Developing Good Practice Habits

Every golfer knows that they need to practice in order to improve – that much is obvious.  Golf is a notoriously difficult game, so you aren’t just going to get out of your car and walk to the first tee with expectations of scores in the 60’s or even 70’s.

To play well takes time, effort, and practice, even for the most talented of individuals.

Unfortunately, many golfers who do decide to invest their time and effort into working on their games do so in an ineffective manner.  If you don’t have a clear plan—in other words, a concise practice routine—in place for how to spend your practice time, you are going to wind up wasting your efforts.

It would be a shame to work hard at your game only to get nothing in return, so crafting a detailed plan is a necessary step in this process. Once you know exactly what you are going to do with your time at the practice range you can get down to actually executing the strategy.

The 50/50 Rule for Beginners

If you are just getting started in the game of golf, you need to learn to allocate your time at the practice range properly in order to develop all of your skills.  There are a number of different shots that you must be able to hit in order to shoot good scores, so working on just one part of your game at the range would be a big mistake.  Remember that golf has a way of exposing your weaknesses, so make sure you are strengthening all of your skills as much as possible.

The 50/50 rule is a great way to get started with your first few practice sessions.  This rule states that 50% of your time should be spent on the full swing, with the other 50% allocated for the short game.  Most golfers don’t get anywhere near this ratio, as the average amateur player spends the vast majority of their practice time on the full swing.  The result is that most amateurs have poor short games, in large part because they simply don’t practice this crucial area of the game.

When you arrive at the practice range, decide how much time you have available to practice and then cut that time in half.  So, obviously, if you have an hour available to practice, you are going to spend 30 minutes on putting and chipping and 30 minutes on your full swing.  You can organize those minutes any way you would like, but many players like to start and finish with the short game while sandwiching full swing practice in between.  For example, you could start with 15 minutes of short game, hit balls for a half hour, and finish up with 15 more minutes of short game training.

For those of you out there who are too busy to hit the range on a regular basis (or even those who want to sneak in some extra practices sessions at home), a great idea would be to pick up a portable driving range, such as the RukkNet, to ensure you’re practice sessions stay on a regular schedule.

Short Game Practice Notes

Just spending time on your short game isn’t enough – you need to spend that time wisely.  If you simply stand on the putting green rolling the ball around with no purpose, you really aren’t going to get any better.  To actually see improvement in your short game due to the time you are investing, take the following notes to heart:

#1 Practice Plenty of Short Putts

Missing short putts is the fastest way to ruin your score in a given round, so make sure you dedicate a portion of your putting time to rolling in a bunch of three and four footers.  These might seem like easy putts—and for the most part they are on the practice green—but they can get awful tricky on the course.  By making plenty of them in practice, you will have a high degree of confidence when you face them for real.

#2 Chip from Poor Lies

One of the most common short game practice mistakes made by the average golfer is always chipping from a great lie.  If you only drop your practice balls right in the middle of the short grass, you really aren’t going to test or improve your chipping skills.  Find plenty of bad lies around the practice green and invent new ways to chip the ball close.  This kind of practice won’t be as easy as chipping from the fairway, but it will be far more useful.

#3 Use Your Own Balls

Chipping and putting with range balls is completely pointless.  Hitting good short game shots is all about feel, and you won’t learn any feel when you are hitting cheap range balls that are only designed for durability, not performance—and certainly not for feel.  Be sure to practice your short game with the golf balls that you are actually going to use on the course.

Full Swing Practice Notes

The same thing that can be said for the short game also applies to the long game, that is, you aren’t going to get better if you don’t practice with a purpose.  The following notes will help guide your long game work:

#1 Pick Specific Targets

By far, this is the most important point when it comes to practicing your full swing.  Golf is a target-based game, so you should be working on improving your ability to send the ball toward a specific spot down the range.  Many golfers just stand up on the range and swing away, which does nothing for their control over the golf ball and often only gives a player a false sense of confidence in their swing—this is also why so many golfers don’t understand why they seem to “play better” on the range versus on the course.

#2 Take Your Time

If you have 30 minutes in which to hit some balls, you will be far better off hitting 30 shots at a slow pace than hitting 60 in a rush.  You should be working on the mechanics of your swing, and you can’t do that when you’re firing off golf balls in rapid-fire mode.  Nothing about golf is fast, and when it comes to your practice sessions that’s actually a good thing.

#3 Ignore Distances

As mentioned above, range balls are cheap items that are meant for durability rather than performance.  Therefore, you shouldn’t be judging the distance of your shots on the range in terms of what you can expect on the course.  With an actual (quality) golf ball, you are going to get drastically different results.  Therefore, you should use your distances as ball-park figures only when practicing with range balls.

If you’ve ever been to the practice range at a PGA TOUR event you’ll notice something interesting: PGA TOUR players always use the exact same ball type on the practice range as they do on the course.  That’s right, if a Tour player uses a Callaway ball in their game they can be found using the exact same make and model on the practice range.  This is because the pros know that every ball has different feel and performance characteristics.  Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not suggesting that you use $60/dozen Pro V1’s on the range—that would be just crazy and you’re certainly not a PGA TOUR professional who gets all the free golf balls he wants.  The point here is just to have you understand not to assume that the performance of the range balls you it will equate to the performance of the “real” golf balls you use in your round.

Final Notes on Creating a Golf Practice Routine

Every golfer has their own unique way of practicing, and you will develop your own patterns and habits in time.  Find out what works for you, and what doesn’t, and continue to fine tune your routine until it starts to lead to improved results.