Golf Practice at Home
Every golfer knows that regular golf practice is essential to making any lasting improvement in their game.
But fitting in a weekly trip to the golf range for some golf practice around work and family commitments, while also finding time to play, can be all but impossible. Then there are the long months of winter in which outdoor practice may be impractical even if the necessary time is available.
So it’s not surprising that many frustrated golfers have taken to setting up their own practice facilities at home. These arrangements can never be a complete substitute for working on the range, but provided that the key principles of productive practice are applied they can be very helpful in the development of lasting skills.
In fact there is one important way in which golf practice at home is complementary and sometimes even superior to golf practice with club and ball on the range.
The Elimination Principle of Golf Practice
This the elimination principle which the renowned teacher, Jim McLean, has made a fundamental part of his approach.
Essentially the idea is to gradually eliminate anything which causes tension in the golfer or any distraction from the essential motor skills which are being learned.
The first distraction to be eliminated is the course. Next is the range; although time on the range and the golf course are indispensable for a serious game improvement program, it also has its drawbacks, principally the temptations to strive for ever more distance and to lift the head too soon because of “ball flight anxiety”.
Hitting balls into a net during golf practice at home eliminates these problems, but the swing is still apt to be spoiled, and learning adversely affected, by the natural impulse to hit at the ball.
Making practice swings without a ball, and then without a club during golf practice allows full focus on the subtleties of the physical movement being learned or practiced and can be very beneficial in accelerating progress.
Effective Golf Practice at Home
Clearly the elimination principle is very applicable to practicing at home, but when thinking about how to plan suitable routines there are several other elements, vital to any effective practice, which must be included.
Briefly summarized, these are variety, spacing and challenge.
All golf practice sessions should as far as possible include a variety of different tasks. This doesn’t mean working on different skills, but using a particular skill in different ways, so for example working on a grip or swing change with a variety of different clubs.
Spacing means that an interval of time should be allowed to elapse between the repetitions of a task (no more un-aimed rapid fire on the range!), making the brain work to embed the learned task in its circuitry.
Challenge means the inclusion of relevant performance targets so that the practice task as far as possible replicates the pressures of playing and competing.
It may not be immediately obvious how these principles can be incorporated into a home golf practice routine, but with a little planning it is certainly possible.
Hitting into a net
If you are fortunate enough to have space for a practice net in your basement, garage or yard, this can be a great way to engage in golf practice. The tension inducing distractions of target and ball flight are removed and it should be easier to focus on the movements of club and body.
Variety can be introduced by using different clubs, and spacing by going through an alignment routine before each shot. Performance targets are admittedly more difficult, but awarding yourself points for the quality of the impact you feel, or how balanced you are at the conclusion of a drive, are a couple of possibilities.
Practice without a ball
If it’s not possible to have a net you can still work on long game motor skills by rehearsing your swing without a ball or even a club.
You can use a mirror for a visual reference and then swing with eyes closed to focus your attention on the feel of the movement and your balance. This in itself will introduce the element of variety. Take time between reps to assess how the movement felt.
The short game and putting
With a little ingenuity even a small yard can be used for practicing chipping into nets or to different targets. Soft balls can be used for safety, and a range of wedges for variety. Use a pre-shot routine to incorporate the spacing principle and set yourself accuracy targets as a challenge element.
Putting can also be practiced very effectively at home; either by using one of the many training aids available or by putting to improvised targets. But it is of course always important to include the essential elements described above.
Tackled in this way, golf practice at home need not be an inferior alternative to the range. It can be a very valuable and even essential part of a regular golf practice routine.
Check out the video below to learn more on Spacing Variability and Challenge