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Perfect Practice

04/30/2009 05:00PM ● Published by Super Admin

A player is hitting the ball extremely well on the driving range. He or she is feeling good and starting to think, “Today I am going to have a great round.” The moment of truth comes; they must now tee it up on the first hole and the “little demons” begin to creep in. The grip gets tighter, the negative thoughts embed themselves and the speed of the player's swing is increased threefold, while their shoulder turn has been reduced by 2-4 inches. Now, some people believe in the “golf gods,” and that if you make them mad, they will punish you while on the course. But I think it is simpler than that. First and foremost, you must learn how to practice. Ask any PGA Professional what two things most students want from their lessons and they will tell you students respond with, “More distance and more consistency.” Although neither of these are bad things to desire, if they are not put into perspective, the end result is consistent, long ball hitters who are not very good otherwise. 

If you get to the range as well as the golf course on a regular basis, then your practice may be slightly different than that of the player who plays in two scramble tournaments a year. Either way, you need to learn how to practice in order to better your game. Start with a seven iron to warm up. Once you feel loose, and are hitting the ball solid, drop back down to a sand wedge or pitching wedge. Most players start with their wedge, and can’t wait to get to their driver. They make a few fast bad swings with their wedge (but get the ball in the air), then they make a few more really quick swings with their seven iron, then maybe one or two swings with their five iron (harder club to hit), and the “Ego” won’t let them continue to embarrass themselves, so all of a sudden they have the Big-Stick in their hands firing away like someone is trying to steal their range balls. 

Go to the “practice” range with a purpose. Work on your weaknesses, not your strengths, and give yourself time to practice. Lessons are a great way to improve, but if you don’t follow lessons up with practice, you are defeating the purpose. You want lessons to improve, but the majority of improvement will come from practicing and playing. If you learn to practice correctly, then you will feel confident and much more relaxed when you get to the first tee. My old college wrestling coach used to say, “It is not practice makes perfect, it is perfect practice that makes perfect.” However, we all know that golf is not a game about perfection, but one that if we can minimize the mistakes, our scores will get lower. I stress the following to a majority of my students: Dr. Glenn Albaugh, a leading sports psychologist taught me a few years back that, “when you are on the range, you are working on mechanics and there is no target, however, when you are on the course there is a target and no mechanics.” This means is that if you are practicing correctly, when you get to the game, trust what you have been doing and focus on a target...not mechanics. 

Lastly, be happy to be playing golf. The next time you go out to play, try to be there at least a half hour prior to your tee time, so that you can get in a proper warm-up.  You have put in your time on the range, and now you get to go out and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  On your first tee, forget about the negative, and focus on having a great time. Try to play stress free; breath and relax. Your goal on the first hole is to hit the fairway...it does not matter how far. While you were on the range, you were focused on the process and your swing thoughts, not the end result. Now, take that same attitude to the first tee and maintain it as you make your way around the course. This way, it will not feel any different from when you were striking it on the range. The goal is to settle down early in the round and enjoy yourself...your scores will get lower. In the end, your scores will also be more consistent due to your practice, and practice will be more fun as you improve.

Jerry Poley is Director of Golf at Catta Verdera Country Club. He can be reached at 916-645-6723 or jpoley@cattaverdera.com.

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