What is a Good Golf Practice Routine?

  • Author:
  • Iain Highfield
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Everyone knows that golf practice is one of the major keys to better golf. But few golfers devote much time to it. Fewer still follow the kind of well-planned golf practice routine which is essential for success.

You’ve probably read about the top pros who supposedly hit a thousand balls a day in their quest for the perfect swing, but how many of us honestly have the time, to follow that example?

Fortunately, scientific understanding of the learning of physical skills has advanced enormously in recent years; and incorporating the following elements into your golf practice will dramatically increase the results you get from even the briefest sessions.

Plan Your Practice

No matter how much or little time you may have available, the key to better golf is to plan your golf practice sessions to make the best possible use of your natural powers of learning.

It may take a little time and effort, but designing golf practice sessions which apply the following principles of learning psychology will significantly accelerate the improvement in your game. 

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The Key Elements

A variety of tasks

Rapid learning depends on the inducing of significant cognitive stress through the performance of a variety of challenging tasks. Mixing (interleaving) different tasks during a session has been shown significantly to accelerate the acquisition and improvement of motor skills.

In the context of golf practice this might mean for example taking several different wedges and a medium iron to the chipping green; then hitting a variety of chips and pitches, from right on the fringe and further out, from good lies and bad.

The top pros don’t waste their time hitting hundreds of identical shots from the same place with the same club, and neither should you.  

Spacing of tasks

In the science of learning it’s now well-established that taking some time between tasks will significantly enhance the effectiveness of a golf practice session. Fortunately, this idea is easy to apply to golf. Simply take the time between each practice shot to go through the same pre-shot routine that you will use on the course.

Naturally this will mean hitting fewer shots than if you were simply firing away with no attention to alignment or target, but this investment of concentration and discipline will be more than repaid in results on the course.    

If it’s at all possible, applying the same spacing principle and splitting your total practice time between several weekly sessions will also help speed your progress.

The optimal challenge point 

Variety and spacing of tasks will enormously improve your practice sessions, but for the best results you should also set yourself specific challenges to provide an objective measure of performance.

Returning to our chipping green example, you might set a target of stopping 10 successive shots within 10 feet of the hole. Adding a variety of clubs and distances will significantly increase the difficulty (challenge point) of this target, as will the incorporation of spacing through your pre-shot routine. 

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Reflection and feedback

The final elements of efficient golf practice are reflection and feedback; in other words using the space between your tasks to evaluate the outcome.

Did your ball finish short of your target or beyond it? Was your ball flight to the left or the right, hooked or sliced, pushed or pulled. You can also get valuable information from your own body: for example, your balance at the end of a swing.

Even if you don’t have access to modern golf training aids, these simple cues will give you tremendously valuable feedback, enabling your natural subconscious learning power to function effectively.

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Game Like Training (GLT)

It’s a common complaint among golfers that they don’t hit it on the course like they do on the range. The main reason for this is simply that their practice sessions do not remotely replicate the physical and psychological difficulties of playing on the course. So underpinning all the elements outlined above is the concept of “Game Like Training” (GLT).

Designing a golf practice routine to be as much as possible like time on the course takes a little thought and planning, but you will be richly rewarded in increased enjoyment and improved performance.