Written By: Alexander Ward
There are millions of golfers that are practicing regularly in an effort to improve their games, yet many are left frustrated that their dedication bears little or no fruit when they head out onto the golf course.
I have seen it with clients that use my practice range; they are there on a daily basis, hitting more and more balls to almost no avail.
It amazes me how many people continue down the same path of trying to find the “secret move” that will make all the difference, throwing money into the ball machine in an attempt to convince themselves that “practice makes perfect”.
And that is the first mistake that they make, believing that there is such a thing as perfect in this game. There isn’t, not even close. Perfection in golf will never be achieve, not even a machine will achieve it. Sorry to sound so blunt, but it is the truth.
However what we can search for on the driving range on those cold winter nights is the consistent swing that we can use to improve our results. I always ask my students to consider the following phrase instead of the more common one that I mentioned above. “PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT”
This is not only a more realistic goal, but it is what we are ultimately trying to achieve; a repetitive and consistent golf swing that produces the results that we are searching for.
It is the mentality and the approach to practice that creates the biggest issue for golfers looking to improve their games. I believe that people are split into four categories when it comes to practice.
Player type A:
The player that religiously practices, they read books and trawl the internet for improvement videos yet never seems to be able to decide what their problem is.
Player type B:
This player is also a dedicated golfer, they too are avid readers and internet surfers, but they also take advice from the local professional in a bid to increase their knowledge to the maximum.
Player type C:
This player is the typical driving range golfer. They give plenty of their time to the art of practice yet take little or no advice from anybody in the know; they instead listen to the general chit chat of advice that is present on every single practice range worldwide.
Player type D:
Dedicated to practice, this player tries to analyze their game and their swing, usually with the help of a professional. They create a well rounded practice plan and follow it to the letter. They practice alone and avoid interaction with other golfers that may cloud their thought pattern.
Yet there is one trait all of these player types share in common; this trait is failing to convert what they are doing on the practice ground and driving range to the course.
This is without doubt the biggest challenge that I face as a golf coach, teaching and guiding my students to reach their full potential when under the pressure that a tournament creates.
Yet there are ways to transfer your range game to the golf course.
The majority of these are mental preparation drills and exercises, which need to be incorporated into your normal practice routines.
My clients and I have successfully achieved results on numerous occasions with a change of attitude and re-programming belief patterns.
The changing of belief patterns requires face to face coaching, but you can help yourself at home with this aspect of improving your game. One of the changes that you have to make is your approach to practice. For which I love the following:
Why do I love this so much, because it is simple and true. If you want to achieve something worthwhile from your practice you must practice purposefully. This also leads to the four D´s of your practice which I think every single practice session should involve.
Dedication – to practice regardless of conditions
Dynamics – to make each practice session interesting to aid with development
Direction – to follow the plan
Desire – to persevere regardless of what happens
The next thing to sort out is your mental approach. For many golfers the transition from range to golf course is a real struggle. For some it almost feels that they have lost something whilst they walk from the driving range to the first tee. This failure to transfer your game from range to course boils down to the inability to control your “emotions”. But do not despair, this can be changed and altered with a few mental preparation exercises.
Of these mental drills the most important are the pre and post shot routines. You need to be able to create yourself a routine that begins and ends in the same way each and every time, including on the practice ground.
Having a sound pre shot and post shot routine helps you to get focused, in the moment for playing the shot that you need to play. It allows you to divert your thoughts away from the golf course when you are walking between shots, waiting for your playing partners or standing on the tee waiting for the group ahead to clear.
The pre shot routine should involve everything you need to prepare for the shot. The post shot routine should ensure that you leave everything about the previous shot in the past. Leave it stored in your filing cabinet which you can open after the round to allow you to analyze your game with a clear and open mind.
Finally I want to mention your practice habits and how they too can be changed to be more realistic and targeted towards on course improvement.
As you can see from the photo below, there is a major issue with the way that these people are practicing: Simply put how can you learn or achieve anything if you do not have a clear work space?
The picture below, also demonstrates the various types of golfer there are and the way that they practice; some are interested in hitting as many balls as possible, others want to keep their area clear.
The other thing that is of massive importance is the “focused” target area, which all golfers must apply to their practice, whether the long or the short game. It is this lack of target driven practice that maintains the gap between range performances and course performance.
Target driven practice.
The final thing that I want to mention is the importance to approach practice in the same way as you would a round of golf, with organization. I require all of my students to bring their entire golf bag with them. I recommend that they do the same when they are practicing, instead of bringing just a few clubs with them. You can see from the picture below that this is the general theme amongst golfers, however yet again you can see the variations amongst golfers, with some bringing their whole set and others happy with just a few clubs.