With all the moving parts of a golf game, there are thousands of things that can go wrong.
Your swing is too hard, your grip is far too tight, you don’t have the best golf balls, or you are simply too psyched out on the golf course to perform at your best.
What is the solution? How can you improve your golf game when every shot has hundreds of variables determining how well you do?
Practice, practice, and then even more practice.
But not just practice – quality practice. Without quality, guided golf practice you might be practicing the wrong techniques that will ultimately cause you more harm than good.
How To Properly Practice Golf
Practicing your golf game properly is vital to improving. Knowing how to practice increases self-confidence, reduces scores, and lowers golf handicaps.
It also increases the fun of playing as you see your scores drop on each round. I consider it so important that I discuss how to practice with all my students during golf lessons.
Unfortunately, some students don’t always follow my advice.
They either focus on the wrong things during practice, or they practice without purpose. Some students do both, preferring to flail away with the driver on a driving range repeatedly.
When their scores don’t drop as quickly as they’d like, they stop practicing, forfeiting any chance of improving.
You have only so much time to practice, so you must make the most of it. To optimize practice time, try organizing your sessions into a structured program with specific goals clearly in mind.
The program needs to focus on fundamentals and address your weaknesses. Developing an organized program speeds learning, maintains focus, and cuts strokes from your golf handicap.
My All-Time Favorite Golf Lessons
Adopt a set of exercises and drills to practice at home. They should concentrate on grooving your fundamentals, like your takeaway or your backswing. My golf tips highlight drills and exercises that fit nicely into a program. The phone book drill, for example, improves your putting stroke.
Phone Book Drill
Step #1: Drop two phone books on the floor. Position them far enough apart so your putter head just squeezes through them.
Step #2: Place a golf ball between the books, assume your putting posture, and make your stroke. Use the books as a visual guide to match the lengths of your backstroke and forward stroke.
This approach ensures a smooth stroke with a perfect tempo. You’ll find it difficult to guide your putter between the books unless your stroke follows the intended line. If you strike the side of either phone book, your stroke strayed off-line.
Short & Long Game Splits
Go to a practice range as often as you can. Split your time between your short game and your long game. If you can’t work on both in one session, try working on the short game in one session and the long game in the next.
Your goal might be to perfect your pitching in the first session and to master long-distance driving in the next. Also, organize your time within each session. An organized session could look like the following:
Step #1: Hit some warm-up shots for five minutes to loosen up your muscles. Start with a short iron, then move to a mid-iron. In my golf lessons I suggest starting with a pitching wedge, then dropping down to a 7-iron, but you can use other clubs as well. Hit several shots with each until you feel comfortable swinging the club.
Step #2: Spend about 15 minutes or so working on areas of your short game needing improvement, like chipping. Try dividing the time into four 15 minute mini-sessions, with each mini-session devoted to one phase of your short game— pitching, putting, chipping, or bunker play.
Use drills during the 15 minutes that focus on improving weaknesses within that phase of the game. For example, use this drill to practice chipping from the rough shot:
Step #3: Place a golf ball just outside the first cut of rough on the green’s fringe. Make sure the grass is about one to one and one-half inches in length. Instead of hitting the golf ball, practice just sweeping the tips of the grass. Use a low sweeping motion employing just your arms and shoulders. After ten sweeps, move immediately to the golf ball and chip it using the same motion. Then move the golf ball back to higher grass and repeat the sequence.
Step #4: In the next hourly session try to focus on your long game. You can work on hitting your woods and long irons during this session. Spending 5-10 minutes on warm-up shots, then 10-15 minutes each on your woods and long irons. Once again, use drills should be designed to improve a specific problem.
Practice Real Life Shots
Work in some realistic game situations in your practice sessions. For example, try chipping over a wading pool in your backyard to practice hitting over an obstacle on the course. Another good technique is to actually play holes while practicing at the driving range.
So, let’s say the first hole you’re going to play on Saturday is a 440-yard par four. When practicing during the week or prior to the round, you would actually “play the hole” but start by hitting your driver, then maybe a 6 or 7 iron for your approach shot, and then maybe a small chip in case you missed the green.
The more of these you can program into your session, the more you’ll prepare yourself for hitting a shot under the pressure of the actual game situation.
Where To Practice Golf
Now you know the how, but where should you practice golf? The answer… Anywhere! Golf course, driving range, your backyard, and your office are all acceptable places to practice golf. But the best place for golf practice depends on why you need golf practice.
I’ve included the pros and cons of practicing on the golf course versus the driving range.
When it comes to practicing your golf game, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. Although it might seem like hitting more shots will help you improve faster, this is not always the case.
In fact, if you are constantly hitting the same club without making any adjustments, you are likely to just reinforce any existing bad habits.
Instead of spending hours on the driving range hitting the same shot over and over, try to focus on specific areas that you want to improve. For example, if you are having trouble with your short game, spend some time practicing chip shots and putts.
By honing in on specific skills, you will be able to make faster and more significant improvements to your game.
Anyone who’s ever picked up a golf club knows that the game is as much about mental endurance as it is physical prowess. That’s why, when it comes to practicing your swing, it’s important to find the right balance between volume and specificity.
The driving range offers a great opportunity to get in a high volume of reps, but it’s important to remember that the conditions on the range are not necessarily representative of those you’ll encounter on the course.
The lack of consequence for a bad shot can lead to a false sense of security, while the highly variable nature of the targets can make it difficult to dial in your swing.
That’s not to say that the driving range isn’t a valuable practice tool, but it’s important to keep its limitations in mind. By doing so, you can ensure that your time on the range is truly preparing you for the challenges of the course.
Driving Range vs Golf Course For Golf Practice
There is no clear winner in this argument. So next time you’re at the driving range or the golf course, take a moment to consider your needs. Do you need to work on your volume or specificity?
If you’re struggling with your specificity, then try to find ways to add more targets at the range.
And if you’re struggling with your volume, then try to find ways to play more holes on the course.
Always Be Mindful Of Your Golf Swing
When it comes to the golf swing, there are a thousand things that can go wrong. Many golfers would improve dramatically just by eliminating big mistakes – foundational problems that instantly create a number of follow-on errors.
The driving range is a showcase of golf swing mistakes. However, with a little focus and attention, these mistakes can be corrected. By eliminating these errors, golfers can take their game to the next level.
So, what are some of the most common mistakes?
One mistake is failing to keep the wrists cocked during the backswing. This error leads to a loss of power and accuracy.
Another common mistake is scooping or lifting the ball off the ground instead of striking it crisply. This results in a poor shot with little distance.
Lastly, many golfers fail to complete their follow-through, resulting in a weak shot that goes off to the side.
By avoiding these mistakes, golfers can vastly improve their game and take their swings to the next level.
Time For Some Golf Practice
This program is just an example of how you can structure your practice. It might not be appropriate for every golfer, but I think you get the idea of how to organize a session or session.
Developing an organized program—and following it closely —produces results. The more you work on it, the more you’ll build self-confidence, reduce scores, and slash your golf handicap.