One of the questions I often get asked from club level golfers is how can they improve their games and what components of their golf should they be practicing.
Let’s start with exactly what practice is for. We practice to train, acquire, or polish a new skill. In golf this might mean to be able to play a new shot (higher, lower etc.), or to reduce the amount of movement our golf ball makes in the air (slice, hook), we might even need to alter our swing due to an injury or to help us play with less pain.
Are You Guilty of Practicing Only Swing Technique?
Solution: Use other types of training: competitive, routine, shot shaping, and mental skills.
There is nothing better than the feel of a well-struck shot or the sight of a drive soaring through the air. Striking the ball correctly is one of the most impressive aspects of the game, especially when you are the one doing the striking. Perhaps this is the reason for such a preoccupation with the golf swing with both players and coaches.
A constant focus on swing technique, no matter how justified it may seem will be detrimental to the overall development of your game and the ability to transfer your practice to the course.
In order to create a more seamless transfer, other types of practice must be utilised. When you go to the course, the focus is on scoring rather than swing positions (at least it should be). Other types of practice include competitive drills; performance in these has a direct correlation to performance on the course. Ideally you should do some competitive practice a few times a week and record the results so you can monitor your progress.
Routines should be considered to be part of the shot. As such they should be practiced at every session. When you practice routines, include shot visualisation, planning, focussing and creating your playing state. Development of your routines is a skill and should be treated the same as the development of any other skill.
Routines include pre-shot (assessment of lie, target, wind direction and strength), shot (walk-in, looks and waggles, etc) and post-shot (no emotional attachment to a poor shot and full emotional attachment to a great shot). Shot shaping is useful not only for developing a skill that you can use on the course, but there is an added benefit: noting the shapes that are easy or difficult to play can point to areas that need to be addressed with your swing. If one shot is difficult to hit (for example a draw), then practicing hitting the draw will positively influence your entire swing.
Mental skills including visualisation, self-talk, goal setting, state management, concentration, etc can all be practiced during any training session. There is no need to develop them in isolation, as they can all be incorporated into any practice (except perhaps for relaxation). In fact they are either developed as good habits or bad habits during your practice as you respond to good and poor shots you hit while practicing.
My Challenge to You – develop your own practice plan for a 2-hour session incorporating every type of practice.
Before you pick up a bucket of balls, choose a spot on the driving range and take out a club, think about why you are out here in the first place. The obvious answer is to practice. But by practicing what do you hope to accomplish? Yes you want to play “better.” But unfortunately for most recreational golfers, a trip to the driving range rarely results in effective practice and game improvement. For most recreational golfers hitting balls on the driving range may be little more than exercise.
For many, it becomes an opportunity to further reinforce and practice a misguided swing or an ineffective strategy.
This doesn’t have to be the case, even for recreational golfers. If you are willing to examine your mindset on the range, practice with a purpose and, finally, be sufficiently disciplined to stick to a practice plan you can begin to build an important foundation to begin to play well. Below Continue Reading→
Hank Haney recently said that when he was teaching Tiger Woods he would continually practice “The Nine Shots” on the driving range, a practice drill that is highly effective in mind and body synchronization and increasing your repertoire of shots, which are crucial in lowering scores.
So what are “The Nine Shots”? Haney would have Tiger hit a high fade, a mid-height fade and a low fade and then do the same hitting a straight shot and with a draw, making a total of 9 different shots (not necessarily in that order).
This forms the basis of a great practice or warm-up session. Over time this will give you heightened mind-body awareness in that you are instinctively aware of what your body needs to do to play a shot you are visualizing. There is no conscious control of your swing. The more you can learn to play and practice using visualization and feel, instead of having technical thoughts and letting negative interferences in, the better you will become.
Being able to control both the trajectory and shape of the shot is integral to a good scoring game. In windy conditions it helps enormously to be able to hit the ball low into the wind and high when it’s behind. There are obvious advantages for being able to shape the ball with a drive or approach shot. Realizing that there are several ways of getting to the ball to the target and some are more effective than others, is a big part of improving your golf game.
Next time you are on the range, work on The Nine Shots. In addition to increasing your visualization and feel, it will tell you a lot about your swing. E.g. If you are having trouble hitting it high, or hitting a fade, try to figure out why.
Give this drill a try this instead of working on numerous swing drills and hitting to the same target and I’ve no doubt you’ll see the results on the course.
It’s club championship time shortly. It’s an exciting time for many but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience that, for many players, ends in disappointment. A lot of golfers perform far below their potential and expectations in the club championship because they’re not as prepared as they could be. They don’t arrive on the first tee with as much confidence as they should. Also, many golfers aren’t sure how to be their own best coach – how to effectively execute shots and a sound game plan under tournament pressure.
1.Plan ahead. Give yourself the necessary practice and playing time to prepare for the club championship. Be clear on your preparation for this event at least three weeks prior – write it down. Block your calendar and plan sufficient practice time and pre-event rounds.
2.Practice effectively. Good performance in tournament golf is largely attributable to consistent tee shot execution: minimal errors and penalty strokes, high percentage putting conversions in the 4-10 foot range, and sound wedge play. Spend a high percentage of your pre-event practice time and effort on these skills to build competence and confidence.
3.Hole out in casual rounds don’t fall into the trap of not holing your short putts in casual rounds before the club championship. The habit of accepting “gimmies” – short putts in the 2-5 foot range – is common place. Expect to be nervous and miss a lot more of these critical length putts in competition if you don’t practice holing them out in your regular social rounds. If the putts are in fact that easy, then putt them in the hole.
4.Coaching check a week or two before the event it is a good idea to have a coaching session with your Professional – not a technical session but rather a session on key scoring skills and to discuss your game plan and execution strategies. Tap into your professional’s experience and expertise.
5.Set realistic goals in sports, less than 10 per cent of participants can expect “career” performances in major events. Preparing your best beforehand makes this highly probable. Know your skill and performance level, for example, a typical 12 handicap may likely have a 79-85 scoring range. Set up a game plan and shot strategies that are in alignment with your range. Don’t try to play a game that you don’t have. Don’t force shots – let the magic happen!
6.Create a written game plan. Write down how you plan to play each hole. Know your tendencies and where you feel the most confident and the most vulnerable on the course. Be appropriately aggressive and don’t be shy to play cautious on holes that are potential blow-ups for you. your plan should be focused on enabling you to hit as many greens in regulation as possible and planning for the most probable up and down conversion spots when you miss greens.
7.Focus on deep breathing to get relaxed over your shots. When golfers peak perform they are in a calm and relaxed state over the ball. Focus your energy and attention on using your breathing. Here’s a technique. Breath-in deeply through an imaginary straw and completely empty your lungs when you exhale; soften your body tension and lower your mental tension when you are over the ball. as the great George Knudson said, “don’t play golf to relax – relax to play great golf.”
8.Think the “right” stuff. Players perform their best in competition when they engage the right side of their brain – this is where the athlete lives. Right brain thoughts are “external” on the target, tempo, desired flight and simple performance cues like “full back and through” or “smooth roll.” Be careful not to play “golf swing” in competition: this can be a deadly performance buster – it is left-brained thinking on technique or a “to do” list. Leave this thinking on the practice tee.
9.See yourself succeeding. Visualize and imagine yourself executing your game plan – escaping from trouble and hitting good shots. Winners see themselves winning before they begin. Moe Norman always said that Jack nicklaus had the Green Jacket on his breakfast plate on Thursday before the first round of the masters.
“Players perform their best in competition when they engage the right side of their brain – this is where the athlete lives.”
10.Just play, enjoy the opportunity to compete and challenge yourself. expect some mistakes and deal with poor shots. Don’t make the tournament bigger than it is. Your identity and personal self-concept are not related to your golf score in the club championship. Smile and have fun!
The shot routine is one of three routines associated with playing each golf shot. This one is usually called the pre-shot routine and is often considered the only one. The three routines are the decision routine (selecting club, shot type and target), shot routine (from standing behind the ball to hitting the ball) and the post-shot routine (responses to good and poor shots).
Learning a strong mental pre-shot routine is the single most important thing you can do to improve your mental game, and your golf.
But not just any mental routine. Your mental routine must:
Compliment your learning style
Ease you into narrowing your focus
Free you to hit athletic, artistic, creative, right brain shots or putts
And tap into your powers of self-fulfilling prophesy!
Sound complicated? It’s not. In fact, an effective mental pre-shot routine
Simplifies your thoughts
Makes the game easier
Allows you to think the same for every shot and putt, whether it is to win the Masters or a friendly round with your friends.
We regard the mental pre-shot routine as one of the essentials of a strong mental game. It lends to a very challenging sport….
We have long used the pre-shot routine as an excellent and effective standard for measuring and monitoring skill development in all other parts of your game.
The Three Step Journey to a Great Mental Pre-Shot Routine
To make this fun and easy, start by assuming that you are of two brains. Let’s call the left brain the “thinker/analyzer” and the right brain the “athletic/creator”
Builders take great time and care to ensure a building’s foundations are stable and correct, otherwise the building can’t be developed correctly. So it is with a golf swing. You can identify a good golfer by the way they stand to the ball, likewise a golfer with poor posture is identified as one who limits their potential.