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One Reason Most of Us Don’t Get Any Better at Golf

I am so guilty of this and I believe this is the one thing that stands in the way of most players jumping to the next level.  I came to this realization over the weekend after I participated in our club championship.  The two women who finished (way!) ahead of me, practice religiously.  While it doesn’t help that one is a former state amateur champ and a collegiate player and the other is a former collegiate coach and mini-tour player and that I have over 20 years + on them, the fact is that like all of the women who are really good at this game I realize now that they all practice.  A LOT.     

I don’t.  (I’m busy, I say.)   

I see the PGA and LPGA tour pros at our course, several of the best women in the world, including Inbee Park and Danielle Kang, practicing away.  It’s not so much their long games but more their putting and short games they work on.  I see this as I am going out to PLAY.  Frankly, I don’t see them playing much.

I know, I know.  You are saying to yourself now “I don’t have time to practice, Tracey.  If I have time for golf, I’m going to play.”  Maybe you will also say practicing is “boring”.  I understand.  I can fill my days with everything BUT having a practice session (cooking, cleaning, dogs, family, working out, and PLAYING GOLF, PLAYING GOLF and PLAYING MORE GOLF).

Think about this:  the fact is, you aren’t improving or maintaining any skill in your life that you have not practiced consistently.  It could be you practice singing, playing a musical instrument, making a speech, giving a sales pitch.  Why would golf, a game we know to be tremendously difficult, be any different?  It isn’t.  It requires practice.  Yet, most golfers don’t really practice. That’s why the data reveals nearly all have the same handicap five years after they take up the game as they do 10 and 20 years later.

I see my coach every week without fail.  He’s told me consistently that I need to practice.  I admit I am addicted to the quick fix.  My coach, Mario Bevilaqua, and I sat down and discussed all of this today.  We agreed I was probably playing upwards of twice as much as I “should”.  This year I have played more than 100 rounds to date.  Insane, especially considering the COVID layoff.  Somebody asks me to play, I say yes.  If I were to commit to practicing my swing and my short game, particularly my putting, I know it would hold up better under pressure and be there when I tire later in the round. 

So the question becomes what is the best way to practice that doesn’t waste time and is likely to provide the greatest amount of benefit.  

Warming Up Is Not Practicing

First, many articles point out there is a difference between warming up and practicing.  Warming up is just that.  It’s a routine you create to get loose before you play.  Stretch, hit balls with various clubs for a period of time, chip a few, putt and head to the first tee.

Practice is entirely different.


Keys To Successful Practice

  1. It’s not about how much time you put in but how you practice that matters. You won’t improve spending two hours pounding every club in the bag.  Spend 30-45 minutes a session.  My goal is to practice three times a week. 
  2. Have your sessions dedicated to one of your weaknesses.  It might be putting, a shot over a bunker onto the green, it might be bunker shots, it may be certain length pitch shots or chips, possibly your driver.  Those are the key areas most of us need to improve. (For some players your pro may suggest working on something in your full swing.  The key is to ask for help in structuring practice sessions best for you but see below for some ideas if you’re not sure.)  
  3. Spend 60-70 percent of your sessions on the short game, putting and hitting shots within 30 yards of the green.  That’s where the vast majority of your shots occur.
  4. Never hit a shot without first selecting a target.  A target is not some generalized area but a specific spot where you want the ball to land or roll across.  The smaller your target, research shows, the narrower your shot dispersion.

If you don’t know where to start, below are a few links on different ways to practice:

The 15 Best Golf Practice Games

Daniel Berger:  How To Practice Golf Like A Professional

A Foolproof Routine to use When You Only Have One Hour to Practice

Playing less and using the time to practice are going to be a challenge for me.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress in a future post.


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