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Why You’re Probably Practicing Golf All Wrong

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There are tons of golf instruction articles out there that tell you how to practice. The problem with them is that every golfer isn’t created equal (sorry, spoiler alert). The way Jason Day practices is not how Joe 20-Handicap should practice.

There’s a trend right now in golf instruction articles; so many of them are saying how bad it is to just go out and hit 7 iron after 7 iron or hit three buckets of balls. They sing the praise of visualization and practicing shots you see out on the course. They want you to play competitive games on the range that simulate pressure.

For most players who have been playing golf for a while, I couldn’t agree more. These ways of practicing are great… once you have found your swing or have lowered your handicap enough.

Beginners

The truth is that a beginning golfer would benefit a lot more from smacking 7 irons for two hours then they would hitting one 7 iron and then moving to a driver, then a sand wedge, and so on. That beginner may not have the movement pattern ingrained just yet, or he or she may struggle with different-length clubs.

I also encourage all my beginners to tee the ball up: all of them, all the time. This includes shots on the course. Learning the golf swing is hard enough without adding in the complexities of deep rough, tight lies, and slope. Introducing those variables all at once is a recipe for disaster for a beginning golfer. The last thing I want any beginner to do is quit, and if teeing the ball up helps them get the ball in the air more often and progress the ball a little further, then I’m all for it. The more fun they have, the more likely they are to come back.. and that also makes it more likely they will get better at the golf.

Joe 20-Handicap

Then there is Joe 20-handicap. He has been playing for 15 years and is a member at the local club. He gets to play on weekends and tries his best to get in a practice session or two on the range. Oh, he also has a 50-hour work week, a wife, and two kids.

Joe barely has time to play golf on Saturday morning, let alone go to the range for marathon practice sessions. I would recommend that he take a lesson at the beginning, middle and end of the season. Each lesson will give him a small piece of something to work on, so if Joe can find 5 minutes to sneak to the garage to swing a club, he should take that time as a golden ticket. Those 5 minutes should be spent being very mechanical and focusing on one or two positions in his swing he knows he has to get to. All he is trying to do is develop the feel he needs to hit the shot he wants. The beauty of the short sessions is Joe can put them in almost every day, and that is huge to keep him motivated.

The “Players”

Lastly, there are the “players.” Players are golfers who we all envy; they somehow have the greatest jobs in the world, the most understanding significant others, a single-digit handicap, and the swing of a tour pro. These golfers are always at the club; they get to play two-to-three times per week and you can always find them on the range grinding away. The best part about these golfers is that they have the time to get better, which is the best training aid anyone can ever buy. They should spend as much time as they can out on the course: not just playing the course, but creating shots, playing games, mixing up tee boxes, and playing for some spare change. When they do get to the range, they should be working on routine and visualizations. They should play games and challenge themselves on every shot. Every shot has to have a purpose.

All golfers are different, and that they need to look at their practice different. Next time, before you hit the range or the course, think about what will benefit your game the most and don’t be afraid to change your normal routine.

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Dan Gaucher is a Teaching Professional at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Connecticut. He also host a very successful podcast called "Rebel With Out A Par". Dan also has experience in the health and fitness industry which has allowed him to further understand the biomechanics of the body and how it correlates to the golf swing. Dan enjoys being a student of both the human body and the game of golf. Dan works with players of all abilities from beginners to aspiring professionals.

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. James G

    Jul 7, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Have to challenge yourself without going overboard. For example, if you’re struggling, give yourself a wider area to hit a shot then slowly narrow that down. Change directions on the range too. Like hit some center, right and left with the wide areas that eventually get narrowed. Work in, like with irons, shots that go higher and lower once you get better at it.

    All that being said, the best practice I’ve ever done that helped my game was to play a course on the range that I know well. Give myself more narrow areas to hit the ball than I would have on the course. Score it too in maybe a bit more penalizing way. Improve that score on the range then the course becomes easy.

  2. Dave R

    Jul 6, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Ude . Really. You are so clever.

    • Ude

      Jul 6, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      glad you are seeking mental help for your geriatric golf disorders

  3. larry fox

    Jul 6, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Tee it up all the time? Ok! After I hit a few off the tee at the range I can usually drop down to the mat with no problm!

  4. Dave R

    Jul 5, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    . We all have to practice to become better that’s only common sense . It does not matter what we do if you repeat it it will be ingrained in the memory and muscles . You have to practice properly in order to be good at anything. That’s why it’s best to have someone who understands the golf swing and the proper way to apply it. Not all golf pros can teach you have to be a teacher and understand the make up of who your teaching. I’m not knocking pro golfers I’m just saying thru my experience not all golf pros are good teachers. I strongly suggest that as in buying golf equipment you should look around , talk to people and find a good teacher and trust in them .

  5. Dave R

    Jul 5, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    . We all have to practice to become better that’s only common sense . It does not matter what we do if you repeat it it will be ingrained in the memory and muscles . You have to practice properly in order to be good at anything. That’s why it’s best to have someone who understands the golf swing and the proper way to apply it. Not all golf pros can teach you have to be a teacher and understand the make up of who your teaching. I’m not knocking pro golfers I’m just saying thru my experience not all golf pros are good teachers. I strongly suggest that as in buying golf equipment you should look around , talk to people and find a good teacher and trust in them . You will enjoy the game as you should and remember it’s only a game.

    • Ude

      Jul 6, 2017 at 1:13 am

      based on what you told us about your daily golf regimen its more than a game its an obsessive compulsive behavior that requires help and medication. i hope you don’t buy new clubs annually.

  6. Dave R

    Jul 5, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    I exercise every day I get out of bed ,shower, make toast, watch the news and that’s it. Then go walk 6500 yards on the golf hunt i call it hunting because that’s what we do is hunt, for our golf balls so by the end of four hours we have walked 7500 yards lots of exercise for the day. Go home relax have a nap eat go to bed and do it again the next day.

    • Ude

      Jul 6, 2017 at 1:09 am

      you need a woman, or a dog, badly because mindlessly playing golf is self-defeating. you will go from your current state of mind to a psychotic who is totally bonkers. golf is a ridiculous game if you think about it and using golf to find meaning to your pathetic life is truly sick. seek help fast.

  7. David

    Jul 5, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    I am a 56YO with a 13.8 hcp, I often post 80 or 81, can’t seem to breakthrough into the 70’s, 2nd shot after a good drive seem to be my bug a boo with 6I through 3W. I play 3-5 days a week with my local guys for small team cash. How should this guy practice? I can get to a range 2 or 3 days a week for an hour or so

    • Ude

      Jul 5, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      at 56 y.o. you are going downward physically and mentally and deteriorating fast.
      look at yer naked body in a full length mirror and ask yerself – “is that a break 80 body or is it becoming a break 90 body”?

    • Va

      Jul 7, 2017 at 2:07 am

      Move up a tee, David

  8. johnny

    Jul 5, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    The wife carries a high single digit handicap index. She never practices, never goes to the range or short game area, and doesn’t even go to the putting green before playing. Shot a one over par 73 over the weekend with a double bogey and a 3 putt bogey.

    Don’t know what will happen when she retires next month, lol.

    • Ude

      Jul 5, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      she’ll likely find and new ‘johnny’ and dump the old johnny who is a duffer on the course and bed

  9. Grizz01

    Jul 5, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    “Practice does not make for perfect, perfect practice makes for perfect.” -Jon Lanier

    • Ude

      Jul 5, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      practice won’t help if your body is decrepit and your brain is shallow like most goffers

  10. Iverson

    Jul 5, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    We talkin’ about practice? … we talkin’ about practice? …. we not talkin’ about game? …. we talkin’ about practice!!!

  11. Old Putter

    Jul 5, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I don’t practice…
    I just play

    • Ude

      Jul 5, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      children and losers don’t practice they only ‘play’
      real men and winners practice a lot and they ‘perform’

      • Matt

        Jul 5, 2017 at 9:38 pm

        Well that escalated quickly…

        • Ude

          Jul 5, 2017 at 9:50 pm

          old putter is on the down escalator and i’m on the up escalator

          • Garrett

            Jul 6, 2017 at 7:42 pm

            you seem negative. playing is better not for experience there’s no doubt about it.

            • Ude

              Jul 6, 2017 at 7:54 pm

              huh? I’m ‘negative’?
              none of my comments are ‘negative’
              your comment contains two ‘negatives’ … “not” and “no”
              so who’s ‘negative’?

  12. peter collins

    Jul 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    You would be thrown off our golf course, for this type of play, practice of this kind is frowned upon at our course, and should be kept to the range.

  13. Andrew S

    Jul 5, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    i agree with teeing it up for beginners. i do worry it engrains this swing and hitting down later on maybe very difficult. I’d recommend making every hole a par 3 for a while. My son started at age 7 and he played the personal par 3’s for a years and eventually played the ladies tees and is now on a men’s tees. The early success really helped him in the long run.

  14. Desmond

    Jul 5, 2017 at 11:02 am

    You’re correct; people don’t practice correctly. I’m in the middle of taking lessons, and I take a 8i-PW and just do my drills to ingrain new habits.

    For beginners, I’d say move up a few clubs to practice – 9i-PW.

    Like your advice for teeing it up for beginners. I have a 10 yr old who doesn’t appreciate hard work but likes to play – teeing it up in the fairway ’till he gets close is a good idea to make it more fun for him until he wants to play without a tee.

  15. Tom1

    Jul 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

    What about mid cappers… are we doin it right

    • Branson Reynolds

      Jul 5, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Damn right we are!

    • Tim

      Jul 5, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      I hope you meant train 3 times weekly?

      • ooffa

        Jul 6, 2017 at 10:03 am

        The only train you should be concerned about is Amtrack. Get you out of here!

      • Tim

        Jul 7, 2017 at 5:06 pm

        No one successfully trains three times daily… a clear indication of your ignorance.

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Unlocking Your Golfing Potential: Why golf lessons with instructors don’t work

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On the first episode of our new “Unlocking Your Golfing Potential” podcast series, Coach Will Robins and Cordie Walker talk about what a golf coach is, and why getting one might be just what you need to to actually achieve your golfing goals. The current model of golf instruction is scheduling a one hour lesson and letting that instructor know what you want to work on… but Coach Will explains why that just doesn’t work if you want lower scores.

Learn more about Coach Will Robins and understand the 3 Scoring Killers here. Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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WATCH: Two drills to help you stop hitting it fat

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Here’s a response to a question on my Instagram page from Neil Riley. He asked if he should steepen the angle of attack in the downswing in order to stop hitting fat shots. In this video, I share two of the reasons why golfers might be hitting fat shots, as well as two drills to practice that will help them stop hitting it fat.

 

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Changing your golf swing? Consider this before you do

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Golfers I have taught over the years have an almost uncanny ability to put the golf club on the ball (to varying degrees, of course). I have seen well-hit shots from an incredibly wide variety of positions. I’ve seen closed faces, open faces, steep swings, flat swings, outside-in paths, inside-out paths, slow and fast swings, strong grips and weak grips ALL hit the golf ball solidly at times. How? Well, thinking about this may very well help your swing, especially before you decide to change something in it. Let’s take a look at a few examples to explain.

Strong Grips/Closed Clubfaces

We’ll start with the example of a strong grip that tends to get the clubface quite closed to the arc in the swing and at the top of the swing. If that is left alone in the downswing, the shots are very predictable: low and left (for a right-hander), sometimes barely getting off the ground. But many golfers hit the ball in the air and straight with a strong grip; in fact, many hit high blocks to the right. How? Well, they open the face on the way down and usually “hold on” through impact. They adapt to the closed clubface to make it work, and that’s the point here.

Now, if they reach good impact consistently like a Dustin Johnson, Graham McDowell and several others do with a closed clubface, we have no problem. But often club golfers do not; in fact, many slice and top the ball from a shut face at the top.  They do so because opening a closed face is a very shallowing move and prevents one from releasing the club properly (it’s a power outage as well).  Functionally, however, opening a shut is far better than releasing it from there, for obvious reasons. If the trail hand pronates, the face goes from closed to really closed. So golfers simply learn to open it.

So along comes some well-meaning friend who says your clubface is really closed at the top. You look at many great players, and sure enough, your face is clearly shut. So you correct it. What happens next is also very predictable: high and very right, and very thin with many topped shots. Why? Because you only corrected part of the problem. You fixed the shut face, but now you’ve taken a square clubface and massively opened it as a force of habit. You have ingrained that move into your swing because you had to open your old, shut clubface in the downswing. Correcting only ONE thing made your swing worse. Your swing is now dysfunctional.

That’s why if you commit to one change for the sake of improvement or consistency, you have to commit to both changes. If you don’t, you’ll get worse… not better.

Steep Swings

Here’s another: many amateur players start the downswing with the golf club far too steep. Maybe it’s over the top, maybe not (you can be just as steep from inside the ball). But when the golf club is too vertical in transition, it can result in any one of a number of impact mistakes: namely fat, slices and toe hits. So the idea of “flattening the transition” (good idea) becomes your priority, but there’s always a catch. Most experienced golfers correct steep through one of a few different ways listed below:

  • Raising the hands (standing the club up) to avoid fat shots
  • Tilting the torso back or away from the target to avoid opening the face
  • Sending the hands away from the body to avoid toes hits
  • Raising the swing center

You get the picture here. You learn to get the club on a better plane (flatter with the butt of the grip pointed more at the golf ball), but you’ll likely still have one of the “fit-in” moves left into impact. So a flatter club, which is by far a better way to square the face, might result in a shank if you’re used to sending your hands away from your body to avoid a toe hit. Raising the hands might top. Tilting the torso back away might hit shallow fats or tops. So you fixed the steep transition, but your impact is worse! Again, you’re dysfunctional.

Remember, if you commit to one change, you MUST commit to both.

Weak Grips/Over-The-Top

One more: Golfers who start out with a weak grip (as most do) slice. So as a reaction, they come over the top and swing outside-in. So they fix the grip, and of course, the result is predictable. They pull the ball, generally low and left (for right-handers). You get the pattern here. They need to learn a new swing direction, and on and on.

The lesson is clear; a single correction of a swing issue can be sufficient, but in my experience, two corrections must be tackled for long-term improvement. What to correct first? Well, you’d have to consult with your teacher or coach. As a rule, I try to get better impact first if I can get someone there from where their swing is now. Some other teachers may prefer a different sequence, but I think they’d all agree that a two-part correction is ultimately in the works.

I’ve always believed that teachers can disagree widely on the prescription, but they should be pretty much in unison regarding the diagnosis. Learn the swing flaw AND your reaction to it before you decide to make a swing change.

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