How to practice
By T.J. TOMASI
If you don’t practice, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll improve your golf. Most golfers don’t have the time to play a round every day. The average golfer is lucky to get out once every two weeks or so.
So how can you keep a semi-sharp edge with all this time off? Steal the odd 30 minutes once a week to practice, and if you do it right, you’ll see some positive results.
Practicing has six basic goals, and you can use them in any combination that seems good to you on a given day, depending on how much time you have or what type of mood you’re in. Just make sure to pursue one type at a time.
1. Warming up: Every practice session, even if it lasts only 10 minutes, should include some type of warm-up. One good exercise is to swing two clubs back and forth slowly to get loose — and the emphasis is on “slowly.”
2. Syncing fundamentals: No matter your level of play, you need to practice fundamentals like grip, stance and posture, then integrate them into a coherent whole so that when you think “fundamentals,” you think of them as a unit rather than individual items on a checklist. Sync the fundamentals by working on timing, i.e., a flow of fundamentals that blend to create a swing.
3. Target orientation: In this type of practice, you work on hitting shots to a designated target, focusing only on the target. Of course, prior to striking any ball, you should work through your entire pre-shot routine, including the very powerful element of visualization. The point here is that when you are target-hunting, there are no mechanical swing thoughts.
4. Practice as if you’re playing: Play a round of golf on the practice range, using your imagination to lay out the course. For each shot, go through your pre-shot routine, then hit the shots required given the situations you create in your mind.
5. Fault correction: This type of practice involves fixing a piece of your swing that’s broken, i.e., your grip is too weak, causing a slice, or you’re coming over-the-top and pulling the ball.
6. Hit balls because you like to: Many golfers like to hit balls just because it’s fun. Here you set no goals and there are no failures, just the enjoyment of hitting the ball and watching it fly.
Insider Takeaway: With all types of practice, the goal is to “achieve then leave” (ATL). Years ago, I was on the practice tee when Jack Nicklaus finished his round. With the crowd jostling for position to watch the great man practice, he hit only five shots with his 3-iron, then left. The mini-practice session occurred because during the round, he had hit a less-than-perfect 3-iron, and this was his ATL session.