Mastering the Basics of Practice
Most golfers don’t set up their practice sessions in a way that will help retain and transfer skills to the golf course. This may even (and likely is) the birthplace of the all-too-common phrase, “I can’t take my range game to the golf course.” More often than not, golfers simply go through the motions during practice, hoping that something works and sticks.
Fortunately for golfers of any age and ability, setting up a basic practice session is one of the easiest tasks to do. All that is required is a slight adjustment to the aspects of your game you would most like to improve.
I call it the Top Two, which are two vital components to making practice useful.
The first component is making sure there is more than 1 task, and that those tasks require using more than 1 golf club.
The second component is having more than 1 place (environment) to practice the more than 1 task the golfer has set out to accomplish.
A practical example:
Task 1: Working on putting distance control by having Golfer A hit from the middle of the putting green. With their eyes closed, he or she must make the golf ball roll within a putter length of the fringe of the green.
Area= Putting green
Task 2: Working on pitching, Golfer A has 6 different distance targets symbolized as small bunkers. The goal is to hit one golf ball into each target bunker; however, Golfer A has only 1 chance. If Golfer A misses the target, it is recorded as a miss for that shot.
Area= Right hand side of the practice ground
Task 3: Working on tee shots, Golfer A must hit the golf ball from left to right and a certain height in the air. Golfer A has 5 attempts and must judge his or her success on the number of shots that peak above X height and move from left to right X amount.
Area= Left hand side of the practice ground
Why Practice in such a way?
Setting up a basic practice like this provides the interference necessary for golfers to remain in the cognitive and associative stages of learning. It also allows the context of the multiple environments to help shape the acquisition of the skills being learned during the practice. Remember that learning is very specific, which means the environment must represent the real time playing environment for maximum transferability of those skills. The environment's role is vital in this process, and it must provide varying levels of unpredictability.
Try setting up a practice like the one above. You’ll see a lasting benefit when you need to produce those skills in a tournament.