Everyone likes to practice but not everyone’s practice leads to improvement. In almost 20 years of teaching I’ve found that it isn’t just practicing that makes you better. It’s HOW you practice. Many people wonder, “Why can I do it on the range and not on the golf course?” Well, what exactly WERE you doing at the range? Firing off 100 drives without a target, maybe?
When you go to practice there should be a purpose to what you’re about to do with those 100 balls. Is the practice short game based? Is it putting that’s causing you to lose strokes? Or maybe it’s bunker shots? Some people have trouble with uphill/downhill/side hill lies on the course but do we ever practice them? Yet we expect to hit a good shot when faced with that situation on the course. I don’t think so!
Your first step is to figure out what area of your game needs the most work or what area you have the most questions about. That’s your focus during a practice session.
Here are some simple things you can practice at the driving range that will help lead you to better outcomes on the golf course.
Get your 100 balls and warm up with some short wedge shots and then a few mid iron shots. Now you’re ready for your main practice.
Pitching & Chipping Practice – The Ladder Drill
Hit a ball 10 yards, then 20 yards, then 30 yards, etc, all the way out to a full wedge distance. For some that might be 60 yards and for others it might be 100 yards. Then work your way back to the 10-yard distance.
See if you can transition from ball to ball the distance you want it to go. On the course you’re never the same distance from the target each time so you need to practice shortening and lengthening your swing to accommodate those distances. I see many people having difficulty making smaller swings when they get near the green. That’s because golfers practice way more full shots than they do half swings.
Putting Practice – Distance & Direction
To practice putting productively, separate it into 2 categories – distance putting (lag putting) and directional putting.
Try putting a 30 foot putt to the edge of the green and see how close you can come without hitting the fringe. Try it with any number of balls. Taking the hole out of the equation works well for people because you’re not trying for a hole, just for distance.
Lay 2 clubs down parallel to each other, just wide enough so your putter fits in there. Place the clubs in the direction you want to putt and not more than 15 feet from the hole. You want to swing your putter in this path to better guide your stroke to the hole. You will make a lot of putts this way so don’t be surprised!
On the course if a player is unsure of what she’s doing as she stands over a ball, her chance of hitting it correctly are about zero. She’s not committed to the shot she’s about to hit. If she’s practiced that situation, purposely at a range or with the guidance of an instructor, she will have the confidence to hit it successfully. Now THAT’S fun!