Tell me if you’ve ever experienced this scenario: You head to the range intent on working on your game. You’re going to practice and really dial in your swing. The next thing you know you’ve pounded an entire large bucket of balls, your hands are sore and your body is aching and you haven’t really done much to improve your game. But boy did you practice!
Sound familiar? If you’re like most golfers, you have great intentions when you head to the range, but something falls through in the execution. You want to really improve your game but you just end up pounding ball after ball after ball.
In all likelihood your practice lacks purpose and direction. Without a proper plan and purpose to your practice sessions you’ll probably keep going around in circles without making much progress. So how do you fix that? How do you develop a plan for your golf game and practice sessions?
First of all, you need to know your game. You need to analyze your recent rounds. Are you tracking your rounds to know where your strengths lie? Do you know your weaknesses? Most people think they do, but they end up pounding drivers on the range for an hour. The next time you’re playing a round of golf, or immediately after, do a little analysis of the round. Track how many fairways you hit in a round, how many greens in regulation are you hitting? How many putts per round do you have on average? Do you have any idea what percentage of the time you get up and down when you miss the green?
Once you’ve started to track your stats for a few rounds (if you’re very technical you can create a spreadsheet to keep track fairly easily) you will begin to see patterns in your game take shape. You hit 12-13 fairways on average per round, but only hit 5-6 greens in regulation? You need some work on your mid-irons and approach shots. You hit 12-14 greens in regulation but average 36 putts per round? You need to be spending a LOT more time on the putting green.
Take a look at your stats based on your actual rounds, this will show you where your practice time should be spent. What do you think the worst part of most players game is? (Hint, it’s not their drivers!)
The average golfer has 36 putts or more per round, and yet how many players will hit a bucket full of drivers before they’ll spend thirty minutes on 6-footers?
Know your weaknesses before you head to the range. Couple that with how much time you have to practice and you can begin to see a practice plan take shape. Spend the bulk of your time focusing on your weaknesses, not your strengths.
No matter what your strengths or weaknesses may be, every session should include time spent on your short game — without fail. The short game is by far the most neglected area of most players’ games, and usually the place where the most strokes are lost. Coincidence? We tend to spend the most time on the things we enjoy, and we enjoy what we’re good at. However, in order to truly see improvement in our games, we must focus on making our weaknesses our strengths.
If you can start to formulate this plan and create a purpose for your practice, I recommend doing so immediately. The increased awareness and ability to focus on certain areas of your game will be a huge benefit. If this seems daunting, or you’re not sure where to start, ask your PGA Professional for some help designing a strategy with you. It’s not about the quantity of practice time, it’s about the quality. If you know where you need to practice you can get the most out of your sessions and see the biggest improvements.