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Get off the range!
By: Andrea Furst (profile)
An opinion piece regarding the lost art of effective golf practice.

An opinion piece regarding the lost art of effective golf practice...

As I spend more time watching golfers practice I am becoming increasingly convinced that the mindless hitting of buckets of balls and excessive analysis of swing mechanics on the range may be contributing to some of the sub-standard performances that players of all levels encounter during competitive golf.

These sub-standard performances are often coupled with emotional battles such as performance anxiety, frustration with the inability to duplicate performance on the range during a round and general helplessness about the game.  A lot of these emotional battles stem from the fact that (a) the range is not the best place to prepare for a round of golf and (b) golfers are not using the range as effectively as they could be to prepare for competitive golf.

The emotional battles described above are not unusual and I often work with clients to help ensure their range practice is effective and efficient.  I encourage them to use range time wisely to tune their technique rather than convincing themselves that ‘practice’ is a function of how many balls they hit.

Cast your mind back to some of my earlier articles (see for example, Make Practice Count, Review Entire Game) where you were encouraged to approach golf as a game with several skill areas working together (i.e., technical, physical, tactical, & mental), or to the preparing to play was enhanced by ensuring that you were meeting the demands of competitive golf through training the skills required for the game in your practice schedule.

The differentiation between practice and technical time remains a key point for this discussion.  Let’s keep it simple and say that practice refers to the training of relevant skills that can be seen when you play a round of golf.

Transfer of practice to competitive results that are indicative of your practice work-rate is likely to be the ultimate goal of most players.  Players want to see that they can successfully ‘show off’ the time and energy that has been dedicated to progressing their games.

Technical time is imperative for fine-tuning that aspect of your game but it is not the only skill that is required to play the game, therefore it should not be seen as the skill that takes up most of your time in your practice schedule.

We know that the brain prefers to revert back to well established habits and when pressed in the heat of battle we want these habits to include thought processes and emotions that promote your optimal level of play.

The range is a great tool for teaching technique and tuning swing mechanics, however it does not prepare you for the game unless you are creating a game-like environment as part of your practice routine on the range.  Practice on the range must therefore incorporate both mental and tactical skills.  If you are a player that dedicates the vast majority of their ‘practice’ time to focusing on your technique, it is likely that you will default to thinking about technique when you play golf.  If you are a player that dedicates the vast majority of your ‘practice’ to mindlessly hitting balls, it is likely that the brain will be overwhelmed when faced with the variety of additional factors involved in playing the game.

Effective practice not only prepares your entire game but provides real data to say that you can do what is required in the game of golf, so that when you are faced with the same or similar circumstances you can draw upon your effective practice to build real confidence in your skills.

The lack of transfer is often clouded by sub-standard competitive performance and the term choking is frequently thrown around golf circles.  Effective practice will help generate immunity against choking.

In Beilock’s book, Choke, she highlights the need to practice under pressure and to practice like you play.  Scientific evidence supports the practical observations that I am making weekly with golf.

So, what does this mean in a practical sense?

It means that the competitive game of golf needs more attention so that you can work out the areas of that require training.  Look at all of the skills you need to play the game and start to simulate a golf game in your practice.  This will inevitably result in more time being spent in the true environment of where you play golf… on the course! 

So, get off the range and prepare to play the game!

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