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 instead to flail away with the driver on a driving range time and time again. 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 you golf handicap.
Here’s one organized practice program I suggest in my 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:
• Drop two phone books on the floor. Position them far enough apart so your putterhead just squeezes through them. Place a 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 back stroke and forward stroke. This approach ensures a smooth stroke with 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.
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:
• 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.
• Next, 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:
• Place a 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 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 ball and chip it using the same motion. Then move the ball back to higher grass and repeat the sequence.
In the next hourly session try 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.
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 on 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 starting 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 you session, the more you’ll prepare yourself for hitting a shot under the pressure of actual game situation.
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.