Practice to Get Good, Not Look Good

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Looking Good Doesn’t Mean Getting Good

Often golfers have been victim to poor types of practice, infusing frustration and promoting poor on-course performance. The golf industry has misguided golfers, without knowing or wanting to, when it comes to attaining higher levels of skill. A driving range, a practice putting green, and a practice chipping area are the usual norms for a facility or golf club, and it’s really one of the only feasible arrangements.

The problem is that this type of arrangement is not an accurate representation of the real time playing environment, and so it takes a little “out of the box” thinking to make it effective. The golf course has many different lengths of grass, types of grass, hole shapes, slopes, hole distances, and more that a golfer has to go out and appropriately deal with. The environment currently in place, that facilitates the learning of skills for golfers, does not match up with the environment that they are tested, and play in.

What we can’t do is build a practice golf course alongside the real playing golf course, this simply is not feasible and manageable, in most cases. What we can do is alter the way golfers utilize the current environment by incorporating a few different, yet effective, and scientifically suggested, practice techniques.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You’re practicing but not seeing results on the course

Your improvements on the range aren’t showing up on your scorecard

You’re in a rut with your practice

Change How You Practice

There are two concepts that you need to add to your practice:

  • Blocking, massed interleaving, and interleaving
  • Varying the conditions, both environmental and goal orientated

Blocking, massed interleaving, and interleaving are 3 different ways golfers can practice, which are all relevant to their current level of ability. Golfers categorized as a beginner can participate in a more blocked style of practice. A note I would add here is that this type of practice is to be shifted away from as soon as golfers begin to show any signs of executing shots. An example of blocking is hitting the same club, from the same position, multiple times consecutively. I.e. 5 iron, from location 1, 50 times.

Massed interleaving is the next part of practice that would be beneficial for golfers after they show signs of executing shots in a blocked fashion. Massed interleaving is hitting a number of the same shots consecutively, but fewer shots than blocking before moving on to using another golf club, or target i.e. 5 iron, location 1, 5 times, 6 iron, location 1, 5 times.

Interleaving practice is the most random of them all, which will be mostly beneficial for those golfers showing competency. Interleaving is never hitting the same club, or the same type of shot consecutively i.e. 5 iron, location 1, 1 time, 6 iron, location 1, 1 time, 5 iron, location 1, 1 time, and doing this circuit 50 times.

The alteration of these practice types provides progressively more interference, making it slightly more difficult for the golfer to perform. This is called operating on the “sweet spot”, a term made largely popular by Daniel Coyle in his book “The Talent Code”, Dr. Robert Bjork from UCLA also shares a lot of good information relating to this type of practice, also know as “Desirable difficulties”, and most recently Mark Guadagnoli with his theory called “challenge point”. All suggest that practice difficulty increases as the skill level of the golfer increases.

Varying the conditions, both environmental and goal orientated are ways to provide more context. Everything we learn as human beings, not just golfers, is done in a context. So if we stay in one location while trying to learn then we run the risk of contextualizing that information, and those skills to that one location, which will made it harder to recall later when needed on the golf course in competition.

By applying these two techniques in practice, golfers will see a huge benefit in the long run, which will allow them to perform to their true potential.

Matthew Cooke
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