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Opinion & Analysis

3 Ways to Make Practice Sessions Worthwhile



It’s always interesting to see how golfers go about their practice sessions, especially when they’re implementing what they’ve learned from a recent lesson. Some machine-gun balls, while others make tons of rehearsal motions and only hit a few balls. When it is all said and done, which player is getting the most out of their session? Regardless of which player type you are, it’s obvious that implementing a new skill is as personal as golfers themselves. 

My goal as a teacher is to help my students understand HOW to get the most out of their practice time. So if my players only have 45 minutes each week to work on their motion, I want them to get as much out of those 45 minutes as possible. Jack Nicklaus always said he never practiced as much as his contemporaries, because he always went to the range with a specific purpose. He focused on his purpose, worked on it and was done. I want you to be the same way.

Over the last few weeks, fellow GolfWRX Featured Writer Cordie Walker has written some fantastic articles on practice and the implementation of motor learning concepts as it pertains to golf. You’ll find them linked below. I have written this article with Cordie because I wanted to combine his expertise with mine to help you to formulate YOUR best practice plan and skill-implementation strategy so you can play better golf as quickly as possible.


When most people practice golf, they’re merely getting exercise. Little learning or skill acquisition is being done. People are creatures of habit, and most golfers have had poor role models when it comes to practicing the craft. Most of their influencers were either their buddies or professionals at a local Tour event, so they believe that going to the range and beating balls is the best way to get better.

Imagine for a moment you have only one hour per week to hit balls in order to work on your game. How do you go about it? I bet most of you follow the “normal” routine most golfers do:

  • You typically go to the same side of the range. 
  • When hitting balls, you always use the same targets and swing mostly the same clubs.
  • When you practice, you make sure you have a good lie on level, fairway grass (and complain when the range isn’t in perfect condition).

That kind of practice doesn’t help you play better on the golf course, and it won’t help you stop hitting the ball in the water on that one hole that doesn’t look good to your eye on the tee box. So how can you practice in a more efficient manner? Below, Cordie and I are going to help you figure out how to practice, and also lessen your time on the range so you can play golf more often!

Give yourself different looks

How often have you seen someone move around to different spots on the tee box of a range? Probably not very often, right. In my opinion, this the most detrimental part of practice: giving yourself the “same look” every time you hit balls. Thus, whenever you find the opposite look on the golf course, you will tend to feel uncomfortable.

In contrast, you should practice different types of shots and give yourself views that simulate the shots you see on the golf course.


Even if you’re hitting the same club, give yourself two completely different looks with different goals and places to miss. Try setting up two different stations that require opposing shot patterns. For example, at station No. 1, a miss to the left leaves you short sided, so the goal is to hit it at the pin or miss right of it.  


Station No. 2 is all about distance control. You must get the ball over the bunker, but can’t miss long because the green is narrow.

Both of these stations test two different areas of your game and push most golfers beyond how they normally practice. Force yourself to hit the correct shot, and see how many times you can avoid the “bail out” shot.

Related: Don’t be so critical! Research shows it pays to be positive

Make sure you set up shots that are demanding, but not unrealistic for your skill level. Be realistic, because it is these challenges that will help you to find ways to score lower on the course. They are not meant to frustrate you and damage your confidence.

Set up the uncomfortable shot

A golfer’s miss (a draw or a slice) usually affects where golfers aim when they’re on the range. So if you slice the ball, it’s doubtful that you choose a spot on the right side of the range and try to hit along that same right side. Why? Because you don’t want to knock balls into the houses on the right of the range and break a window. It adds an element of challenge and pressure, which in all reality you should embrace.

There are many holes out on the golf course that make you line up on the right side of the fairway with houses on the right and left. That’s why it’s important to practice like you play. And if you calm your discomfort during practice, it will be that much easier on the course. 

Conditions that induce the most errors during acquisition are often the very conditions that lead to the most learning! See Learning Versus Performance” by Soderstrom and Bjork.


In the image above, you can see a target on the range that most drawers of the golf ball would happily hit balls to. It fits their eye.

However, as a fader, I’d either have to start the ball over the bunker or aim at the hole and try to hit it straight hoping it doesn’t cut. I love to practice this way because it’s easy to bail out, but so hard to commit and start the ball left of the pin with the bunker in the way. On the golf course, you also have to deal with these kinds of situation. So if you practice them, you might make a birdie the next time around, or avoid a double-bogey.

Maybe your nemesis hole at home is a par-3 with water on the right, and as a fader of the ball you tend to miss right in the pond. If possible, go practice out on that hole. Take your nicest Pro V1s and hit shots to the green. If you come out of the shot, the ball is going in the water and you’re losing a $4 golf ball. This type of committed practice will allow you to move to the next level because if you think losing a $4 golf balls is bad, just think how bad you’ll feel when you lose in the final round of the Member Guest with the calcutta on the line.

Add pressure

There is inherent pressure when trying to perform your best. Whether you’re playing for a few bucks on the weekend with friends or trying to win the club championship, you’ll most likely have to deal with pressure, and it’s tough to recreate that feeling during practice or practice rounds. 

The problem is most people feel pressure for the first time during performance. And it’s the reason why their tournament scores are usually much worse than their Saturday scores with their buddies.

If you haven’t practiced under pressure, how do you expect perform well when you need to? Most people relegate their practice as simply an activity to hit golf balls and try to groove their swing. The reality is there is far more to practice than just the physical activity itself.

Here’s are three simple steps to add pressure to your practice: 

  • Step 1: Set a goal for your practice, and create game where you’re trying to hit a specific shot to a specific target. 
  • Step 2: Set a dollar amount to that game. Succeed and you keep your money; fail and you lose it.  
  • Step 3: I’m serious. If you don’t meet your goal, leave your money on the range for some lucky soul to find.

The fear of losing money is one of the best ways to simulate pressure. And if you don’t do it during practice, then you won’t be able to understand your tendencies when it matters. 

Do you tend to hit the ball thin or fat, long or short when the pressure is on? If you don’t know now, then you might find out what you’re on the last hole of the Club Championship. By then, it’s too late.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ( 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: [email protected]



  1. Troy

    Mar 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Great article Tom,

    This advice is spot on. I see so many golfers just aimlessly smashing their driver every week at the range.

    Personally, I try to mix up the targets but more specifically I work on fixing small things one at a time so I am able to implement them successfully on the golf course.


  2. Alex

    Mar 19, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Tom, nice article but I’m a little confused with station 2. The graphic suggests long is good but the explanation is saying long is bad because the green is narrow. Shouldn’t it be can’t miss wide because the green is narrow?

  3. jcorbran

    Mar 18, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    wonder how they drive the ball picker at that range

  4. Buster Cherry

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:14 am

    When I hit the local public course to practice afterwork I see the entire range full everyday. I would say 100 people hitting range balls but when I walk over to the putting green I might only see a handful of people.

  5. Jon

    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Another great article by Tom. Thanks

  6. Keith

    Mar 17, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Beautiful shot of the Arnold Palmer designed driving range at Top of the Rock in Branson, Mo. Fall in the Ozark mountains in the background if stunning. I live about an hour and a half south of Branson and it’s just as beautiful in person. Buffalo Ridge (the former Branson Creeks) is a must play if you find yourself in the area, Tom Fazio design.

    • mhendon

      Mar 18, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      You’re telling me that’s a real range, I thought it was photoshopped?

    • jcorbran

      Mar 18, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      i thought it was from tiger woods golf

  7. Double Mocha Man

    Mar 17, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Now I understand why I keep finding money on the range!

    • Curt

      Mar 17, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      There must be some really good players at my range, cuz Ive yet to find any……..

  8. Richard

    Mar 17, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Great article Tom.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab



This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury


Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:


We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais –

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)



Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.

As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the third installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here.

Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)

No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.

Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.

No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.

In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.

Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.

Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.

They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.

Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.

How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?

(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)

Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.

(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)

If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?

It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.

Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.

They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.


Artwork by JaeB

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!



Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.




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