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.
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?
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 biggest single change you could make to your game. So please give it a try.
Example Random Practice Drills
Here are a few random practice drills for you to try.
Around the world putting drill - The picture above shows Dave Pelz performing a great putting drill that teaches you to analyse slopes whilst also adding an element of pressure. You should go through your full pre-shot routine before each putt and note how may putts you hole in a row.
Different slopes - Instead of hitting lots of 7 irons off of a flat lie. A good way to vary your practice would be to hit shots off of sloping lies or out of heavy rough.
9 trajectories - Tiger Woods works on hitting 9 different ball flights when practicing. He will try: Straight (low, medium, high) Draw (low, medium, high) and Fade (low, medium, high). This gives him a greater awareness of clubface control and a deeper understanding of his golf swing.
Sweet spot drill - This drill teaches you to strike the sweet spot but from various starting positions. Set-up with the ball on the heel and try to hit the sweet spot, set-up with the ball way off the toe and try to hit the sweet spot. You can monitor if you are hitting the sweet spot by putting a marker pen dot on your golf ball.
Random ball positions - This is a great drill if you struggle with fat/heavy shots. You should try crazy ball positions and try to get the correct strike. For example, put the ball opposite your front foot and try to get a downward strike.
Random stance positions - This gives you great awareness of how to get the club back to the ball. Try hitting shots with a really open stance towards a defined target. Mix this up with a closed stance.
Random grip changes - Normally a strong grip would procuce a hook but this random practice drill involves you trying to hit a fade with a strong grip and a hook with a weak grip. Always aiming for the ball to land in a defined target.
These Random Practice games/drills are ideally used as part of a structured practice plan. If you would like to discuss a more structured plan for your practice, please contact me here