Is your practice holding you back?

This time last year I wrote a piece on ‘how to practice properly’ in relation to when you are on the driving range. I suggested picking different targets, different clubs and constantly changing your task in order to make your practice session more ‘game orientated’ and realistic to how you would play on the course.

My question to you this time is: Is your practice actually preventing you from lowering your scores?

Recently I attended a seminar where a past European Tour Professional was present and with him, a coach to a current Tour Player. We discussed different practice routines and what it actually takes to achieve that level of play. The thing that stood out to me most was the totally contrasting styles and routes these two had experienced on their climb to the top of the game. One practiced by playing as many holes as he could, throwing balls down, hitting different shots, putting himself in awkward positions, testing himself whether he could hit the shot or not and the other spent countless hours on the range hitting balls, putts, chips etc. What they had in common though, was they both realised what motivated them individually and they practiced in that manner.

This got me thinking; are ‘normal’ golfers actually practicing in a manner that is helping them get better? I would have to say no. Most golfers on the range or short game area either focus on hitting one club to a particular target for 50 balls and then another to a different target for 50 balls, but realistically of those 100 balls how many are actually counting? In my opinion I would say only 2 -the first to each target! Is there any consequence to this practice? Are there any constraints and are they making their practice difficult?

I am a firm believer that if you make your practice more difficult than the game, then surely when you go out on the golf course the tasks will appear easier. That’s why whenever I work with my students we make the fairways narrower and the target smaller than it would be out on the course. Test yourself, put yourself under pressure as you practice so you develop the tools required to deal with it out on the golf course. It’s at this point you can really determine whether your technique is letting you down or whether you are nervous or whether it’s the mental side of the game you need to improve. Play games on the short game area, make your target really small on the range, if you hole a 6 foot putt, put another down and hole it again!

Golf is not simply about having a perfect swing or hitting the ball 10 yards further, it’s about dealing with all the elements, the stress, the fear of missing and still being able to hit the shot required. This is what truly separates the good from the great.

If you would like to find out how to practice better, or how to make the most out of your game and start shooting scores you could only once dream of, then stop in at the Golf Academy here at St Andrews Links and let us swing you in the right direction.

You can also visit our website for further information on how we can help improve your game.

Words by Scott Herald, Academy Instructor

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