Let me be the first to say I loved to practice in my younger years. I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise so I could chip and putt, then hit balls all day at the range until there was an opening on the course to play. Now, however, I feel that practice is significantly overrated. In fact, I have come full circle from my past and believe that, at certain levels, it is more harmful than good in many circumstances. Therefore, in this article I would like to explain my thoughts so you too can practice less and score better.
In the old days, before we had technological feedback and data gathering resources, we had to practice all day just to figure out what worked and what didn’t. In fact, it was like a dartboard of fundamentals; you threw a dart, and that was your starting point to fix your ball flight. As time progressed, we had the advent of video and everyone became obsessed with the “look” of their swing and the “proper” positions. We all found a full-length mirror to rehearse over-and-over until we looked better, but did this ever really help our score?
Today, we have the advantages of video, 3D motion analysis, force plates, and Trackman; thus, we have all the tools necessary to instantly figure out the problem and where it is coming from.
Let me give you and example.
Let’s say you are fighting a slice and cannot figure out why; you do feel that the club is getting a touch “behind” you on the way back, but you cannot determine exactly what’s going wrong. If you were to get a lesson now, you would be hooked up on 3D motion analysis, shown on video, and proven by Trackman that you have a slight over rotation of your lead forearm on the backswing, and you’re putting the club in a laid-off position into the backswing causing you to swing from out-to-in a few degrees on the way down. This MRI of events gives you all the answers you need to know in order to improve, with NO inefficiency! Could you imagine if Hogan had access to all this data? He’d have cured his hook years earlier, and he may have won 100 tournaments in the end.
Now, let me put this into perspective in regard to my stance on practice being overrated. I once taught Pete Sampras how to play golf when I lived in California, and I asked him if tennis players worked on mechanics as much as golfers. His reply was that by the time you get to a certain age your mechanics are set and you have to work on the things that matter, such as footwork and timing. And the same thing is true with golfers. Once you get to a certain point as a player, more harm than good comes from standing on the practice range simply “banging” balls.
In fact, now that you can have a technology-driven lesson as in the example above, you can instantly know what piece of the puzzle to work on and, with the help of an instructor, how to accomplish the fix. After you’ve put in some work with a mirror in order to feel the correct positions and movements, your range time should be minimal. Once you have accomplished the new feeling, it’s time to take it to the course and see if it sticks. If not, then you need to do more rehearsals and hit a few more balls, and repeat. The point is to work smarter, reduce inefficiencies and stop mindlessly tinkering or beating balls without purpose.
After you’ve made the necessary golf-swing improvements, your goal should be to continue to learn how to score better and manage your game. Remember, the pencil and the scorecard is all that matters, NOT how your swing looks or how much time you spend on the range.