Teaching Professional, Loyalist Golf & Country Club
I always like to take notice of how people practice. More often than not, I’ll see players grab a couple large baskets of balls and head to the range with no particular plan in mind. They will grab their pitching wedge and hit half a basket. Then the 7 iron – half a basket. Then the 4 iron – half a basket. Finally, onto the driver – half a basket. It is a monotonous routine that is over before they know it and seems to always end with the same thought of, “why can’t I hit it like that on the golf course?”
Let’s think about that thought for a second. When was the last time you hit twenty 7 irons in a row on the golf course? Twenty 4 irons? What about twenty drivers? You guessed it – the answer is never.
We have all heard the all-too common adage “practice like you play,” so why do so many of us ignore it and practice in a completely different manner than when we play, then proceed to wonder why we can’t transfer the same results onto the golf course?
Don’t get me wrong, if you are looking to work on a specific move in your swing or are struggling with a particular club, the type of practice described above – usually referred to as ‘blocked practice’ – is not a bad idea. However, when we are truly looking to better our game and “practice like we play,” we need to mix in some random practice.
So what does this mean? One way to effectively utilize random practice is to visualize a golf course and pretend you are playing it as you go through your bucket of balls (after you have warmed up, of course). If the first hole calls for a driver, picture the fairway, go through your routine and then hit a driver. If you usually hit a 9 iron into the first green, pick a target on the range, go through your routine and hit a 9 iron. Didn’t hit it great? Hit a pitch shot that would mimic a look you might have left after a not-so-great approach.
By visualizing each shot, we are able to mimic some of the pressure we might feel during an actual round and are able to assess our game as it would hold up on the golf course. In the end, practicing this way will allow you to make progress under pressure and will allow you to carry these gains onto the golf course.
Next time you’re on the range and catch yourself falling into the trap of aimlessly beating balls one after the other, ask yourself, am I really practicing with a purpose?