Category Archives: practice

How to Practice Impact

Golf is hard. You have to swing a club back behind your head, then around in front of you again so that the clubface has perfect geometry when it meets the ball while travelling at at least 80 mph. For some you, 100 mph or more.

Since the only part of the swing that really counts is when the clubface meets the ball, you get good at that by practicing just that. Here’s how I do it.

With a 7-iron in my hand, I’ll take the club not even halfway back. The shaft is still short of being parallel to the ground.

The important thing is for the sole of the clubhead, as you turn your head to look at it, to be pointing a bit up and to the left (not straight up and down!). This is the sign that the clubface is still square to the clubpath.

Now swing the club gently forward and through the ball, making sure of two key points. The hands lead the clubhead by just a bit. Don’t overdo it.

And, the sole of the clubhead strikes the ground for the first time about an inch in front of, that is, to the target side, of the ball. Look at that spot before you take away the club, and keep looking at it throughout the swing.

And this swing is slow. No rushing, no trying to “hit” the ball. Just swing the club with good rhythm and hit the ground in front of the ball.

I think once you have this figured out you will be very pleased with the way the ball launches off the clubface and into the air, and flies straight away from you.

Do this again, and again. You are practicing the feel of how the club moves through the impact zone. Note: not “how you move the club,” but “how the club moves.” That’s a big distinction.

After a couple dozen successful shots, try a longer swing, at the same speed, with that same rhythm, taking the club back the same way, and aiming for the ground one inch in front of the ball, hands ahead of the clubhead.

Good shot? Good! Now do the drill a couple dozen more times before you take another full swing. Etc.

What and How Recreational Golfers Should Practice

What to practice:

Learn to make contact on the center of the clubface consistently.

Learn how to get on the green in one shot from under full-swing distances.

Learn how to hit chips/approach putts to one-putt range.

Get good at sinking 4-7 foot putts. These are the ones that good putters sink and poor putters don’t.

How to practice:

Measure the attention given to each one by balls hit, not by time spent. For example if your full swing practice is built around skill-building, it might take a half hour, at least, to hit 30 balls. You can hit thirty 4-7 foot putts in well under 10 minutes.

This professional practice plan shows you how this practice concept works in full.

Practice the Parts, Not the Whole

A few years ago I posted a video lesson titled, How to Get Good at Golf. This is probably the most important post I have ever made.

The point I made is that a golf stroke is the sum of its parts. To learn the swing, you have to learn its parts and how they fit together.

Practicing swing after swing as a whole does you no good.

In my video essay, Six Fundamentals of the Recreational Golf Swing, I described in detail six features of a functioning recreational golf swing.

At the range, and in my back yard, I practice them, and a few other movements that are specific to me. I practice each one by itself, to reinforce each one in my unconscious mind’s concept of golf swing movement.

I also practice them individually because several of them are not my natural inclination. I get lazy and my swing starts failing because one or the other gets left out.

But because I practice them so much and am so familiar with them all, it’s easy for me to notice which one is missing, so just a few reminder swings makes my swing whole again.

So, again: your task is to figure out the movements that make your swing work, what your fundamentals are, and practice each one, by itself, over, and over, and over.

That’s how you get good. And stay good.

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.