1 Apr 2004
Golfers know they have to practice in order to improve. Like the old saying goes practice makes perfect.
The problem with this theory is that the practice also must be correct because practice does make permanent.
I often observe golfers who practice a lot, and they are frequently so concerned with the result of the ball flight, they don’t pay enough attention to the swing mechanics they should be working on to make permanent.
Mark is an example of someone who practices this way. He hits balls five days a week and does not improve. I see him falling off balance at the end of each swing, but he is so intent on the golf ball, he is not aware of this. On the course, those swing errors will become magnified.
When a good player practices, they observe the ball flight, but are obsessed with their form. A higher handicap will hit ball after ball without proper form. The better player will often take several practice swings to perfect their form, and then hit a ball.
Mark will say he is a great driving range player but he cannot take it to the golf course. Here is the reason: standing on the range with a bucket of balls, aiming at the same target over and over again, using the same club off of a level lie, will allow him to gain a feel and start to hit repetitive shots.
The golf course is not like this, however. We only have one opportunity each time we hit a golf shot. The aiming angles are different every time. A different club is used every time. The ground is usually not perfectly level, and the grass conditions vary.
Also, there are mental challenges, such as out of bounds on the right, your playing partners watching you, the side bets wagered. All of this adds pressure not felt on the driving range.
The better player alters their targets and club selection to simulate what happens on the golf course. Their focused practice allows them to transfer their swing onto the course and get the desired results.
One of my students is a club champion and she visualizes the golf course in her head, including sand bunkers, out of bounds, and elevation changes. She will simulate playing at least 9 holes during her practice on the driving range. This prepares her for the course and allows her to transfer her game from the driving range onto the golf course.
If you want to play better on the golf course, practice smarter on the driving range.