Swing technique, training aids, instruction, fitness, strategy... the list goes on and on. One can get lost in the pursuit of dialing in your golf game. The fact that you visited this website implies that you are looking to improve, and when it comes to getting better, the importance of quality practice can be overlooked.
As Allen Iverson once said, “We talkin about practice.”
We, at Golf Blueprint, are excited to kick off a series of articles for Practical Golf focused on practicing more effectively. In this installment, we'll focus on four common mistakes we see golfers making during their practice sessions.
What is Golf Blueprint?
Before we get into the mistakes, we should first introduce ourselves and why you should (potentially) listen to us!
Golf Blueprint was founded by Dr. Kevin Moore and (soon to be Dr.) Nico Darras. Kevin Moore has a Doctorate in Applied Mathematics and Psychology, and Nico Darras is finishing up his Doctorate of Education focusing on adult learning theory.
As academics, the Golf Blueprint team has used their decades of research and applied them to golfers looking to improve their game. As golfers, Dr. Kevin Moore played Division I collegiate golf and most recently competed in the 2018 U.S. Mid Am. Nico Darras picked up the game of golf at 22, and a year later was a scratch golfer. He now competes on the Outlaw mini-tour in Arizona.
We’ve found that practice, if done intentionally, and with structure, produces significant results without a major time investment.
Overall, we draw on our analytics, education, performance, and psychology expertise to build data- and research-driven improvement plans tailored to each golfer's game.
In fact, our Golf Blueprint Members have seen a 2.7 stroke improvement in just 3 months of using our program.
But enough about us, let's talk about you. The most common complaint we hear from golfers is that they don't see any meaningful returns on time invested on the practice range. Here are the most common practice mistakes we see.
Not Having a Plan to Improve
A golfer walks onto a range. Does this sound familiar to you?
OK, grab a wedge and hit a few balls to loosen up...Ok, now I guess I should hit a short-iron. 8-iron, let’s hit that; I like my 8-iron. What was that move I found last time on the course?... Alright, I hit a few good ones; let’s move to the 4-iron...How long have I been here? Time to hit a few drivers so I can roll some putts. Wait, what about chipping? Should I chip today? No, let’s save that for next time.
Most golfers have zero practice plans. They know they want to improve and work on their game, but they do not have a system to accomplish that goal. They move through practice blindly, choosing what to do next without a structure of what drills to work on, how long to work on those drills, and the order in which to work on those drills.
Without a plan, golfers are left leaving the practice session unsure whether they accomplished what they wanted to achieve during that session. A key to avoiding this feeling and a foundation to every Golf Blueprint Plan is having a prescribed and detailed set of "practice cards" with identifiable goals before you even step foot on the range. Having things laid out for you beforehand avoids decision fatigue and mindlessly moving through your session.
What Do I Work on at the Driving Range?
If there is one thing the most recent analytics movement in golf has taught us, golfers make terrible judgments about the areas of their game that need work. They overestimate some skills and underestimate others. Improper assessments of your game lead to you making uninformed and improper decisions with practice.
Advances in golf data analytics have disproven myths like “drive for show, putt for dough” and helped to educate golfers that they could be working on the wrong things at the range. We now know how golfers separate themselves from one another and provide actionable advice on optimizing their practice time.
There is one common roadblock. When asked for a self-assessment of their own games, golfers overemphasize the importance of particular skills of the game while underestimating critical areas that can help them score better almost immediately. Spending too much time practicing 5-foot putts when you're already proficient from those distances takes crucial time from other parts of your game that need the attention.
Identifying an area of the game that needs work is not merely an exercise of identifying what you are “good” or “bad” at. Rather, it identifies an area of your game in which improvements will lead to the most gains. For example, nearly every golfer wants to hit the ball further off the tee, but maybe the most immediate gains you could make are with short iron and wedge play. It is hard to become longer off the tee, but you can drastically improve your scores inside 150 yards with structured practice.
Without understanding your areas of optimized improvement, your practice time could be wasted. One of the best ways to solve this problem is tracking both round-by-round stats and select practice stats.
We took it a step further and wrote a patent-pending algorithm that considers these important parameters to create customized improvement plans for golfers like you. Setting appropriate goals has allowed our members to create appropriate expectations and enjoy golf more.
Putting Too Much Emphasis on What Happened in the Most Recent Round
“I can’t believe I sliced my driver on 18 into the water; I’m gonna work on that today!”
How many times have you walked onto the range thinking about your previous round? Too many times, that’s how many.
A key to a solid mental approach in golf is not putting too much value in a single shot or round. It is not an accurate indicator of a golfer’s game.
Hitting one ball OB does not necessarily mean that your driver needs work. That one bad memory might make you forget that your other 13 drives were in good positions and gave you great opportunities from the fairway all day.
Or let's say you 3-putted the last hole to lose the match, and you believe your putting needs work. What about the string of 20-footers you made on the front 9 when you were hot with the putter!
When understanding data analytics, a single shot doesn’t tell us much, but a thousand over the course of a season can be an important trend indicator. Unfortunately, golfers tend to focus on that one bad shot and spend time trying to fix that mistake instead of realizing it was probably a statistical anomaly and they should move on.
The same is true with practice. Remember the second point above; golfers need help in self-assessing their games.
By overemphasizing your previous round and most recent performance, your practice sessions will likely be reactionary and sporadic, with no plan or process to rely on. We've found having a customized plan delivered monthly enables golfers to hone in on particular "drill cards" while avoiding the tendency to make sudden changes based on one shot.
Golf Practice Can Be Boring
Let’s face it, hitting 7 iron after 7 iron on the range or “working on putting” mindlessly hitting 20 footers is not the most exciting thing in the world.
You have a plan, you’ve determined your key areas of improvement and strength, and you are not relying on your most recent performance to design practice. If you do not see improvement, a likely culprit could be how you are mentally engaging with practice despite putting in the practice time.
Within skill development research, random and blocked time are the foundations of practice. Blocked practice refers to practicing a single skill in repetition, while random practice refers to working on differing skills with some level of variance. These forms of practice are regularly debated within golf circles, but one thing remains clear: without proper mental engagement, you will not see skill improvement.
There are several ways in which we seek to keep golfers engaged in their practice. One of the key ways is ensuring that every drill is intentionally designed with a particular focus and goal. Targeted practice, yardage control, alignment, and shot-shaping are used to stimulate the mind during a practice session. We encourage you to add these elements to your current routine because it will make a difference.
Wrapping It Up
Awareness of these four mistakes and how to fix them will (hopefully) lead to you enjoying and getting the most out of your practice sessions. In the age-old question of the chicken and the hen; what came first, a golfer who loved to practice because they improved or a golfer who improved because they loved to practice? This is part 1 of a multi-series that the founders of Golf Blueprint are providing to Practical Golf readers. We look forward to furthering your knowledge in future installments!
For more information or to sign up for Golf Blueprint, visit www.goflblueprint.com