One of the most common concerns expressed by golfers is "how come I can hit the ball so well on the range but have a difficult time replicating this on the golf course"? When left on their own to try to figure this question out, many people look at their on-course behavior, thinking and playing for the source of the answer. Frequently, the answer lies more in their practice behavior than it does in their playing behavior.
It is necessary to hit a lot of golf balls in order to become proficient at golf. However, in addition to hitting bucket after bucket of practice balls, what is also imperative is that the type of practice that one undertakes approximates as much as possible the actual experience of playing the game. Watching people's typical practice involves seeing them hitting ball after ball on the range- frequently using the same club and hitting to the same target over and over and over again. This is not real golf. Why then would you practice in this manner? The key is to practice more like you play!
Here are 4 easy ways to make your practice sessions translate to better golf while playing.
1. Change targets frequently. On the golf course, you rarely hit two balls in a row to the same exact target. Practice hitting to a different target with each shot. This has application whether with the full swing, pitching, chipping, or in the bunker. Each shot is thought through and executed as a unique entity- just like on the course.
2. Change clubs frequently. On the golf course, you rarely hit two balls in a row with the same club. If you regularly hit your 7-iron three or four times in a row on the course, your game is in big trouble! However, this is how people practice. Changing clubs regularly- say every second or third shot- is a good way to approximate what it feels like to be on the course.
3. Use your pre-shot routine more frequently. Preparation for each shot on the course and preparation for each shot on the range are generally vastly different for most players. This creates a rhythm that's different, a thinking process that's different, and a result that's different!
4. Putt using one ball. You are not given the luxury of hitting the same putt two or three times on the course. Yet many people drop two or three putts and stroke the same putt over and over to the same target. Practice using just one ball- with a full read- to create an environment that's similar to the golf course.
It is true that early in the process of learning one's swing it is sometimes helpful to hit the same club to the same target without a pre-shot. However, once you are ready to go play, make sure that you're preparing yourself to deal with some of the same sensations that you have on the golf course!
Jeff Troesch, MA, LMHC is an internationally recognized expert in the mental side of golf. As the former Director of Sport Psychology for the David Leadbetter Golf Academies, Jeff has worked with thousands of golfers nationwide and brings a wealth of experience to seasoned golf professionals as well as the recreational golf lover. You may contact Jeff directly through his website, fitnessforgolf.com.