Knowing how to get better at golf doesn't get you anywhere if you do not practice.
You have the potential to be play much better golf than you can even imagine:
Break 80s. Shoot pars. Turn pro.
It's all possible.
But you can't do that with just a few practice sessions a week.
Even with the best golf training aids and instructions, you need to know how to practice effectively.
Effective golf practices are essential if we want to improve quickly at golf.
But what actually is an effective golf practice? How does it help you get better at golf?
Here's my take on what makes up an effective golf practice.
An Effective Golf Practice Is Focused and High Quality
An effective golf practice isn't about mindlessly pounding balls at a poorly defined target to build muscle memory and expecting lower scores.
To be effective, golf practice has to be every bit as focused and intense as playing, if not more so.
If you're plugged into your iPod, you can't say you're giving practice your undivided attention.
If you're goofing around with your friends and seeing who can hit the farthest, that is not focused and high quality practice.
Focus is about being completely present and constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
Only by practising with purpose (and a little discomfort), you will learn to master your game.
An Effective Golf Practice Produces the Intended Results
Often, you have to stop and ask yourself:
"Does this practice translate into better on-course performance?”
When you do not have the luxury of making mistakes, when you get surrounded by hundreds of people, do you remember what you learnt from the practice or do you lapse back into bad habits?
Sadly, this happens too often.
Why else would "Why can't I take my range game to the course?" be the cry of the frustrated golfers, from weekend warriors to tour pro?
The same goes for using training aids.
When used the right way, they help tremendously in your game.
But when you go play without the aids, do you remember what they taught?
Or do all the bad habits return?
Invest in the right ones, and use them effectively with a purpose.
Ensure your practice translates to on-course improvement, or you’ll be wasting your time.
An Effective Golf Practice Meets the Golfer’s Needs
This is a concept which seems self-evident, but needs to be made explicit.
What you need to work on is entirely unique to you. You need a personalized training plan that pushes you beyond your boundaries.
And only you know what that is.
What are your weaknesses? What makes you uncomfortable?
Are you spending most of your time on your drive and totally neglecting other areas?
How often do you see other golfers spend time on their short game?
On their putting?
How much time do you spend on these areas?
For most golfers, the answer is “not enough”.
Even if your range doesn't have a short game area, how often do you see people hitting to targets short of 100 yards?
Audit your game to understand your needs. Then build your practice around them. Challenge yourself.
An Effective Golf Practice Fosters Continual Learning
Your practice is a waste of time if you don’t learn from what you’re doing.
Every shot should have a purpose. Every shot should add data to your memory bank.
You see the results of each shot, but you don’t see yourself hitting it, and you don’t know why it happened the way it did.
Ask yourself if the result was as intended.
If not, form a theory to explain why it wasn't..
Test the theory, then repeat the cycle.
Understand the fundamentals of how the ball and clubface interact, and use this to guide your exploration.
Get a swing analyzer or hire a coach.
Data doesn’t lie and experts point out the mistakes you’d otherwise miss out.
Pay attention to your body, to your mentor, to your training aids.
Feedback is essential to your growth. We learn from our mistakes and that is how we improve.
There’s no failure in practice… unless you don’t learn from the feedback.
An Effective Golf Practice Is Efficient
While the dream is to golf all day and do nothing else, that is probably not going to happen anytime soon.
Life has a habit of getting in the way.
We’ve all heard (and made) the excuse:
“I’d love to improve, but I just don’t have the time to practice.”
The reality of the matter is, we do have more time than we realize.
Instead of watching TV, I use the time to study golf.
Instead of spending hours on Facebook, I use the time to think and write.
You see, we just need to manage the time we have more efficiently.
20 minutes of focused, attentive, effective golf practice is far better than racing through a large bucket of balls.
To be effective, golf practice doesn’t have to be lengthy. In fact, it’s probably better to work in short focused bursts.
These are portable training aids you can use in the comfort of your own home.
There are literally thousands of training aids available to improve the quality of your training.
Logistics shouldn’t be an excuse.
Whatever life throws at you, seek to make practice more efficient to maximise your improvement from the available time.
An Effective Golf Practice is Sustainable
The road to Abandoned Goals starts by turning onto Overambitious Drive.
While there’s nothing wrong to plan to be hyper-focused and taking 5 hours over 100 balls, but is it realistic?
Even if you manage to complete it, it’s unlikely to be something you can sustain over the long run.
Look at what you can reasonably commit to over a prolonged period.
Whenever you’re in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Because letting one session slide is a slippery slope which often leads to more missed sessions, inactivity and an Abandoned Goal.
The Principal of Kaizen states that big results come from many small positive changes accumulated over time.
In other words, small daily practice/actions lead to huge results.
It’s far better to start small and build it into your routine.
Eventually, you’ll find that it’s become habitual.
It’s easier to add more time to an existing habit than it is to try for too much from the start.
Effective practice needs to be sustained practice, so be realistic when you’re allocating practice time.
An Effective Golf Practice is Enjoyable
Once again, this should go without saying…but we all know golfers who have let the game suck the joy from them.
You might even be that golfer.
Professionals aside, we choose to spend our precious leisure time holding our clubs…and yet we often end up berating ourselves.
Not only does this make practice less enjoyable, it means we’re more likely to abandon the game.
Have some training buddies and make every practice session a little challenge between you guys.
It’s okay to have a little healthy competition.
Or you can make the practice into a game.
School of Golf's Martin Hall shares 3 games that will help improve your short game while making practice more fun:
But remember to stay focused. The practice should be purposeful.
Both our practice and playing schedules should be governed by fun.
Now that you know what the essential elements of an effective golf practice are, here is your action plan:
Action Plan for an Effective Golf Practice
1. Know specifically what and why you are practicing
You can’t be “just trying to hit the ball well”. Effective practice has to be purposeful.
Understand your motive and you’ll understand the process of improvement.
2. Know how to practice a specific skill
Not every skill can or should be practiced at a driving range.
Things such as swing mechanics or specific body movement should be done with drills, slow motion at first before speeding up.
All these can be done at home.
Knowing how to practice can save you time and money.
3. Set measureable goals for practice
Without a clear and specific goal, you cannot know if the practice was productive or not.
Goals must be specific to what you are practicing and it has to be measurable.
A simple video camera is a great measuring device, depending on what you are practicing.
4. Create a game plan (specific to the goals)
Now that you have goals, you need an action plan.
Too many golfers go for practice “just to hit the balls”.
Create an action plan specific to your goals.
Simulating on-course situations during practice will lessen the gap between practice and game.
5. Analyze results and compare to goals
Track, measure and act accordingly.
Knowing what went wrong and working on it is the only way to improve.
There you have it, a guide to get better at golf with an effective golf practice.