No this isn’t an article about the ego’s in the NBA or the lack of Allen Iverson on television anymore, but rather the ever important preparation that so few people accomplish – worthwhile practice. Golf is the only sport I can currently think of that is primarily taught away from the area it is played.

If you are practicing free-throws, you are standing on the same line and aiming at the same hoop that you will be in the heat of competition.  Practicing penalty kicks in soccer – same thing. Learning to kick off a football – same starting point and ball position whether practicing by youself or kicking under the Friday night lights. Learning to throw a curve ball – you stand 60’6’’ away from home plate regardless if Albert Pujols or your brother is standing in the batter’s box.  You get the point.

Yet with golf, we seek instruction and spend hours and hours hitting balls on the range at a rate that rivals an automatic weapon, yet we are rarely able to transfer the success of our practice sessions to the course. There are several reasons why this may occur, and those reasons will be discussed in a later blog, but for now, let’s focus on how you can improve your practice. Here are three unique approaches that will help maximize your practice sessions.

1. Practice is not Fast Food

The quality of your practice is much more important than the quantity of your practice. It is no good to spend $10 on a large bucket of golf balls if you only have 30 minutes to practice. The driving range ought not to resemble a shooting range. Each shot should be preceded by a pre-shot routine, as well as a specific desired result based on whatever specifically is being practiced.

Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer of all time stated, “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. First I see the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I see the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behavior on landing. Then there is a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality.” If this is the approach the greatest golfer took to practice, shouldn’t our efforts model a similar form?

2. Practice with a Purpose

Quite often I will begin a lesson and ask a student what they are working on. It is quite surprising to see how often a student responds with a shrug of the shoulders or a simple shake of the head, indicating nothing in particular. I have quickly come to realize that if they had had an answer to my question, they often would be able find a solution on their own, and my assistance would not be needed.

Solid and consistent ball contact is the essence of golf, yet this can be achieved with various techniques and approaches. I often help my students find one, or possibly two things max, to work on for the entire lesson and disregard to a large extent, other areas that need improvement. All great golfers have an end goal in mind, and use their practice time to assist them in achieving whatever particular goal they might have.

3. Take it to the Course

It is one thing to hit a good shot on the range, but it is entirely different to hit a good shot when playing a golf hole. The scenery changes, your mind starts to race and it is somewhat of an unfamiliar place, compared to the practice tee. Why not spend time actually on the course practicing?

This will allow you to physically feel how your body reacts to being on the course as well as tangible results that have a specific outcome. The more accustomed a player can feel on the course, the more likely they are going to relaxed and allow their abilities to overcome their anxieties. This type of practice is best done late in the afternoons, or if your course allows, ask to play the back 9 only, early in the morning.

These 3 suggestions will hopefully assist you in not only playing golf, but provide new meaning and life to what Is often described as an arduous and time consuming task… Practice – Yes , Allen Iverson, that is what I am talking about!

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