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Pro Tips - Proper Practice Technique

Keri Moffat CPGA Pro Tips by Keri Moffat, CPGA
Director of Golf, GBC Golf Academy at Mayfair Lakes

Proper Practice Technique
Have you ever asked yourself the question: Why can't I bring my range game to the golf course?

If you have, I have an interesting point for you to consider. Golf is the only sport I can think of that separates the practice ground from the playing ground. Hockey players practice playing hockey on the hockey rink. Football players practice playing football on the football field. Swimmers practice swimming in the pool. Where else would they practice? What do golfers do?

Golfers practice hitting shots on the driving range and play golf on the golf course. Sometimes we may practice for hours at a time. We do this in an effort to groove the perfect swing or at least to get our swings manageable enough to play a decent game of golf. Most of us will hit the same club; say a 7 iron, at the same target, over and over again in order to gain the correct feeling or to get the correct result. You will get good at what you practice and eventually you will become good at hitting your 7 iron. You may practice this way with all your clubs and you will eventually become competent at hitting all of your clubs. Great! Now it's time to take what we've learned on the practice tee and put it to the test on the proving ground of the golf course. Despite all our efforts and best intentions we still have a problem transferring our skills from the range to the course.

So what's the problem? If I can hit all of my clubs how I want to on the driving range, why can't I do the same on the golf course?

Let me ask you this question: When is the last time you hit a bunch of 7 irons in a row at the same target from a perfectly flat lie with no consequence to the results of your shots while you played a round of golf?

The point I am making is this: If you want to become better at playing golf on the golf course, you have to practice like you play. For most people it is not practical or even possible to practice on the golf course, so we have to bring the golf course to the driving range. Instead of hitting the same club at the same target ball after ball, try doing these exercises:

  • Change your club and target using your full pre-shot routine with each ball that you hit. Try this for 20 balls.
  • Play a few holes of your favorite golf course on the driving range. Try to picture the holes exactly as they are. Define the shape of the fairway, location of water and sand, and limits of the green. Consider the direction of the wind. Choose the appropriate clubs and target and use your full pre-shot routine on each shot. See how you do!
By doing these exercises you will be practicing how you play golf. It is necessary to do these things if your intent is to play better when you are out on the golf course. Initially, you may not hit the ball as nicely as when you practice the other way, but you will get better at it with time. You will get better at what you practice. I suggest that you dedicate at least half of your total practice time to this new type of practice. If you are working on swing changes with your coach then by all means hit a few shots with the same club and target if you need to. Always be aware of the purpose for your practice. Are you working on swing technique? Are you practicing to play better on the course?

Golf is about dealing with constantly changing conditions. Every round of golf you play is different. Every shot you hit is different. It is time to think differently about how you practice. Make your practice conditions and playing conditions closer to the same so that you can take what you practice out to the course when you go play!

For further help on your game, see your local CPGA professional at the GBC Golf Academy at Mayfair Lakes.