For years, most golfers have been indoctrinated by the myth and misunderstanding of the practice regimes of the legendary 1950’s golf superstar Ben Hogan.
This man would have stood on the practice ground all day long for periods of up to 12 hours at a time, hitting ball after ball until his hands were bleeding. However, whilst he did put many hours into practice, he wasn’t just going through a ‘mind numbing ball beating session’. During his practice, he stood back off the ball and stared down the range ‘in a trance like state’. What was he doing? Quite simply, he was visualising the ball flight to an imagined target. This is how we link the mind and body to perform.
Learning from this and perhaps copying or taking this process further, Nick Faldo practiced and warmed up effectively in this manner to win six majors. Pre-round, once warmed up, Faldo played the imagined golf course on the practice range. He would pick the club he intended to play on the course and set targets and parameters on the practice range to make it realistic and add a visualised focus to his pre-round warm-up.
I’m going to give you some great practice drills that will keep your concentration focused on hitting golf shots, instead of thinking about your technical swing whilst you are on the practice range.
DRIVING - Select two markers approximately 25 yards apart to identify an imaginary fairway. Play 10 drives and record how many land and stay between the 2 markers. Record and compare your driving accuracy percentage to that of tour players (look up PGA Tour Stats). Do this 2-3 times per practice session, trying to beat your last result. Make things more interesting and alternate between the driver and 3 wood.
BALL CONTROL (FADES/DRAWS) - Select a flag and a parameter of approximately 10 yards either side to represent a green. The game is to alternate between a left to right fade, then to a right to left draw, hitting the imaginary green. Challenge yourself to see how long you can keep the run going before you miss the green or intended shot. Alternatively work on hitting one shot shape only up to about 10 shots.
FEEL AND DISTANCE CONTROL - Select a target about 150 yards away and play the club you would normally use. Perhaps an 8 iron, then select 2 longer clubs, the 7 and 6 iron, plus a shorter club, the 9 iron. Practice alternating between clubs to the same target so you have to improvise and feel a different swing. Seven or eight shots per club will be good.
PAR 18 CHIPPING - Find yourself a practice green that you can Pitch, chip and putt out on. You will play from nine different positions around the green and then putt out. Each hole is a par 2. Play a pitch or a chip, then putt out, keeping your score. Move to a new position, but to the same hole. After holing out, throw your ball to a new position and play the ball as it lies. If there is a bunker available, include the occasional bunker shot.
Play this game only once per day and try to better your score each time.
Now that you have a better understanding of how to practice effectively, you’ll have a much better chance of taking your range game to the golf course. In truth, we need to practice how we play, with some visualisation, a little bit of pressure and some real on course situations.
Good luck with the practice and get the Mind and Body Linked for Performance.
Michael Langford Golf Performance Ireland Full athlete development and coaching at Roe Park Resort, Limavady.