How to Practice Golf

One of the most frustrating things in golf is discovering that solid hitting on the range doesn’t necessarily translate into a low score on the course. Too many aspects of golf slip through the cracks during training sessions in lieu of straight hitting practice. If you don’t follow good course management, learn how far you can hit with each of your clubs, and practice aiming at specific targets from a wide variety of angles, your score will not reflect your potential as a golfer, no matter how perfect your swing.

Below are some common mistakes people make while practicing and tips on how to fix them in order to strengthen your game.

Problem: You spend a lot of time practicing aspects of the game in which you already excel.

Solution: Although it’s always fun to show off to your fellow range-goers, make sure you spend the majority of your practice time hitting the clubs or types of shots that you need to improve. It may be good for the ego to only use the shots you know you can hit well, but your score on the course depends upon strengthening your weaknesses.

Problem: You ignore your short game.

Solution: Find a practice facility that offers a putting and chipping green. Start putting from about three feet away from a hole and slowly work your way to longer putts from all angles.

Practice reading your putts and have a putting contest with a partner or with yourself to see which putts ends up nearest to the hole. Do the same with chips and pitches. If your practice facility has a sand or grass bunker, get comfortable hitting from a good lie so that you can experiment hitting from worse lies.

“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

Ben Hogan

Problem: You always hit from a mat.

Solution: Some driving ranges only have mats, and if that’s the case for your facility, keep hitting—a mat is better than nothing. But if the place offers both mats and real grass, use the grass (unless it’s in really bad shape). You’re almost always better of practicing off of the real deal.

Problem: You only practice full swings.

Solution: A full swing comes in handy on the course, but so do other types of swings that aren’t usually as well practiced: three-quarter swings, knock-down shots, pitch shots, bump and runs, Texas wedges, flop shots, stingers, just to name a few. Learn all the different ways to use each club in your bag—it will give you an unlimited arsenal during your round.

According to the Golf Research Group, 600 million range balls were hit in the U.S. in 2003 alone.

Problem: You wear blinders at the range.

Solution: A lot of golfers go to the range and hit every ball in the same, straight direction, but that’s not how a golf course is set up. You’re going to have to make shots from strange angles during your round, so why not practice them on the range?

Aim at all of the different targets set up, even if the distance is off. Don’t only hit from the center slot at the driving range—if you trust yourself enough not to hit other golfers, try the corners once in a while. You’ll get a new perspective and more experience for your next round.

Problem: You rush.

Solution: Take your time. Take care with every shot, on the range and at the practice green. You’ll see your handicap drop.

  • Take practice swings before you hit each ball.
  • Clean your clubs after using them.
  • Practice your pre-shot routine on every swing.
  • Pretend you’re on the course, where bad shots happen and can’t just be ignored.

Problem: “Hello? Hi, I’m on the range.”

Solution: It is important to focus during practice. Distractions (like cell phones) not only interrupt your effort, but the efforts of every other golfer tailoring his or her skills. When you get to the range, turn off all distracting devices to help set the stage for some focused practice time.

Problem: #%@!#@

Solution: Remember why you’re out there. Getting frustrated is one of golf’s charming consequences, but if you’re too hard on yourself, you’re going to end up resenting the sport, which will negate any success you might have otherwise achieved during practice. Have fun and keep things in perspective.

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