The great Allen Iverson once said, “Listen, we’re sittin here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talkin’ about PRACTICE.” So what does this have to do with your golf practice?
As a golf professional and an avid writer I noticed that we generally write awesome articles about how to fix a slice, or how to change a grip, or read a putt, but very rarely do we ever talk about how to practice. As I give lessons during the day I see hundreds of golfers beating balls without a plan, mindlessly raking ball after ball over to hit it in another crazy direction. This couldn't be further from how you need to practice.
All my students know I’m a stickler for practice, and doing it correctly involves three types of different practice: Block Practice, Skill Building, and Competition/Score Based Practice.
Block Practice is the most common type of practice and generally the only type a lot of golfers tend to do. Essentially, this is the act of working on something and repeating it over and over again until the motion of the feel is ingrained. What I generally like to see from this type of practice is some sort of feedback to allow the golfer to recognize if they are performing the task properly on every swing or repetition.
Example of good block practice: If you are working on your full swing and specifically on a certain piece or part, using alignment rods as obstacles helps the golfer feel the exaggerations necessary and allows them to have immediate feedback on whether the task is being completed properly. One of my favorite drills is to place an alignment rod roughly 15 to 20 feet on the target line to work on starting the ball left or right of the intended target.
This is a much-overlooked aspect of most golfers’ practice sessions. Skill building is the act of taking what you have diligently worked on and applying it to a course-type environment. For example, if you are working on your chipping and pitch shot mechanics during your block practice sessions, you would then go to the practice area and work on up-and-downs from around the green. The key to this is never hitting a shot from the same spot more than once. I will always stress to my students that it's very important during this part of the practice routine to always play the ball down after you drop it and also repeat your entire routine as if you were on the course. The key here is to make sure that you are applying the concepts from your block practice into your skill-building practice; even if the results are not ideal you will get accustomed to performing your new motion and swing thought under a course condition.
My favorite and final practice method is Score Based Competition. This is where you apply your block practice and skill building practice to a game or competition where there is a score and the potential for stress, nervousness, failure to solidify your new skills under playing, and tournament type pressure. The biggest factor in this is there has to be a ramification for not accomplishing your goal. Staying with short game, you can practice 20 up-and-downs from around the green and need a certain percentage of successful up-and-downs. Set a reasonable bench mark and make it increasingly more difficult as you get better. If you are putting, grab a partner and play a 9-hole match to add pressure. If you are practicing on the course, attempt to hit a certain amount of consecutive fairways or greens in regulations.
Adding pressure allows you to be uncomfortable so when you get into a tournament or competitive setting, you can be as comfortable as possible. Follow these practicing guidelines and you will be guaranteed to be playing some of your best golf.
Scott Yurgalevicz is a PGA Teaching Professional at Chester Valley Golf Club in Malvern, Pennsylvania