Golf Practice - Make Golf Swing Changes Stick

  • Author:
  • Iain Highfield
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If you’ve been playing golf for any length of time, this is probably a familiar scenario.

You’ve had a golf lesson from your local pro or seen a tip in a book, DVD or online program that seems to apply to your game, so you head to the range to work on it during golf practice.

Trying to swing the club in a different way is difficult at first; you feel awkward, clumsy and likely to mishit even the simplest shots. But with persistence comes improvement. The new movement comes to feel natural and you begin to hit the ball well.

If the change was right for your swing, you’re now hitting it noticeably better than before and you can congratulate yourself on being one of the surprisingly few golfers able to make a significant change in their swing.

The Problem with Traditional Golf Practice

But there’s a problem.

Not only does making golf swing changes in this way require a great deal of time and dedication; any improvement achieved tends to be very short-lived. Under the very different pressures of playing on the course, the natural tendency is to respond to the inevitable missed shot by resorting to familiar swing patterns.

So the key question is how to structure your golf practice so that the swing improvements hard won on the range can be retained under the pressure of playing and competing.

Fortunately the quickest and best way to make golf swing changes is also the best way to ensure that they are permanent.  Effective golf practice is a must if you desire a golf swing change. 

Why not read what the expert has to say on this? Check out Dr Lee's excellent series on changing your golf swing.

The Essential Elements of a Sound Practice Routine 

Recent scientific research into the psychology of learning has clearly established the key elements which must be present in any successful golf practice routine. These can be briefly summarized as variety, spacing and challenge.

Variety during golf practice 

Whether you’re a beginner learning the full swing from scratch, or an experienced player looking to make a change, the aim of practice is to embed the new skill so deeply in the brain that you can reproduce it in a variety of different situations and under pressure.

The first key to this is to practice the skill while undertaking a variety of tasks. You might for example be working on the correct transfer of weight at the start of the downswing. But rather than focusing on this movement with just your favorite club, try doing so while going through all the clubs in your bag. You can also try choking down on the grips, hitting high shots and low shots; and maybe even hitting one-handed.

Spacing during golf practice

Learning a new skill means laying down fresh neural pathways by making new connections between the cells in the brain, and the evidence is clear that this is best achieved by leaving a time interval between practice tasks. In golf this is easily achieved by lining up to a specific target before each and every shot; or better still taking the opportunity to go through a full pre-shot set up.

Challenge during golf practice

An effective golf practice routine will also include an element of performance challenge. This might mean, for example, awarding yourself points for every shot which finishes “on the green”, that’s to say within a set distance of your range target marker.

Put Your Golf Practice in Context

Whether you’re looking to improve your long game, short game or putting, it’s important to include these three elements in each and every practice session. Together they help produce what learning psychologists call “context”.

In layman’s language this simply means making practice sessions as much like play and competition as possible. The more realistic you can make your practice sessions the more transferable will be the skills you acquire, and the more likely they are to survive the switch from range to course.     

Download GLT's FREE Practice Workbooks HERE!