Are your practice sessions productive? If they aren’t, you’re wasting time. Regular practice is the best way to learn how to break 80 and cut strokes from your golf handicap. Even if you take golf lessons, your practice sessions must be productive to improve. So what do you do if your sessions aren’t productive?
This article describes a three-step practice system developed by Todd Anderson, PGA Teacher of the Year in 2010 and a consulting teacher for Golf Digest. Anderson is also Director of Instruction at Georgia’s Sea Island Golf Learning Center. It may be just what the doctor ordered if your practice sessions aren’t productive.
You Get Only One Chance
When you’re playing, you get one chance to hit the ball. That’s it. There are no “do overs.” If you mishit the shot, it costs you. To learn to hit a specific shot, many golfers hit the same shot over and over until they learn it.
But this practice approach has flaws. With this type of practice approach, all you may be doing is grooving compensations to your swing—even if someone is providing golf tips while you’re hitting.
Anderson’s three-step learning approach helps teach students new skills. Step 1 is Block Practice, where you set up to a station and practice a specific skill. Step 2 is Random Practice, where you match the skill you just practiced to shots you’d have on the course. Step 3 is Competitive Practice, where you practice drills that place some pressure on you to make the shot—just like when actually playing.
Below is an example of how Anderson applies his practice approach to teach chipping to players with middle golf handicaps:
- Block Practice: The key to chipping the ball close is hitting the right landing spot consistently. The drill below perfects this skill:
Stick four tees in the ground. The tees should form a three-foot box one yard from the green’s edge. Find a spot off the green where you can chip with your pitching wedge and start hitting balls. Practice until you get a good feel for chipping into that three-foot box.
- Random Practice: This step expands on skills developed in Block Practice. This step teaches you to chip with different clubs:
Create a landing box with tees again. Make sure it’s three-feet from the green’s edge. Now create three stations. Create the first station three yards off the green. Create the second station three yards behind the first. Create a third station three yards behind the second.
Begin chipping. Start at the closest station and work your way back. Use an 8-iron to chip balls from the first station. Use a pitching wedge to chip balls from the second station. Use a sand wedge to chip balls from the third station.
Keep practicing until you have good feel for chipping with different clubs. Then move on to the next station.
- Competitive Practice: This step puts you under pressure to make the chip, just as if you were actually playing. Use the drill below to do that:
Drop a ball on the ground. Now set up to a hole with your pitching wedge and putt. Chip from different spots on the fairway. After each chip, try to make the putt—just as you would when playing. Create a practice goal, like getting up and down four times out of 10. Keep track of how well you do when every ball counts.
Use the description above as a pattern for developing a three-step system to improve golf skills.
Anderson’s practice system takes advantage of contextual interference. Contextual interference is defined as the interference in performance and learning that arises from practicing one task in the context of other tasks. To learn more about contextual interference, click on this link.
Practice only works if it’s productive. If it’s not, you’re wasting your time. If your practice sessions aren’t as productive as you’d like, consider Todd Andersons approach. Practice is the only way to break 80 and clip strokes off your golf handicap.