In my experience as a golf professional I have always found that there is a distinct breakdown when it comes to amateurs practicing. Often the goal of a practice session seems to be to hit as many balls as possible, as far as possible. This in reality could not be further away from how we actually play the game when we are on the golf course. When we PLAY golf, and I emphasize the PLAY, we hit one shot, wait 2 minutes or so as we move to the next ball and hit again, and to me this should be mirrored in how we practice the game. Having a structure and a plan to what can pay dividends on the course. If I have 1 hour to practice I will always try to split my time up to cover 3 main areas:
Deliberate practice is in essence working on the mechanics of the golf swing. When the average golfer arrives at the range 95% of their time tends to be occupied with this type of practice. They are focused on fixing what their pro has told them two weeks ago or trying to perfect the “fix my slice” tip they have just watched on YouTube. There is no consequence to this type of practice, and although it is an essential piece of the improvement puzzle, it is not everything.
I would always recommend to my students to start their practice session with some deliberate practice, it should in total take up 1/3 of their practice session, and they should have something to give them feedback or help them achieve their goal, whether that is using alignment sticks to help ball position and body alignment or using a drill that we may have worked on during a lesson.
Random practice is simply making every shot different just as you would on the golf course. Generally this type of practice will unintentionally take up the last 5% of peoples practice. Normally as the average golfer gets towards the end of your bucket of golf balls and you are beginning to get a bit bored, you will then try a couple of different clubs in the hope that it just happens to click. Random practice should take up the same amount of time as deliberate practice.
During random practice the goal is to make every shot different to the last. The idea is you are constantly changing targets, alignments and clubs as you would on the golf course. For the more advanced golfer I would also take this a step further and add in the shape of the ball flight to the equation. Begin to hit some shots high with a fade and the next one low with a draw, again this begins to feel more like we would play golf. Throughout the random practice phase I would always incorporate my pre shot routine into each shot. You will hit far less balls in random practice vs deliberate practice, but you will also be far more focused on each shot and the result.
With most golfers I see competition will account for 0% of their practice, but yet it accounts for 100% of when we PLAY golf. Every time we play golf we grade our performance on our score, however when we practice there is no such thing as a dropped shot or a consequence and as a result there is no pressure on the shots we are hitting. With this in mind the final third of our practice session should be on competition. Competition does not have to be against someone else, to me you can be competitive against yourself by having a couple of simple games you play and score every time you practice, and recording your score. Keeping a record is essential for two reasons; firstly it adds pressure on every shot as you will know there is a consequence to a mishit. Secondly it allows you to chart progress and see if certain areas of your game are improving or not, it gives you more focus as to what areas need the most work at any given time.
Games to Play
Drive for dough – Begin by picking two targets on the range as your fairway that you are going to try to hit with the driver. Hit 10 balls and count how may you have hit the fairway with or missed, and also if there is a pattern as to whether more missed right or left.
Around the World – Place 6 balls in a circle approximately 5 feet from the hole. The objective is to hole as many as you can in a row without missing. If you hole all 6 keep going and see how long you can maintain focus for. If you wish to make this drill harder pick a hole that is located on more of a sloping area.
Par 18 – Using a wedge or all of your wedges and a putter, choose 9 random areas around the green that you have to get the ball in the hole from. There should be 3 easy holes, 3 moderately difficult holes, and 3 very difficult holes. Count each shot as if it was a round of golf and chart your scores after the round.