WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PRACTICE GOLF?
The best way to practice golf is like the pros - with purpose. Pros simulate the game on the course in every aspect of their practice. They practice with a structured game plan, checklist, and schedule. You will not see a pro simply banging away at a bucket of balls.
Brian Smith, PGA professional at Academy from Emirates Golf Club, Dubai shares a great lesson on how to get the most out of your practice sessions at the driving range. One of the most effective ways to elevate your practice sessions at the range is to make them more like being on the course. First, create a scoring system to measure the success of the session. Then, treat each practice shot the same way you approach it on the course with an entire pre-shot routine. Of course, your session at the range will look different if you are working on a particular issue or mechanic.
Practice Like the Pro's
If you could observe tour pros at the practice range, it would become immediately apparent how the best players in the world structure their practice time compared to the average amateur golfer. Of course, the most obvious difference is how they simulate the golf game on the course. For example, they'll typically set up a hitting station involving alignment rods, carefully positioning them on the ground.
Structure Your Practice Time
Let's look at how the world's best spend their practice time. First and foremost, they proportionately divide their practice time from the pin back to the tee. Putting represents nearly 50% of the strokes in a round of golf. So, it stands to reason that the pros practice putting more than any other golf skill. The short game gets the next highest proportion of practice time, followed by work on the long irons, driving the ball, sand play, and trouble shots. Typically, the only deviation from this structure is if a particular skill area requires extra attention.
Practice Like You're on the Course
As noted above, pros attempt to simulate the game of golf on the course in their practice whenever possible. This can be done by keeping score in drills for personal bests, competing with a practice partner, or simply simulating or performing each practice shot as if you were on the course. Keeping scores in practice helps provide feedback on performance - no different than a scorecard on the course. Pros slow down their practice to make each shot a quality shot, using the same process they use on the course. This includes picking an exact target, using a range finder to determine precise distances, visualizing the shot, rehearsing the shot, and finally, stepping into a hitting station where your mind switches to game mode and commits to the shot.
Practice with Purpose
Scott Bunker, Director of Golf shares some sage advice about practice between rounds. Practice between rounds should have goals, expectations, and a timeline tied to it. Ratio of practice to play should be 3 practice sessions to 2 rounds played. Your focus in practice should be on meeting the objectives of the practice session not time spent or on the number of balls hit during the session. Always hit golf balls with a purpose.
Get On Station
Top Teacher Derek Nannen of Eagle Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona, answers a common question from amateur golfers: How do I practice golf at the driving range? Derek advises you to use your range time to hone your fundamentals by setting up a hitting station comprised of alignment sticks and tee gates. Using the alignment sticks will ensure that you aim correctly and that your ball position is where it should be. Use tee gates to help you with your swing path consistency. In addition to mechanical fundamentals, you can step off the hitting station and then execute the same shot without the benefit of the hitting station. This will put a little extra pressure and simulate the needed actions on the course.
One of the most common mistakes that amateur golfers make when practicing is to hit the same club all the time. Mix it up. One day hit the odd-number clubs in your bag. The next day hit your even. When you hit even clubs, hit your driver. When you hit the odd clubs, hit the hybrids.
When you practice, use a hitting station. You can use golf clubs or alignment sticks. Set one for alignment on your target line and one for ball position. Next, use a tee gate with three tees. This will help you become precise with ball position, alignment, and swing path. This is one of the best drills for all levels of golfers. The obvious idea is to come through the middle of the tee gate, making contact with the ball in the club's sweet spot. The more success we have, the more times we're going to hit right in the middle of the club. This will give you the consistent distance and ball flight you're looking for. If you hit it out towards the toe of the club, it'll hit the inside tee. If you hit the ball on the inside of the club, you will hit the outside tee. Work on the setup. Get organized, and then take some shots. Make sure you are in balance at the finish of your swing. Then come back and look and see. "Did I go through the middle of the gate, or did I touch one of the tees?" Take three or four shots until you feel dialed in.
Greg Schulze with the Minnesota PGA describes setting up a hitting station with three clubs for proper alignment and setup. The first club will aim directly to the target. The second club will be parallel and that's called the stance line. You'll want your feet to be equidistant from this line during the swing. The third club will be placed at a perpendicular angle to though to the stance line and pointing to the ball position we want for the golf ball. The hitting station allows me to know where my feet are relative to the golf ball with this club my alignment. You can also check the alignment and aim of the clubface to see if it's perpendicular to the target line. So with a hitting station you will be ready to hit a good golf shot.
Outside the Station
Next, you will step out of the hitting station and hit a different target using your entire pre-shot routine. Choose a different flag. Walk through the setup just like you would do on the golf course. And try to execute the same thing you did in the hitting station.
Now you'll have two different stations. With your hitting stations, focus on your fundamentals -- posture, setup, ball position, swing path, and passing between the tees. Outside the hitting station, work on the mental side -- your routine, how many steps you have coming into the ball, execute the shot and then evaluate.
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