When I was in college, I spent each summer working at the Duke Basketball camp. During each session, Chris Collins, an assistant coach at the time, gave the same speech to the campers. In short, he told them, “Every year campers come up to me and tell me that they’re in the gym for three, four, five hours a day. Do you know what I do? I laugh. Because if you’re in the gym for that long, you’re clearly not working hard enough.”
The message of quality practice over quantity applies to golf as well as it does to basketball.
This Lesson Is For You If:
You practice a lot but aren’t improving
You don’t practice because you don’t think you have enough time
No matter how you choose to practice there is one element of quality practice that is non-negotiable: mental focus. If you’re not mentally dialed in to what you’re doing, you can go through thousands of reps and not see improvement. Here are four tips for improving your concentration and your practice.
Smart phones are wonderful, but they are also distraction machines. When your phone is in your pocket or on the bag stand, it’s constantly tempting you to “just check one thing.” Set yourself up for success by leaving your devices – all your devices – in the car or at home.
Use Your Imagination
Why does our mind wander on the range? Because repetitively hitting yellow balls into a giant field is boring.
Use your imagination to create game-like situations. Visualize an approach shot on your favorite course. Imagine hitting the tee shot on an intimidating hole. Play golf on the range by switching clubs after each shot.
You’ll find it much easier to stay focused on the shot when you turn it into something more than the fiftieth consecutive 7I that you’re hitting toward nowhere.
Nothing heightens mental focus like putting something on the line. Make a bet with yourself about the outcome of each shot or series of shots. Success or failure creates a deposit or withdrawal from you “New Driver” account. Bring a friend and make a bet about who can land their 9I closer to the red flag. Loser buys the post-range meal.
The vast majority of us have lousy practice habits, and we can’t expect to overcome that by reading an article. Start by setting a small goal: warm up, hit ten balls with great focus, then go home.
If you are able to accomplish that, try eleven next time If you get distracted, try nine. Over time, you’ll build up your ability to have extended, quality practice sessions. Then you’ll see your game really take off.