The Ten Commandments of Golf Practice
- 1. Thou shalt always have a purpose for each practice session.
- 2. Thou shalt set specific goals so thou can measure progress.
- 3. Thou shalt always loosen up by stretching before beginning any session involving the full swing.
- 4. Thou shalt always practice known correct techniques.
- 5. Thou shalt never change something out of frustration that was originally learned with proper instruction.
- 6. Thou shalt use practice time wisely since it is precious for most golfers. Concentrate and apply thyself.
- 7. Thou shalt frequently go through thy pre-shot routine to keep it a consistent part of thy game.
- 8. Thou shalt not practice full shots with a moderate to strong wind at thy back. (Such conditions promote a subconscious hitting across the ball action to keep it on line) Under such conditions use the time for short game and putting practice.
- 9. Thou shalt drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- 10. Thou shalt not practice when thunder and lightning are nearby. (Due to their wide-open nature, most golf practice areas are very vulnerable to lightning strikes.)
TIP#1 – GOAL SETTINGThe single best advice we can give you about golf swing practice is always practice with purpose. Plan how you intend to practice your golf swing and establish your golf swing goals before you begin.
We recommend that you have a personal golf swing goal sheet that spells out what your objectives are in the various areas of your golf game. If you make your golf swing goals specific & clear as well as reasonable you will be amazed at what you can do to lower your golf scores.
Saying that you want to become a 15 handicap golfer or want to reduce your golf handicap by 3 strokes is not a clear and specific goal. It can be a major overriding objective. But, you wouldn’t know what to do to achieve a golf handicap of 15 unless you were more specific.
For example, you could determine that you couldn’t get your golf handicap down to 15 until you become a better chipper and putter or make your golf swing more consistent with your pitching wedge. Now, you are getting much more specific. You can determine a logical route to take to improve these two areas of your golf game.
Before going to the golf practice area to work on developing a particular golf shot, make sure you have listed key details about that shot on a 3 X 5 card. Ideally you should list the golf shot details in some logical order. Be sure to take the card with you to your golf swing practice session.
TIP#2 – VISUALIZATION
The best players always visualize a shot before hitting it.
If you are chipping, then see yourself hitting the shot and the ball landing on your target spot and the ball rolling to the hole. Even visualize any break that might affect the roll of your ball. Then execute the practice chip.
If you are practicing full shots then visualize actual holes on the course. See the green of a given hole, including the surrounding area, whether it is bunkers, water hazards or steep embankments. And, see the pin placement.
See yourself playing the desired shot and the ball in flight as well as the ball landing and rolling on the green.
The same thing would hold true if you were practicing with your driver. See yourself executing the shot shape that you would select on a familiar hole.
TIP#3 – THE SHORT GAME
For the biggest impact on lowering your scores, spend the majority of your time working on your short game and putting.
This will not only improve your short game but it will improve your touch and feel on all shots. A high percentage of most golfer’s shots (over 60%) are from 100 yards or less, so it just stands to reason that those are the ones to concentrate on when you are able to practice.
How many times do you hit a wedge or nine iron during a typical round? Do you always get the ball close enough to the hole to make the putt? How much would your score improve if you could?
Do you always get your chip shots from the edge of the green close enough to the hole to make the putt? How much would your score improver if you could?
Do you make all of your putts inside of ten feet? How much would that help your score.
You can realize the fastest and biggest improvement in your scores by concentrating your practice from 100 yards in. Short game practice time should be about evenly split among wedges, chips and putting.
TIP#4 – THE WARM UP
You should always do some simple stretching exercises and then try to hit a few shots to warm up before each round of golf. This will not only help get your game off to a good start, but it can also help prevent injury.
One of the biggest dangers in a warm up session is hitting your shots too quickly with no concentration or discipline. You tend to speed up your tempo with this approach and let your swing basics get sloppy..
Another common problem with the warm up session is ignoring your pre-shot routine. Though you may loosen up some muscles you probably won’t really condition yourself to play effectively. Remember you need to turn all the swing mechanics into reflexes that require very little conscious thought. To do this you must be consistent, even in a warm up practice session.
One of the best ways to warm up after some stretching exercises is to play shots like you will encounter on the first few holes of your upcoming round. This will get you conditioned to visualizing your shots and concentrating properly. It will also establish your rhythm for going through your pre-shot routine.
A good way to end the session will be to hit the drive you want to hit off the first tee. Get a good mental picture of the fairway and see the shot you want to hit, then hit it. That will be a very positive memory to take to the first tee.
TIP#5 – Golf Shot Development
You might want to develop a particular shot, such as the knock down shot or perhaps the chip shot or bunker shot. It is very important that you start learning these shots with the full discipline of your established shots.
Go through your pre-shot routine just as if you were going to execute the new shot. Even visualize the shot, but don’t hit it. Back away and go through this process over and over until the set up is automatic and just flows naturally after your pre-shot routine.
Be very careful to observe all your normal setup details such as grip pressure, weight distribution, ball position & etc. It may take you a few minutes of going through this routine before you really feel comfortable. Do not hit the shot until you are completely comfortable with the set up.
Take the pre-shot routine all the way through the stance and waggle as you would on your other shots, but stop before you initiate the back swing. Once you are comfortable with the set up and it is an integral part of your pre-shot routine just as it is with other shots you already use, you are ready to actually execute the shot.
There are several things to watch out for. You must keep your head as steady as possible. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in watching your hands or the club head on the take away. This will cause you to move your head backwards and adversely affect the shot.
Don’t get impatient to see the result of your new shot. This will cause you to either move your head forward or upward with adverse results.
The last caution is don’t let too much tension build up in your grip and forearms. Stay relaxed. Be very patient with yourself when trying to develop a new shot. Recognize that it may take some work and don’t expect perfect results in the beginning. At first you want to look for results that just resemble the ideal shot. Let that encourage you. It tells you your basic set up is correct and once you get comfortable with the actual swing you will be well on your way to learning a new shot.
TIP#6 – GOLF SWING DEVELOPMENT
You might want to develop a particular aspect of your full swing, such as the take away or follow through.
As with all types of practice you want to make sure you have properly loosened up with some stretching. It is also critical that you go through your pre shot routine before most every shot. This will be blending the known with the unknown. Ultimately the two will flow into one. If you don’t develop this habit you will just build a bunch of non-integrated pieces that don’t fit together very well.
It is very important that you practice something that is technically correct for you, not just something you just overheard somewhere. You should build your swing with the help of a qualified professional, who has observed you.
As far as the full swing goes there is a step by step sequence to follow. Learn the correct connection with the club and the grip. Then learn the proper posture and stance. Then learn the proper alignment. In other words “How to aim the gun”. These are the static or non-moving elements of the swing.
Now learn the pre-shot routine. This includes the mental process of selecting the type of shot and the club and visualizing the actual shot you intend to hit. It also includes sighting your target and moving into your stance and aiming the club and your body. The last thing the pre-shot routine includes is the motion of hands and weight shift as you actually prepare to start your back swing. This usually includes a waggle or some form of forward press.
Next you want to learn the back swing. Then you want to learn the downswing and last the follow through. You may be shown the entire swing in one or two lessons, but you won’t be able to remember all you were taught. So, concentrate your efforts on the first stages of the swing. Use the sequence we gave you earlier in this tip and master each phase.
By the time you get to the back swing element you will need a specific lesson on that element and probably on each following element. If you are ready to move on to the next level but can’t remember exactly how to approach the next phase, then take another lesson just for that phase.
TIP#7 – STEP BY STEP
We want to impress upon you one of the critical errors made by most golfers. They fail to realize that golf swings must be developed in a step-by-step manner. If you will think about the logical progression listed for full swing development inTip#6, you will realize that you could perfectly master every phase leading up to the downswing and still hit the ball poorly.
Unfortunately, most golfers are too impatient to develop the stages of their swing in a logical sequence. They expect and even demand unrealistic results before they have completed the entire process. This results in losing confidence in their teacher and themselves.
It also results in experimentation with every aspect of the swing, usually with little or no knowledge of what is wrong. Most amateurs will change things that were perfectly OK while randomly searching for a better swing.
You can progress so much faster than your peers and so much faster than you will if left to your own devices if you will just go step by step. Develop your full swing in the sequence listed earlier in Tip#6.
Master each section in the proper sequence. Don’t experiment with any element you have been properly taught and that you have practiced. If you feel you must experiment, then do it with the elements of the swing you haven’t been taught or taken the time to develop.
Be patient with yourself. As you move further along with your swing development remember many of the things you are learning in the early stages will make your swing repeatable and dependable. So, just because you don’t see tremendous results at first doesn’t mean you aren’t making real progress.
If it helps think of it like this; the early stages of your golf swing development are like building a high performance engine for your race car. You won’t be able to witness the high performance until the other components are finished. But, just because the car won’t move before the car is assembled you wouldn’t start tinkering with the fuel injection or rebuilding the engine.
TIP#8 – PATIENCE
The key is be patient with yourself in your efforts to build a sound swing. Remember the greatest touring pros swing differently and had different teachers, yet still are champions. There are many ways to build a solid swing and have it repeat. Stick with one instructor until you have built your swing from the ground up. Limit your experimentation to learning how to work or maneuver the golf ball. But, don’t change how you approach the basic shot.
Be very patient with yourself. The golf swing is a complex series of muscle movements. It takes patience to give yourself an opportunity to develop a flowing swing with good rhythm. This will happen a lot faster for you if you will not make unnecessary changes in your swing mechanics.
You can build a sound repeating golf swing very quickly, if you will take it step by step. This will eliminate the wasted efforts and negative feedback that come from fiddling around with the same part of a physical skill. Also, remember that feedback that comes from new elements of the swing as you advance, is not confusing feedback to your brain. It is recognized as new and additional. It is when you are changing something the brain has already dealt with that the confusion begins.
TIP#9 – TIMING, RHYTHM & TEMPO
You will need to work on your timing, rhythm and tempo with various clubs in order to achieve consistency.
Timing refers to the order or sequence of events that make up the swing. Theoretically, you could execute the swing in perfect order, but look very jerky. That is where rhythm comes into the picture.
Rhythm is the fluidness with which you move from one swing part to the next.
Finally, Tempo merely refers to the pace or speed of your swing.
In music, you can have a very fast tempo or slow tempo, but both can have perfect rhythm. In golf some tour players swing very fast and others very slow, but both classes swing with good rhythm.
Now let’s consider how these three closely related swing elements react and interact to affect your golf swing. The first phase of building a golf swing aims at getting you to go through all the right motions in the proper sequence. That’s timing. However, before you can really play good golf you must take that to the next level and develop good rhythm. This is the characteristic that makes a golfer look smooth and fluid. Not only does this golfer have the right swing motions in the right order, but also these motions flow together just as if they were one continuous motion.
If you have a brisk pace when you are walking you will probably end up with a fast tempo in golf. Don’t try to do something that is unnatural for you. If you are very laid back and move very slow and deliberate in other aspects of your life you will probably have a slower tempo in golf. Both of these are fine as long as you aren’t trying to use a tempo that is unnatural for you.
TIP#10 – Practice versus Playing
One of the major reasons golfers hit the ball better on the practice range than they do on the course is they hit shot after shot with the same club. They also eliminate their pre-shot routine most of the time, so they get into what we refer to as a “ball beating mode”. Obviously this improves your chances of getting into a flow or rhythm. But, it does not help you find the right tempo and rhythm required to play individual isolated shots, under actual playing conditions.
On the course you may tee off with your driver to a huge trouble free fairway and then be faced with a five iron from a downhill lie to a small green surrounded by water. So, on the course you not only have to deal with the rapid change back and forth with different clubs, but you have to deal with the substantial variations in pressure or tension caused by the varying difficulty of shots. You also have to deal with the delay as you move from shot to shot. Obviously, you can’t get into a flow as you can on the practice tee. During your practice sessions, you should vary the club you are hitting quite often. This will help you avoid getting into a rut and just “beating balls” in a manner that you can not take advantage of on the course during actual playing conditions.
TIP#11 – MUSCLE TENSION
There are other causes of poor timing, rhythm & tempo, but muscle tension is one the biggest. In order to minimize muscle tension, you must strive to keep your hands, arms and shoulders as relaxed as possible during your setup and during your swing. Soft relaxed muscles can move faster and smoother than hard tense muscles. Minimizing tension will improve your consistency and increase your distance.
You should feel the same with all the clubs. Let’s look into this situation a little closer. To most observers you probably look the same swinging all your clubs, but you don’t feel the same. Ironically, you probably look just like you did on the practice range when you were hitting the ball so well. What could be wrong if an observer can’t see it? If you don’t feel the same hitting the driver and the wedge then you aren’t swinging the same. However, the difference is very subtle.
Most of the time it relates to a change in grip pressure or arm muscle tension either at set up or just before impact. This won’t usually get you completely out of timing, but it will cause you to speed up your swing, in other words increase the tempo of your swing. This will invariably have a negative impact on your rhythm. Perhaps only a trained eye could detect the difference, but the golf ball will reflect the change.
The swing with the driver should be basically the same as with the wedge. Your hands should be moving at nearly the same tempo (speed) with either club, unless you have a special situation that requires some extra distance. The driver club head will be moving much faster simply because it is further from your hands.
TIP#12 – SWINGING TOO HARD
The tendency is to try to hit the longer clubs harder because we know they are supposed to hit the ball farther. When we think this way it is natural to increase our grip pressure or tighten your arm muscles to allow us to apply this extra force. However, lack of force is rarely the problem. The longer clubs are designed to hit the ball farther using the same swing as you use with your shorter clubs. The lower loft and additional length are designed to generate both additional club head speed due to club length and lower trajectory due to lower loft.
Swinging too hard will make you tense up which will change your tempo and rhythm. This will hurt your consistency and cause very undesirable results.
Though you may actually swing the club faster you are most likely going to lose distance because you will make poor contact and produce less actual club head speed at impact.
TIP#13 – PRACTICE STRATEGY
After you have loosened up and are ready to practice, then try to duplicate actual course conditions when you practice. The best way is to mentally play the golf course that is most familiar to you. Start with the first hole. Go through your pre-shot routine and really concentrate on how you want to hit your drive. Then on the next shot try to imagine where you would be playing from on the actual hole based on how you hit the drive on the practice range. Go through the same routine with your approach shot. After hitting your approach shot then mentally move on to the next hole and repeat the process.
This will individualize each shot very much like normal playing conditions. Believe it or not you can also come close to duplicating competitive pressure by putting yourself in an imaginary competitive situation. Tell yourself you must hit four out of the next five fairways and three of the next five greens to win your club championship. You will be able to tell if your drives and approach shots would have been on target.
TIP#14- PRACTICE FOCUS
Try to focus entirely on where the ball is going, not how far. This will allow you to swing with less tension in your hands and forearms. The result will be a smoother swing.
As we said in Tip#11, grip pressure and arm muscle tension is very critical to good timing, rhythm & tempo. Almost without exception too much pressure and muscle tension will be the problem, not too little. This excessive pressure and tension can occur in a number of ways. You can actually start out at address with too much pressure. Or, you can tighten your forearms and grip just before take a way. Another common problem is gripping tighter just as you start the downswing.
Your hands should be very passive in the full swing. The grip pressure should remain constant throughout the entire swing and the arm muscles should be as relaxed as possible.
Try to imagine that you are very loose and relaxed. Almost as if you were well oiled. Swing the club back slow enough to feel your hands actually set near the top of your back swing. You will probably need to grip the club much softer than you are accustomed to doing. Make sure that there is virtually no pressure between your right thumb and forefinger and the grip. That is if you are right handed. The opposite if you are left handed.
On the downswing, feel as if you just let your hands drop to just above hip high. Almost as if they were free falling. By focusing on where the ball is going, you will maintain a more natural tempo and achieve a smoother swing. Both are essential to developing consistency and increasing distance.
TIP#15 – PROBLEM CORRECTION
Lastly, you might want to correct a problem with one of your shot techniques, either full swing or short game or even putting.
After playing a round of golf you will have a good idea of some areas that need practice. That is the ideal time to head to the practice range. As long as you know the correct way to execute the particular shot or swing segment go ahead and proceed to the practice range.
If time doesn’t permit or if you don’t really know what you were doing wrong, then make good complete notes describing your problem immediately after playing. Follow up by getting some correcting instruction from your local teaching professional or practicing if you already know the solution.
Be smart. Focus your efforts on what was broken, instead of what wasn’t. Let your on-course performance dictate what you need to practice. Don’t get too distracted by what happens on the practice range, it is how you play on the course that counts.