Increasing efficiency of practice
By Kim Jeong-kyoo
You hit the ball perfectly just like tour pros on the practice tee but your proficiency fades away as soon as you step to the first tee. That results mostly from an inefficient way of practicing.
To improve efficiency, you need to change the way you practice so you can bring the practice swing onto the course with ease. Just hitting balls is a physical exercise. It cannot be a practice. Critical to making your practice more efficient is to have a specific purpose for each session and for each individual swing.
Your practice can be divided into two types: warm-up practice and swing-building practice.
The warm-up practice or rather a fine-tuning practice is the one that you take before playing a round of golf. During this practice you'd better not segment or analyze the swing by thinking of its detailed mechanics. Even if the ball slices or hooks, avoid trying to fix it. You need to strive to get the “overall feel and pace” of your usual comfortable swing. It is as well to think of nothing but the way of achieving what you get from your swing: sending the ball to the target.
When you take the swing-building practice on a driving range, it is time to check and improve your pre-swing and in-swing principles. For this type of practice you need to spend the half of your practice session checking swing mechanics and techniques. Instead of being concerned about target, you had better be specific and pay particular attention to what you are trying to achieve in your swing.
For instance, if you are working on moving your right hip and navel laterally to the right for a smooth, sound takeaway, just focus only on that, and nothing else. Even when the ball flight is not what you hoped for, that doesn't necessarily mean that your purpose was not achieved. Just focus on what you've set out to accomplish and be patient. You can improve the ball-flight later.
The second half of the practice session needs to be spent playing toward a target, forgetting about swing techniques and swing thoughts. Just see how the ball reacts. If the ball goes where you aimed, that's great. Even if the ball does not react just as you intended, simply focus again on the target and swing again. As time elapses, you will get better at hitting your target.
That is, spend the first half of the practice session in building swing techniques and the rest of it in playing to a specific target.
Just like real shots, always visualize a precise target and try to hit it. Neglecting to do this prevents you from bringing your practice swing to the course and shooting a low score.
Similarly, go through the pre-shot routine as if you were really playing. Golfers who approach the ball from behind it in the actual play need to equally walk up to the ball from behind and hit it the way they make a real shot.
Avoid hitting balls thoughtlessly or recklessly. Always think every shot is your first shot off the tee on the first hole, which is very important. The feeling you get from your first tee shot permeates throughout the round, allowing you to score a success or ruining your entire play. You need to make a habit of hitting every practice ball with the same pressure as you would feel when you have to hit a critical shot. To make this practice more productive it's essential to practice as you play so you can play as you practice.
The best club to begin the practice with is the pitching wedge or a short iron. Start your practice with your pitching wedge and progress to the longer clubs. Avoid bashing your driver from the start to the end of the entire session. Swinging with a short club facilitates seeking and capturing your usual swing feel and pace. Top-notch pros like to practice all sorts of shots with the pitching wedge only. It's exciting and productive. Better yet, it makes you less tired.
Also crucial is to practice your short game, which is critical to improving your score. Partial shots are the scoring shots. To lower your scores it's imperative to practice shots around the green so you can hit them to the best of your ability.