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Practicing vs Training

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.