your teeth and simply dig deep in order to get the ball around. This is what most golfers are lacking in their preparation and as a result when they are faced with these difficult situations, they are simply not able to deal with them. As a result, instead of realising that these events are actually an integral part of the game, they begin to feel sorry for themselves and say how bad their game is at the moment.
If the above sounds familiar, and you are looking to change your practice habits, you can do it by simply changing 4 things no matter where you are, from a basic driving range to the best practice areas in the world:
· Change the intention of the shot every time
· Change the club every time
· Change the direction of the target every time
· Keep a score
If you have the option available, in addition to the above you can also change the lie and the slope that you are hitting from for every shot.
By doing these four things you are immediately stepping into the world of TRAINING rather than PRACTICE. You are preparing yourself to deal with some of the variability that you will experience on the golf course, and you will certainly be getting more from every practice session that you do. This overall will mean that you are more ready than ever to face the demands of the golf course.