What is the purpose of practice? According to one definition in the dictionary it means “perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency”
If I step out on the range and ask people what they are dong they will all say practicing, when I ask if its working 98% will answer no. Why is practice ineffective? Why after spending 2 weeks straight at the range is your game in no better shape? I believe the answer comes in the plan we are following? Everyone has a plan whether they realize it or not. Let‘s see if I can help you start a new plan, one that gives your practice some purpose.
The game of golf is made up several mini games if you will, Driving, Iron Swing, Chipping, Pitching, Sand Play, Putting, Course Management & the Mental Aspect. Within each of those mini games are techniques that require our minds and body working together to perform a specific movement in an efficient way. So you can see how beating a bucket of balls on the range is not bearing any fruit unless it is targeting one of these areas.
Lets take the iron swing for example, so you just hit a full bucket of balls on the range with your irons. What were you working on? In my mind there are 2 things every golfer can and should be working on.
1. Specific moves or drills given by their instructor to increase their physical ability to strike the ball in a consistent manor.
I am assuming you are working with an instructor or maybe something you've learned on youtube or instagram from an instructor. In this type of practice the result is inconsequential as you should only be focused on the part of the body or move you are trying to ingrain. I believe this type of practice is the hardest to get most amateurs to go out and do, we want instant results and no one wants to be the guy shanking it on the range as he is trying to train his body to move in a way and do something it has never done before.
My advice when working on specific moves is to go slow, slow the swing way down. This is not about how far you can hit it yet, its really about making your body practice the move very slowly as you become aware of the different muscles required to execute the shot. Over the course of time practicing a new move should progress from practicing the move to hitting slow motion versions, then half speed and all the way up to hitting full speed shots. There should always be progress but many times it may not be evident to the uneducated bystander.
2. Random switching of targets & clubs on the range to better simulate an actual round of golf.
How often during a round of golf do you have a completely flat lie? The truth is golf is played on a variety of slopes and terrain. We become more effective in our game when we practice with this in mind. Random practice would be starting out with a Lob Wedge to say 60 yards, then switching to a 9 iron to a different target and so on and so forth.
If you have a course that you play often you may have it memorized if that is the case then play the course on the driving range as your practice. Changing clubs after every shot and give yourself different lies if possible. You can also practice this way on the course when you aren't playing for score.
Practice with a plan
What should practice look like? Below I have included a sample putting plan for working on your putting, this plan does not include technical practice that should be done in partner with your instructor. You should have a similar plan for every area of your game if you want to reach your full potential.
3 feet - putt 10 putts around the hole recording how many you make out of 10. This should be done 3-5 times. Try to beat your score each time and when you get real good see how many you can make in a row before missing.
6 feet - putt 10 putts around the hole recording how many you make out of 10. This should be done 3-5 times. Try to beat your score each time and when you get real good see how many you can make in a row before missing.
12, 15, 18, 21 & 24 foot - putts 10 putts total two from each distance. These should be setup all on the same line. Score 2 points for every make and 1 point for every putt past the hole within a putter length. Any putt short of the hole does not score any points as the goal of this drill is to focus on making putts. Each time you do this move the hole around and try to beat your score.
30, 40 & 50 foot - putts 3 putts from each distance, the goal is to roll each putt within a putter length of the hole on a consistent basis. See how many putts out of the 9 you can roll within a putter length, if you get all 9 see how many putts in a row you can keep within a putter length.
This provides a small sample of what I work on with my students and hopefully gives you some ideas on how to improve your practice and add purpose to it!