18Sep, 2012

Practice is a Waste of Time

That’s right! The time you are spending on the driving range is doing nothing to improve your golf game and is simply a waste of your valuable time. Now I know you have been told that the only way to get better at golf is to practice. But the key question here is this – What type of practice do you need to do to really improve your golf game? I can tell you this; it is not what I see the majority of golfers doing on the driving range. What they are doing can only be described as exercise.

Every other sport has practice sessions and scrimmages on the actual playing field. They simulate real game situations so that they can transfer the newly acquired skills into play as quickly and easily as possible. When was the last time during a round of golf you hit 30, 7 irons in a row off, a perfectly flat lie to no specific target and with no consequences based on the results of the shot? I’m not sure how you play but I have never seen a player do that on the course. So why waste your time by practicing that way?

I regularly hear players discussing the fact that they hit the ball great on the range but when they get on the course they can’t perform to the same level. That’s because they are not practicing on the range what they want to do on the course. If you want to play better then you have to learn to practice better.

Golf practice must simulate real, on course experiences if you want to play better. Here are some simple steps that you can implement today to add more value to your practice time:

  1. Target – every shot must be hit to a specific target. Golf is a target game and must be practiced that way. Before you work through your pre-shot routine, decide what your target will be and what will be acceptable in relation to that target. For example, your target may be a flag on a green and acceptable would be for the ball to finish on the green.
  2. Score – you score on the course so it makes sense to keep score when you practice. This does two things for you. Firstly it helps to keep you focused as every ball is important as it contributes to an overall score, and secondly it allows you to track your progress over weeks and months to make sure you are improving.
  3. Consequences – there are consequences for every shot you play on the course. You have to play from where your last shot finished, or take a penalty and play again, but they all have an effect on your overall score. To create this when you practice you can repeat a set of shots until you achieve the desired outcome. For example, using your wedge to chip onto a green and putt out. Repeat this six times from six different locations and to different holes adding up your total score. If you do not meet your pre-set goal you must repeat it until you do.
  4. Variety – it is very rare that you will hit the exact same shot twice in a row on the golf course, so why practice that way? Play each ball with a different club to a different target, and if possible from a different lie.

So if your purpose in going to the range is to get some exercise and fresh air, keep hitting the same club to no specific target over and over again. But if you are tired of mediocrity and you want to play your best golf, start to practice more like you play and you will see a dramatic improvement to your scores.

I hope you enjoyed this post. As always comments are welcome and encouraged. Good Golfing, Derek Hooper.

PS. If you really enjoyed this post, please consider helping me out and spreading the word below. Thanks!

  1. Jamie says:

    When I’m on the range I take my time and hit every shot as if I’m playing a round. I hit my driver, then a middle iron, then my wedge. If I hit a bad drive or approach shot I will change my lie accordingly. I will try to mimic all 18 holes before going out. It works for me, but I’m no expert. Do you think this sort of practice can be helpful, or should I stick with one club for a couple of shots?

    • Derek Hooper says:

      Great job Jamie

      The type of practice you describe is perfect! If more people practiced like this they would play a whole lot better. Hitting multiple shots with one club is good when you are just starting to work on a swing change, but once you start to be able to make the new move with some consistency that is when you should start to change clubs often. Keep practicing the way you are. The only addition I would add is to keep score so you can create some additional pressure similar to what you face on the course. Scoring can be as simple as a point for hitting a fairway and a point for hitting a green in regulation. Keep your total and work to do better next time.

      All the best


  2. Tim Jones says:

    As I mentioned on Twitter, this is a great article that really struck a chord with me (as described in my blog post). I am determined to break 80 this year and realize I need to do things very differently than I have been in the past. I really got tired of hitting balls on the range and not being able to achieve the same results on the course. Your article was a great affirmation of what I was beginning to realize – and the title says it all. Great site and blog and I look forward to being a regular visitor.
    Tim Jones

    • Derek Hooper says:

      Thank you for the kind words Tim. Glad you found the article helpful. Keep up the good work and I am sure you will reach that goal of breaking 80 this year.

      All the best


  3. Cam says:

    Derek – a bit off topic for this post but how important is it to keep my right arm straight (I’m left-handed) throughout the back swing? I struggle with this and it tends to pull me up and off the ball.

    Thanks – and I love your instruction.



    • Derek Hooper says:

      Hi Cam

      Glad to hear you like my instructional articles and videos. From your description it sounds like you may not have the flexibility to keep your lead arm extended and stay in posture. You basically have 2 options:

      1. Only take your lead arm back as far as you can keep it relatively straight. A little bend is OK but only a little. The backswing may be shorter than you think it should be but you will return the club to ball more consistently and thus hit the ball more solid.

      2. See a Physical Therapist and ask for a golf screening. If they don’t know what that is, keep looking until you find one who does. is a great place to search for physical therapists with training in golf. They will help you to increase your flexibility so that you can take the club back further, while keeping the arms fairly straight as well as staying in posture.

      I hope that helps. All the best with your golf game.


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