If you want to play better golf then you are going to have to practice. The question you should be asking yourself now is – How should I practice to get the biggest return for the time I invest?
There are essentially two types of practice and neither of them is the type you do when you purchase a bucket of range balls and bang them all with your driver. That is exercise. Now working on your game can be both physically and mentally tiring, but the improvement in your game will be obvious if you do it correctly.
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Blocked practice is defined as when a student repeats the same set of movements over and over again. This practice is what you must do when you are working on making a swing change or learning a new skill.
It is characterized by starting with many slow swings. There is no target to aim at, there is no ball flight to consider, because at the start there is no ball. You are simply trying to learn how to move the club differently, to match new feels with the new swing pattern. You are trying to learn a new swing.
Once you can make the move correctly at slow speed and without a ball, only then can you add a little speed to the motion. It may take you a few weeks and several thousand repetitions before you are ready to add more speed, but it is critical not to rush through that initial learning stage. Adding speed too soon is sure way to fail at making an effective swing change.
Once you can perform the new move perfectly at slow speed, you can then add a ball. Now at this point I do not care where the ball goes. I simply want you to be able to perform the new skill with a golf ball in the motion. Correct form, contact and airborne are the only goals at this point. As the motion gets easier with a ball at slow speed, we then add a little more speed and I would expect to see some consistency with the ball flight.
At this stage we are a several weeks into the swing change and are ready to move onto the next practice stage.
Random practice is defined by performing a similar skill in a random variety of situations and thus avoiding multiple, identical repetitions. For golf, this is a lot like what you do on the golf course, and is far removed from what the majority of players do when they practice their game.
By this time you have learned the new skill, or swing change and can repeat it consistently. It is now time to increase the learning of the new skill further so that you can perform it on call under a variety of situations, just like you will need to on the golf course. The way to do this on the range is fairly simple.
For every shot you hit in the range you must follow these steps.
- Identify your target including the distance of the shot
- Choose the appropriate club
- Use your normal, full, pre-shot routine including practice swings
- Execute the shot
- Assess the shot and collect feedback
- Choose a different target and start again
This type of practice is far closer to what you are asked to do on the course and as such will allow you to more easily carryover your new skills to when you next play.
So the next time you want to work on a swing change, don’t simply move into Random Practice. Take the time to thoroughly learn the new skill first. This will give you the best opportunity to be successful and thus shoot lower scores.
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