The Perfect Practice

“I can’t seem to get my success on the range to translate onto the course.”

“I practice on a regular basis, but I am not seeing much improvement with my scores.”

Sound familiar?

While the number of hours and swings with a club in your hand should improve your overall game, it does not guarantee rapid, or even consistent, improvement. There are three critical flaws with most players’ practices: lack of organization, insufficient competitiveness, and a deficiency of reality. In other words, their practice time is scattered and random, they practice in order to compete more effectively yet they leave out the competition during practice, and their practices do not resemble what they will face on the course. It is no wonder, then, that their scores don’t reflect their hours on the range.

Here are three practical ways to improve the quality of your practice.

One, become more organized with your practice time. Are you the type that immediately pulls out a driver and hits innumerable tee shots? Or, do you jump from club to club without rhyme or reason? Do you spend less than one-third of your practice time with a putter in your hand? If you offered a resounding “Yes!” to these questions, you need to re-think your practice strategy.

Go to your local office supply store and buy a small notebook. Before each practice, take the time to write down – specifically — what you’re going to work on. Use recent scorecards to determine the areas that need the most TLC. For example, if your average putts-per-round has jumped from 30 to 34 the last four rounds, you should emphasize your putting in practice. The same goes for fairways-in-regulation, ups-and-downs, etc. Your on-course performance should act as the guide to your practice sessions. Connect your previous rounds to your practice through information gathered from recent scorecards and create a practice script BEFORE you begin your practice session.

Secondly, make your practice more competitive. The primary reason that players are generally better at the range than on the course is because there is no pressure to perform during practice. Then suddenly,
a player finds himself over a putt during a competitive round with a nickel, bragging rights, an award, or good ol’ pride on the line and the voices of doubt begin to scream. While it is difficult to completely simulate the pressure of competition while practicing, you can improve your ability to stay calm, focused, and confident during competition by making practice more competitive. Be sure to hit at least one-third of your practice shots using your full routine. Work competition, either with yourself or a practice partner, into every practice session. Tell yourself, “I’ll hit 5 out of 7 of these pitch shots onto the green or I’ll give the range attendant five dollars. Keep a Practice Piggy Bank into which you put your deposits (for lost competitions) and from which you make withdrawals (for won competitions). By placing yourself in the mode where you ”have to perform,” you increase the likelihood of being able to perform when it really counts.

Lastly, use your time at the range to simulate your upcoming round. Play the course. For example, use a blank scorecard that has hole layouts and play each hole, using actual distances, hazards, and obstacles as they will be presented to you on the course. If you miss the fairway that you “see” on the range, you must punch out or move your ball to a rough lie — off the edge of the range tee box — for your next shot. If the layout of your practice facility allows, once you have hit the green, walk over to the putting green and putt out. No gimmes. Make your practice real. And, of course, keep score.

S² Tip

Plan all practices in advance. Compete during practice. Pretend to play the course during your practices.

In Another’s Words…

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action.”

— Napolean Hill, Motivational Writer

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