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Make the Most of Your Practice Time

The Best Golf Practice Regimen

Practice everyday. I mean it. Everyday.

This does not mean you have to go to a driving range or a golf course everyday, but that in some fashion you should hold and swing a golf club every day.  The main purpose of everyday is for a golf club to become as familiar to you as holding a pencil or a toothbrush or a knife and fork.

You can putt in your home or office.
You can chip in your back yard.

You get the idea. No matter where, no matter when, take every opportunity to practice. The best players in the world practice everyday. It's their job. It is what they do each morning.  That they are as good as they are is no accident.  They didn’t wake up one morning as great golfers.  An enormous amount of time and effort went into their success.  By the time someone gets to be a tour player they have probably hit in excess of two million golf balls.  That is the equivalent to hitting 4000 balls per week for 10 years.

I am not expecting you to practice four or five hours. Fifteen minutes is enough. Everyday is the issue. I use learning to walk as an example throughout my teaching.  The point is well taken especially when it comes to beginning to learn to play golf.  Children learning to walk don’t practice for hours everyday.  They practice a little everyday and as they become more proficient they walk progressively more each day, until it becomes the way for them to get to wherever they are going.

More practice, more proficiency, more confidence, more practice, more proficiency, more confidence……and on and on.

The biggest problem you face as a golfer, especially a new golfer, is your inability to reproduce your best results.  Once you have hit one golf ball as you think you should, you think you should do so all of the time.  You’ve done it once, why not over and over again?  Then you become frustrated by your inability to do so.  You become tense and try harder, which leads to worse results which increases your frustration.  Sound familiar?

Quite simply, you cannot consistently reproduce your best results.  If you could, those wouldn’t be your best results, they would be your baseline results.  It is like the bowler who thinks he should always bowl at least his average.  If your average is the least you bowl, it wouldn’t be your average.

Once again, think of  a child learning to walk making a couple of balanced steps for the first time.  This does not make them proficient at walking.  Those first few balanced steps were an exception and are followed by some unsteady steps then someone grabs them or they grab someone or something or they fall down.  To walk steadily all of the time takes time and practice.  If they became frustrated by their inability to achieve their best results and tried to force themselves to do it right, they would take much longer to learn.  Fortunately they do not hold themselves to an unattainable level of expected results.  As long as they receive praise and encouragement they keep trying.  They simply relax and enjoy the process.  If they continue to fail, they just crawl to get from here to there, then try again some other time.

When you practice do this.  Identify the longest reproducible result you can achieve every time you practice.  (It should be somewhere between twenty and eighty yards.)  This is your baseline.  Whenever you begin to struggle in your practice session, go back to this baseline, and stay there for awhile.  Simply, if you can’t do what you want, do what you can.  You will accomplish a good number of things if you can discipline yourself to do this.

First, it is good discipline which will help you manage your emotions while you play.  Losing control of your emotions is disastrous enough when you practice and even worse when you are out on the golf course.  Anger and frustration make it virtually impossible to succeed, which takes away your confidence, which further impedes your abilities.

A typical failure chain.

Second, you will be practicing a shot you will need on the golf course anyway.  Play any golf hole and hit enough shots and eventually you find yourself twenty to eighty yards from the hole.  When you reach this point your next shot should be on the green somewhere.  Nothing in golf is more frustrating than missing the green from this distance.

Third, the swing you make to hit this short distance is contained in the full swing you want to make.  Just as a pitcher in baseball first stretches and soft tosses to start to warm up, you should be taking soft easy swings to get your golf day started.  Once that pitcher is warmed up that soft toss motion exists in his full windup.

This should be the way you structure your practice.  Only plan on hitting as many balls as time allows.  Hitting balls just for the sake of hitting balls is not the best use of practice time.  Give yourself some time to warm up and stretch.  The best golfers in the world don’t go to the range, grab a club and make a full swing.  They stretch first, then begin by hitting some soft wedges, with no specific target in mind.  (Baseline swings.)  From there they will pick targets and gradually build up to fuller swings, constantly trying to maintain the feeling that was those first few wedges they hit.

Most important of all and this should have occurred to you throughout this article.  Be nice to yourself as you practice.  You can be hard on yourself and demanding of yourself, but never be demeaning to yourself.  Think of the teachers you have had.  Which ones did you get the most from?  Which ones did you respect the most?  Which were you most likely to try harder for?  You are your teacher when you are practicing.  Treat yourself as you would like to be treated by others.  Enjoy your practice time.  This is after all recreation.

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