The Basics of Effective Practice


Get the Basics Right

Most golfers don’t set up their practice sessions in a way that will help them retain and transfer skills to the golf course.  More often than not, they go through the motions hoping that something good sticks.  This is why the phrase, “I can’t take my range game to the golf course” is heard so often.

Fortunately, setting up an effective practice session is one of the easiest tasks to do. All that is required is a slight adjustment.

The Top Two

There are two vital components to making practice useful.  The first is making sure that there is more than one task, which require using more than one golf club.

The second component is having more than one place (environment) to practice in.


A Sample Lesson Plan

Task 1:  Working on putting distance control

Drill: Putt from the middle of the putting green with your eyes closed.  Roll the ball within a putter length of the fringe of the green.

Area: Putting green

Task 2: Working on pitching

Drill: Set up six different distance targets.  Hit one golf ball into each target with only one swing per target.

Area: Right side of the practice ground

Task 3: Working on tee shots

Drill: Hit the golf ball from left to right and a certain height in the air.  With five attempts, judge your success on the number of shots that peaked above your desired height and moved from left to right your desired amount.

Area: Left side of the practice ground

Why Practice This Way?

Setting up your practice like this provides the interference necessary for golfers to remain in the cognitive and associative stage of learning.  It also allows the context of the multiple environments to help shape the acquisition of the skills being learned during the practice.  Learning is very specific which means the practice environment has to represent the playing environment for maximum transfer of skills.  The environment’s role is vital in this process, and it must provide varying levels of unpredictability.

Try setting up a practice like the one above.  You’ll see a benefit long term when you need to produce those skills in a tournament.

Matthew Cooke
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  1. Call me non-conventional but in the cold winter months with snow still on the ground, I walk onto my local muni course and practice from the course itself dialing in my iron ballstriking. I’ll usually only take a wedge, mid iron and a long iron along for the ride. I’ll practice shots from a variety of lies from the fairway, first cut and rough hitting at a green. This includes practicing tee shots with irons. I’ll also hit shots from sidehill lies and shots from awkward locations behind trees etc. With a GPS watch I will dial in my distance with each club but practice a variety of shots using the same club in my hand from a variety of distances and situations. I found my distance control, aim and shotmaking on a variety of shots is showing some great improvement. In addition hitting into partially snow covered greens allows me to aim for particular sections of the green which dials in my aim. More than anything else I am actually simulating what I will see on the golf course! Unconventional and very effective plus lots more fun!

    • Claude, I like what you are doing. You are utilizing lots of effective strategies that will facilitate the development of your skills. You are making practice more difficult, which creates mechanisms within your brain and body that learn how to deal with the difficulty of your practice tasks. Because playing is different to what you are practicing, and has less contextual interference, you are preparing yourself extremely well for competitive play. Bravo

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