PRACTICING TO PLAY GOLF?
Golf, the game, is really not about a great swing or about a position is it? I think we would all agree that “positions” in the swing or “fundamentals” of a swing are derived from watching and studying those that controlled their golf ball the best while in some form of competition. From this angle it becomes very apparent that a great swing equals control of the golf ball on the course.
Let’s stay here for a minute and think or maybe define these great swings that controlled the golf ball on the course. Golf courses are not flat are they? Golf courses are not created with 18 separate holes that look similar and all go in the same direction are they? Golf courses have water, bunkers, trees, and a variety of other pieces of nature that we play the game on don’t they? So how would you practice to play this game of golf?
Somewhere along the way the idea of practice evolved into an idea mass repetitive practice. Let me give you a picture of this if I can. Bags of balls (sometimes buckets) are given to an individual. The individual grabs their bag of 14 or so clubs and takes their bag (or bucket) to a flat field that has been mown at different heights. Because practice for the game of golf requires thousands and thousands of balls the field has no trees, no water, and no bunkers. In this way a mechanical apparatus will be able to pick the balls up faster and faster as the individual (or maybe individuals now) are building their games from that level, grassy lie sitting at the tip of of the vast field. Of the 14 or so clubs the individual has in their bag of weaponry only 2 to 6 are even hit during a session. Would this idea of practice even make sense?
Practicing to play golf would look more like taking a ball to the putting green and hitting putts from different distances. It would look more like taking your bag of weaponry to a tee that suits your ability and playing 1 or 2 or maybe even 9 holes. It would look more like taking your wedges and a putter to a green and playing out situations where one will need to make decisions about how they choose to play the shot to get the ball up and down.
Form matters. Fundamentals matter. Strength and Speed matter. There is a direct correlation from ball control that can be traced back to the individual controlling their motion while wielding their weaponry. That is what coaches, teachers, and players who work together are after. But all of their work together cannot overcome a consistent and erroneous idea of what practicing to play golf really is.
Listen to your coaches and follow their guidelines on how to practice. But remember that every shot hit on a golf course can be different. Every golf hole, depending on wind, can play differently. Green speed changes, bunker bottoms change. If you are having trouble taking your ball striking prowess to the course it may or may not be mechanical. The only true way to know is to mix your practice with some of it being on building and growing your movements and also practicing to play golf.
I have ALWAYS struggled with taking it from the range to the tee, the “longest walk in golf”, as I think Hogan described it? My new routine, and I am not sure it is the correct method, is to practice like I play. After some stretching and warm-up, maybe 10 9 irons….out comes the driver, followed by a 7 iron..next, another driver, three wood, wedge…3 wood, 8….tee up a 6 iron, followed by a driver and 4 iron….practicing like I play…..hopefully, that walk from the range to tee will be easier?
Really good idea. Mixing it up on the range is beneficial. Also isolating what you “are working on” with simple tasks really help. An example would be if I hit behind the ball every 7th or 8th shot I will have “anxiety” on the course. That is common sense. So instead of trying to “manage the anxiety” I have found that improving the ability to accomplish the task work great.