Practicing the right way

Going to the range to hit some balls is a good way to knock the rust off of your swing. However, is your definition of practice going to the driving range and hitting the large bucket of balls with just your driver? Well unless you are trying to compete for the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship, then you are probably not practicing the right way and may end up making your swing worse. The old adage, “practice makes prefect” is only accurate if what you are practicing is correct. For example, if your desire is to eliminate that slice off the tee and you go out and end up manufacturing a swing by hitting ball after ball until you can hit the ball straight, you may very well may end up hooking all your other clubs.

The first place to start is to get personal instruction in order to show you the right way to swing the club. By going out and hitting ball after ball with your current stroke, it will only reinforce that movement as it becomes engrained in your mind. This is why the professional golfers are as good as they are because they start out with proper instruction and then are disciplined enough to practice that swing through repetition until it becomes second nature. Unfortunately, so many of us practice a bad swing and end up only with bad habits. Just remember, a lesson is about what one round of golf will cost and will eventually pay dividends later on down the road if you are able to lower your score and enjoy the game that much more.

When you are with the instructor, ask him or her if your equipment looks correct for you. If not, there is no good reason to practice by compensating from ill-fitted equipment. In this case, make sure to get fitted correctly before investing into a long series of lessons. In addition, practice can be frustrating at times. You may find that you are not improving
immediately or as fast as you would like. This is natural as the golf swing is a complex movement of many parts requiring muscle memory. So it may require taking one step back to go two steps forward as long as you continue to practice what was taught instead of reverting back to your old swing.

Here are some helpful tips to make the most of your practice:

Make it fun
If you treat practice as work, it will end up feeling that way and you won’t get the most of your time. Even if you don’t have time to go to the range to practice, you could try chipping or pitching the ball into a bucket in your own back yard.

Build confidence
If you are at the range with that large bucket, start out by hitting an iron (or favorite club) you know you can hit well. This will give you confidence that can carry over to the rest of the clubs. Just remember, that same swing that let’s say you hit your 7-iron well is the really the same swing as what you need to make with every club in you bag (well, except maybe the putter).

Mix it up
Just don’t hit you favorite club, try mixing what club you hit and try different shots. You may want to see what happens when you move the ball forward or back in you stance. Keep good notes as well. Writing down your results in a little journal or scrap piece of paper can be helpful the next time you are out on the course.

Work on alignment and distance
It is very easy at a range to just flail away at each shot as you usually have a large open area. However, make the most of your time by aiming at a flag or other focal point. You may also want to ask the operator at the range if the tees are up or back if the flags or signs have yardage markers associated with them. Pay close attention to the wind direction
as well, just the same as you would have on the course. If you are hitting the ball more right than normal, it very well could be a strong cross-wind and not your swing.

Take your time
Keep that same pre-shot routine as you would on the course. You don’t get bonus points for hitting all the balls in x-amount of time.

On the green
This may not be an option at a range, but certainly it is prior to heading off to the course is to spend time on the practice putting green. Don’t just practice long putts. Try making those that are 3 feet and in by dropping a few balls around the hole. Once you can make a high percentage of these, then you can practice those 10-footers.

Read a book
If it is raining or cold outside, what better way is there to practice improving your game?

The game of golf is not only physical, but mental as well. One on this author’s favorite reading list is “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” among others by renowned sports psychologist and golf expert Dr. Bob Rotella.

Make the most of your practice time to truly make a difference in your game. From using the same pre-shot routine on the course, to aiming at a specific target, building confidence with your swing (even on the green) is all part about a good practice regiment. But most important is to make practice a fun event.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director