Category Archives: practice

Acquire Positive Habits at the Range

There’s a lot to think about when you’re playing golf. The less you have to think about, the better it will be for you.

That means making as much as you can automatic. I know that every so often you play less than your best because you forgot to do something important in hitting your shot.

The way out of that lapse is to practice shotmaking habits when you go to the range. This is what I mean.

There’s a ball in front of you. Before you swing at it, check your grip, aim yourself and check your aim, check your ball position, check your posture. EVERY TIME. It takes only a few seconds to do this, and by going through this procedure before every range ball, you take one step closer to not forgetting to do it when you play.

If you have a practice swing technique you rely on, do that, too.

By doing this sixty times before you hit sixty balls, the same way every time, you build habit. You’ll eventually do it right without even thinking about it. That’s your goal.

Or when you putt on the practice green, do the same thing. Before you hit any putt, line it up. Get a feel for the distance, however you do that.* Check your grip. Check how far away from the ball you stand. Check the width of your stance. Check your posture. Check your aim. Check the alignment of the putter’s face. There might be some more things for you. There are for me, but they are personal, so I won’t go into them.

The point is to go through the whole procedure before any shot to build up the habit. All of it is automatic so all you have to think about is hitting the ball into the fairway/green/hole.

I’m not forgetting the short game, but you should be able to fill in that blank on your own.

Another way of looking at this is that automatic features of your game keep you from straying from what works. We get lazy, we forget. Then you aren’t playing well and you can’t figure out what went wrong.

Every time you go the range practice your shotmaking procedures constantly. The little things. You will never get to the point where you can stop doing this.

*Read my distance finding method called Triangulated Approach Putting.

My Day At the Range

I went to the range a few days ago and hit a medium bucket of balls. I got a lot of things done.

Then I went to the practice green. There must have been about fifteen other guys on the range, but I walked onto the practice green alone.

And I stayed there alone until I went home about 45 minutes later.

Happens all the time. Like it’s my private practice green. I just don’t get it.

A Day at the Range – One More Thing

In 1965, I was watching the U.S. Open on television. I remember watching Gary Player, who won the championship that year, hit a 6-iron from the fairway. What came across so clearly, to a 14 year-old kid, was that he was putting every bit of golf knowledge he had ever acquired, every practice ball had ever hit, every 6-iron he had ever hit, all that had been done so he could hit this one shot.

That is grinding. That’s how you play the game.

How do you learn to do that?

By taking every practice shot seriously. From the practice tee, to chipping, to putting, make very practice shot count. Visualize what you want to have happen, then do everything you can to make it happen.

Never touch club to ball without having that intention in mind.

This how you create a positive habit that comes out when you play.

A Day at the Range

…well, not an entire day, more like 90 minutes, but you know what I mean.

1. Swing practice. Practice hitting the ball straight. I say that because that is really all you can practice. Unless you are under the guidance of an instructor, it is very hard to practice hitting the ball farther. Most likely your attempts will take you in the opposite direction.

Missing the green to the right or left is what you want to take out of your game. If you’re always too short, solve that problem by using more club or move up a set of tees.

Start out hitting some decent 9-irons. Now use that swing with the rest of the clubs you hit to hit the ball straight. The longer shaft and lower loft will send the ball farther.

2. Practice the things that make your swing work. Practice the parts. Put them together and hit a ball. Repeat many times.

3. Save about 20 balls and practice hitting long chips/short pitches, whatever you want to call them, of 15-40 yards. This is the shot pros are insanely good at and that we are insanely bad at. And it’s not that hard to get good at it if you practice. Down in two from that distance is an attainable goal you should have for yourself.

4. Green reading. I read putts from about 30-40 feet behind the ball. That way, you can see the overall tilt of the green very easily. You can sees slopes in ground that up close looks flat. I even look at two-footers this way. You can miss two-footers if you think they all go straight in.

5. Green reading. I start by imagining where the putt would go if I hit it straight at the hole. I follow it across the green in my mind and notice how far to the left or right I think it will pass by the hole. My aim point then is that distance on the other side of the hole—if my mind’s eye sees it miss three inches to the left, I start the putt three inches to the right.

6. Watch this Phil Mickelson putting video. Was he says to do WORKS.

Take Your Course Game to the Range

Yesterday I went out to play nine holes. That might not sound like an earth-shaking statement, but because my immune system is compromised I haven’t played, except for a few rounds on an executive course, since February of last year.

I have been practicing all along, and can hit the ball pretty well, but that is different than playing. Which is the subject today’s post.

What I have been practicing are the mechanics the swinging the golf club, chiping, and putting. But I had not been practicing the act of making a golf shot. Those are two very different things.

When we complain that we can’t play like we practice, not understanding that difference, I believe, is the likely cause.

When we hit a shot on the golf course we have to pay attention to these things:
– Focus our mind what we are about to do
– Decide where we’re going to hit the ball to
– In many cases, decide how we’re going to hit it
– Decide which club we’re going to use
– Set up: grip, aim, stance, posture, ball position
– And finally, hit the shot.

Do you practice all of that at the range? Or just the last one, hitting one ball after another?

If practice is just ball-striking, we are not preparing ourselves to play the game.

Yesterday I hit five bad shots that turned a 40 into a 46. None of them were the fault of bad ball-striking. The fault was in not paying attention to the things that surround ball-striking, because I hadn’t practiced them enough.

I know how to do everything on that list. But I had not practiced doing those things enough, and in sequence, so they had become habits. I would forget to do one or two, or not do them correctly.

If you just want to go out and bat the ball around and have fun in a pleasant surrounding with your friends, go right ahead. There is value in that.

But if you want to shoot low scores, you need to practice in such a way that you make a habit of all of golf. Not just the hitting-the-ball part.

A Half Hour at the Range

(…or thereabouts)

I went to the range today, to work on hitting the ball on the center of the clubface. That’s not something you just do. You do a lot of things right and then you get that result.

So the two right things I made sure I did were to have my hands ahead of the clubface at impact, and swing with the right rhythm and tempo for me.

I bought a bucket of 33 balls. I had brought a 52-degree wedge and a 6-iron.

I started off with the wedge, hitting with a half swing. I made about four or five practice strokes before I hit a ball. After hitting three balls, I sat down to take a break. I figure that if you keep hitting ball after ball you fall into a groove and stop concentrating. Learning stops.

After having hit about fifteen balls, I picked up the 6-iron and went through the same thing—lots of practice swings, hands, rhythm and tempo. The first shot was fabulous, the second shot was awful because I got ahead of myself, so I reined in my mind and hit two more beauties.

That was enough so I gave the rest of the bucket to someone else. When you’ve accomplished was you set out to do, there is no point in going on.

Over to the practice green, where I was all alone as I usually am there. I hit four chips with the 52 to a target 9 yards away, which is the calibrated chipping distance for that club. Then I went out with my putter and putted them out.

Putting practice: one three-footer (dead center), one 30-footer using TAP (the ball stopped one foot past the hole), and it was time to call it a day.

It had been 117 degrees in Salem the day before, and even though it cooled down to 91 today, that’s till too hot for me.

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I’ve been coming up with some new things I have never seen before that are working out well, so I’ll be making videos to share them with you.

NOTE: A Basic Golf Swing is now available that develops the comments below in full, and more, in both words and video.


Golf Practice Needs to Be Specific

When I practice, I practice the things that make the shot work. Just a few.

Right now, my swing things are to have a wider stance at address (it was too narrow), swing the club away with my forearms (not my hands), start down at the same speed I came up (a constant struggle), turn fully (I get too arm-oriented and forget to do this), and keep my tempo under control (everybody’s weak spot).

Those are the things that if I don’t do them seem to be what fouls up the shot, so I’m working on them a lot until they become my habits.

I practice them, one at a time, adding the next one on until I am satisfied with the way that they are all functioning correctly and then I hit a ball.

Repeat 29 times.

Maybe a year from now there will be something else that is causing me problems so I will work on that.

Find yours. Work on them. Don’t just go the range to hit balls. Work on something specific.

A productive practice plan

One of the things I was told as a beginning blogger is one way to find material to post is to “re-purpose” material you have already written. In other words, plagiarize yourself.

There’s a lot of good stuff on the blog that is hard to find because there is so much on it. This then is the first of a series of reprints that feature the cream of the lot.

Today’s reprint is an item I wrote several years ago about my practice plan. I used this plan back then to maintain a very good level of golf.

The routine takes about an hour and a half. If you can do it twice a week, you will soon notice the improvement.

Hitting golf balls off mats

If for some reason your driving range provides only mats, do not hit golf balls off the mat. Hit them off a tee.

In my experience, I hit the ball much better–straighter and more accurately–off grass than off an artificial surface.

The reason, I am guessing, is that the price of a mishit on a mat is the shock of hitting it when I hit fat even a bit (and we all do that, don’t we). I don’t like that. It doesn’t feel good. So I unconsciously end up swinging not to develop my ball-striking skills, but to avoid whacking the hard mat.

The only price I pay for hitting a bit fat on grass is being somewhat chagrined.

The rubber tees at driving ranges are all tall ones designed for hitting your 460cc driver. Get a short one, maybe 1½ inches, and bring it with you. It will poke its little head through the mat just enough to lift the ball off the ground but not so much that you’ll hit the ball too high on the clubface.

The most difficult challenge this game presents to us is the ground. If you take the ground out of play, you can concentrate on what you’re there for–improving your swing–and not to avoid uncomfortable contact with a hard mat.

Speaking to that point, I would suggest using a tee even if you do hit off grass at the range.

But maybe all this is just me.

Please don’t avoid trying this idea because you think it’s cheating, though. Nick Price wrote a book on how he developed his golf swing. In it he said he hit a lot of 7-irons when he did it. Off a tee. That encourages you to swing through the ball and not worry about picking it off the ground.