Are you wasting your time when practicing?

A Typical Driving Range

When I go to a driving range or teach on the range at Hillsborough Golf Club I see many different ways that people work on their game.

I see someone who pulls driver out of the bag as soon as they get to the range and bash balls in all directions in an attempt to hit the ball further.

I also see golfers who work on their game by hitting a huge amount of balls and occasionally stopping to rehearse their new swing position.

But do these practice styles really improve a golfers scores? In my experience they do not. So what is the alternative?

In recent years I have studied the aquisition of Motor skills and how this relates to golf. There have been many papers written regarding skill acquisition which help explain why golfers that spend time practicing do not always see any improvement on the golf course.

Blocked Practice

The golfer who hits buckets of balls at the driving range to the same target whilst occasionally checking their swing positions is performing blocked practice.

This form of practice is ideal for making swing changes but is not a great way to develop a long term skill.

A golfer that practices solely in a blocked form will occasionally play well on the golf course but the form will be short lived because the skill has not been learned deep enough.

So how does the skill get learned deeper?

Random Practice

Imagine getting a series of maths questions:

  • 9 x 9=?

  • 9 x 9=?

  • 9 x 9=?

  • 9 x 9=?

I guarantee you would eventually become very good at finding the correct answer. You would answer it quickly and probably feel very good about your multiplication skill.

Now imagine this series of questions:

  • 3 x 9=?

  • 7 x 8=?

  • 5 x 7=?

  • 4 x 6=?

To start with you would find this series of questions more difficult (performance level would dip) but because you are having to think more deeply your skill in multiplication would be accelerated.

This is a great form of random practice and a fantastic way to develop a skill.

So, going back to our golfer that was hitting buckets full of 7 irons (blocked practice) we can now understand why any improved form would be short lived.

Instead our golfer needs to plan his/her practice properly by including some forms of blocked practice whilst also including some random practice. The result would be a much deeper learned skill and a longer spell of improved golf.

Some of you may be skeptical about this type of practice. I would have found it hard to believe 10 years ago but there is so much evidence that this works and I believe that this could be the b