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Stickney: How to practice like you play

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As I have written in previous articles, there are two different types of practice you can do when you go to the range. One is hyper-focused on swing mechanics. And the other is focused on working on things you will find yourself having to do on the golf course in order to score.

These are the things I focus on when working on my swing, because my misses are mainly slight pulls like this one below from time to time:

These factors are the ones I find most helpful when working on MY swing fundamentals.  Your misses and your swing focus may be totally different and that is OK. Remember, it’s here that we are ONLY working on your golf swing.

When I feel like my mechanics are under control, I tend to go to the range to focus on hitting shots — you know, the ones I must use on the golf course every time I play.  This is the key to scoring…hitting shots! Not working on my mechanics.  These types of practice times help me to learn how to PLAY golf.

When I do this I usually focus on a few areas to fine tune my “feels” so I can be a shotmaker:

I start by hitting a shot at partial speed and then trying to hit each successive ball just past the last one.  This helps me to gain better yardage control, and therefore I seldom have in-between yardages I can’t handle.

Next I work on altering the height I hit the ball.  I begin low and work my way to as high as I can hit the ball.  As we know, the ball’s landing angle helps to stop the ball quicker on the firm greens we have during the summer and during tournaments.  It is this drill that helps me find those hard to reach pins tucked behind bunkers. This type of practice helps my trajectory control.

As a player who moves the ball from left to right 90 percent of the time, it is important for me to also work on curving the ball the opposite way because sometimes I will have to do so on the course.  Working on curing the ball the opposite way keeps your swing sharp and helps if you are tending to move the ball too much in the other direction. This drill helps me to feel the opposite curvature than what is normal in my world.

Now comes the fun drill hitting the ball both directions and curving the ball as much as I possibly can and still find the target.  Here I am exaggerating curving the ball so I can get myself out of trouble on the course or find a pin that is tucked way right or left on the green.  This drill helps me to fine tune my ball control.

As you can see, these are fun type of drills that have great advantages to players on the course.  Not every shot is your stock shot and not every day plays the same. If you don’t work on hitting shots then you are only working on half your game at best!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. TONEY P

    Nov 12, 2018 at 10:04 am

    The best practice is to work on your game on the course, there you can see what you really need to do from actually being in the situation. Hitting on the range is fine but doesn’t apply the same pressure as knowing you can lose some new balls to water or an O.B.

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While surfing through some old swings, I found a great photo of two players hitting pitch shots at Augusta. Both are great pitchers of the ball but use differing techniques. It goes to show you that there is more than one way to get the job done and in fact it reiterates that there is really no “law” when it comes to what shot to play under certain circumstances.

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