There goes Jasons first ball curving way to the right – shooting almost off the range. Shaking his head he pulls up another one and…
This one goes low and straight to the left. “Well, better! But still not my best golf swing.” he thinks to himself.
So he goes on hitting golf balls one after the other while he gets more and more tense because expecting that he can do better.
It’s almost time to tee it off.
“Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to get a practice session in just before hitting the course with Anthony?” he thinks to himself.
On the first tee his buddy Anthony stripes it straight down the middle of the fairway while Jason duffs it into the bushes.
“How can this be?! He arrived 10 minutes before my tee time and I practiced for half and hour on the range. That’s just unfair. But well, that’s golf…” Jason says to himself.
As they walk towards their golf balls Jason asks his friend what he has been doing to improve so much over the last weeks.
“Was it that tip we saw on the golf channel last week?”
Anthony chuckles and begins to explain.
And thus began the most important round of golf Jason played this year as he realized hole by hole that he hasn’t been practicing at all for the past months although he spent quite some time on the range hitting balls.
Lesson I – Develop Confidence in Your Game by Practicing Competitively
The first thing Anthony talks about is that since he changed his whole approach to his practice sessions he started to improve his game and golf swing faster than ever before. He smiles and recites a quote.
You play as you practice and you practice as you play. – Bob Toski
“Could you be a any more specific?” Jason asks rolling his eyes while dropping the ball he duffed into the bushes for a (hopefully) better approach shot.
“Sure! I was just hitting balls hoping to get better through repetition. But now I always limit the balls I hit to about 60 each practice session. I always hit towards a target and try to challenge myself. I try to imagine a hole from our course and challenge myself to replicate the necessary shot. Just like the tee shot from the first hole we just had to perform.”
“Yeah, I tried that once but it didn’t work for me.” Jason mumbles.
“You’ve got to be patient and stick to it. I always challenge myself and limit my practice time or the number of balls I hit. This way I’ll focus more and make each shot count. But you’re right the difficult thing is to stick to this approach even if you struggle in the beginning. But it definitely worked out for me in the end.” he says smiling.
“Mhhh … makes sense” Jason replies although he doesn’t like Anthony’s instructor mentality.
Anthony finishes the hole with a PAR while Jason has to leave the first green with a triple bogey.
Lesson II – Practice All Areas of Your Game – Not Just Your Golf Swing Technique
The second hole is a short PAR 3 that can be reached with a wedge. Anthony uses a pitching wedge and lands his ball in the semi-rough a little to the right of the green. Jason pulls his 9-iron already thinking about the look on his buddies face when if he hits it near the flagstick. His shot comes out low but has enough momentum to skitter on the green.
“Take that Mr. Professional!” Jason thinks to himself.
Anthony chips in making Birdie with his next shot while Jason 3-putts and gets off the hole with a 4.
“That’s just ridiculous!”
“Well, when was the last time you practiced your putting?” Anthony asks smiling.
“Oh come on, just shut up!”
“Hey, you asked about my practice routine and I try to practice all areas of my game. That includes not only my full swing but my chipping, putting and mental game as well.”
“Yeah, I bet you do a lot of meditation.” Jason says while giving him a nudge.
“Nope but I balance my practice sessions so I am always working on my short game as well.”
Lesson III – Keep Your Practice Sessions Balanced Focusing on Specific Skills
Before they reach the next tee Jason gets right next to Anthony.
“Okay, you got me. So you spent your time 50/50 practicing your long game and your short game?”
Anthony smiles and says:
“Not exactly. I’ll spend most of my time on my short game. More about 70/30. And the biggest shift for me happened when I divided my practice sessions into thirds.”
“What do you mean, into thirds?”
“I always spend 1/3 of my time focusing only on technique, 1/3 on rhythm and motion and the last third on competitive practice or my mental game.”
“Boy that sounds really anal and complicated, if you ask me.” says Jason.
“Sure it’s a little more complicated than just hitting a bucket of balls but it worked out for me!” Anthony says as he tees the ball up for his next shot.
“I guess so” Jason mumbles as Anthony hits the ball deep down the fairway of the third hole.
Lesson IV – Make Practice Tougher Than the Real Thing
“By the way, what do you mean by competitive practice and practicing your mental game?”
Anthony gestures with his right index finger and starts to explain calmly:
“Well, everybody talks about how important the mental side of golf is yet almost nobody thinks about how to improve in that area of the game. I think it’s because they just repeat what they’ve heard somebody else say. But it’s true the better you are able to concentrate and act under pressure the better you can actually perform your golf swing or your putting stroke.”
Jason hits his tee shot a little thin but it stays on the fairway.
“So what do you do if hitting balls is so bad? Practicing your short game, okay I get that lesson. But what about those tee shots and approaches?”
“Well, I always make my practice sessions tougher than the real thing. I aim at challenging small targets on the range. I putt towards a tee or a coin instead of a hole. I try to chip it within three feet of the flag five times in a row…”
“Yeah, I get it, I get it!” Jason says a little annoyed by Anthony’s teaching mentality.
Jason finishes this hole with a PAR and his happy until Anthony nails a long putt for his first birdie of the day.
Lesson V – Golf is a Game of Percentages Details and Inches
“You know, I’m really thinking about if I am able to ever tee it up with you again! For how long have you been playing now?”
“For about two years.” Anthony replys.
“That makes me sick! I’ve been playing for 6 years and struggle more than you do.” Jason says with a tongue in cheek attitude.
“Well, you see that’s what I had to learn as well. Most people think that you get better in chunks. But that’s most definitely not true for golf. In golf that’s more like an improvement in 0.1 percentages and sometimes you even play worse before you get better.”
“I guess that’s exactly what’s happening to me right now. My golf swing’s rubbish right now.” Jason replys smiling.
“Could be. Most people think they’ll play like a pro from now to the next moment, which is kind of ridiculous if you think about it. Golf is a game of inches and you’ve got to improve one inch at a time.”
“Yeah and I am only inches away from a mental breakdown. How about we get back to the range and you show me exactly what you are doing? I think you are on to something.”
Lesson VI – Put Your Thoughts into Practice
(Example Practice Session)
“Sure buddy, why not.” replys Anthony clearly delighted about the learning mentality of his friend Jason.
And so Anthony and Jason decide to take a break from playing the course to get back on the range. They get a bucket of balls each and Anthony walks Jason through a routine he’s been doing the last week.
“Here I’ll write you down what I’ve been doing last week.”
Jason takes a look at the list:
- Step 1: Visualizing specific goals for the practice session.
- Step 2: Working on the technical side of the swing with no ball and the help of a mirror.
- Step 3: Working on the feeling of the swing with your eyes closed. (still no golf balls).
- Step 4: 20 shots to a target focusing on the technical aspect you want to improve / swing thought. (change clubs and target at least 3 times)
- Step 5: 20 shots focusing on rhythm (breathing exercises, using a metronome or counting / change clubs and target at least 3 times)
- Step 6: 20 shots challenging yourself. E. g. simulating 3-4 holes from the course and playing them exactly as you would in a tournament (tee shots, approaches, chips). Other examples: Ladder drill, challenge against a friend, hitting a specific number of simulated fairways.
- Step 7: Jot down a couple of notes how the practice session worked out: What did you work on? How long did you practice? What did you struggle with? Any numbers that might be interesting.
“Okay let’s go through the list.” Anthony says and starts to explain.
“The first and last step may seem to be not very important, but they are.
If you don’t know what you are doing or what you did last time you are still kind of aimless even if you put some structure into your practice sessions.
Step 2 and 3 are there to let you warm up a little and focus on your movements and body. With step 4 to 6 you’ll see that I’ve devided the golf balls into sets.
The variety prevents you from just hitting one ball after the other. Let’s work through this list together, I’m sure you are able to create your own practice routine with the same pattern. It may seem like a lot but it should take you no more than 45 to 90 minutes to go through this practice routine, depending on your speed and how much time you are spending on each step.”
Jason tries the practice session Anthony has layed out for him and feels exhilarated because he’s never practiced this way.
For the first time he feels that he’s actually improving while he’s practicing.
He decides to commit to this kind of practice from now on starting to practice with his buddy Anthony who’s also happy that he got somebody to challenge him on the practice tee.
This little story was obviously fiction. ;-).
Usually the ego of the weekend warrior is way too big to really look for solutions and get to work. So what about you? How do you structure your practice sessions? Do you practice at all? Comment and share in the comments-section below!