No more excuses! Almost all golf courses and practice areas are now open throughout the country, which means you can now put practice and play back on your golf schedule. And we all know how important practice is when it comes to the game of golf. It’s what we have been told over and over again by the world’s greatest players.
“The harder you work, the luckier you get.” – Nine-time Major winner Gary Player
“The only way to build realistic confidence in yourself is through practice.” – Seven-time Major winner Sam Snead
“Every day you miss playing or practicing is one day longer it takes to be good. – Nine-time Major winner Ben Hogan
“You build a golf game like you build a wall, one brick at a time.” – 1964 British Open winner Tony Lema
“A couple of hours of practice is worth 10 sloppy rounds.” – Ten-time Major winner “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias
“Work on the fundamentals constantly.” – Three-time Major winner Nick Price
“If you know and practice the fundamentals, you eventually can play by feel. But you must practice the correct things. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Purposeful, smart practice makes perfect.” – Eight-time Major winner Tom Watson
This is just a small sampling of the dozens of quotes I have about why a golfer needs to prioritize practice. Of course, it’s one thing to practice and another thing to practice properly.
To find out “what to practice” and “how to practice,” I went to a highly reliable source that understands the strengths and weaknesses of the typical country club golfer – the staff at The Kansas City Country Club. As you will read, whether you are warming up before a round or on the range for practice, it’s nice to have a plan, a purpose.
First up, Paul Hooser, who has been a PGA professional in the Kansas City area since 1991. For 18 of those years, he was the Head Professional at Leawood South
Practice should be a balance of full swing and short game. Practice should also be a balance of skills building and then random practice. Golf is a random game and seldom do you have the exact same shot from the exact same place.
The most important thing to come from practice is confidence. Confidence for a golfer can vanish in one swing. The golfer needs that ability to return to a reference point worked out with coaching and practice. Golf cannot be perfected but the effort in practice is to make your bad ones look similar to your good ones.
In practice continue to review your fundamentals of grip, posture, ball position and alignment. And to build a bridge to the course, work on the routine and process leading up to the swing you take.
Tyler Dunn, who was the head professional at Hallbrook CC for six years prior to coming to KCCC this spring.
I have always been a true believer in going by the numbers. I often see players at the range going through some monotonous routine of hitting balls. What can they gain from this? How about a game plan that is reflective of how you played in your previous round?
I advocate to my students to keep stats during their round (fairways hit; greens in regulation; up and downs; proximity to the hole from inside100 yds; number of putts). If you hit 9/13 fairways, but only hit 4 or 5 greens, pretty clear we need to work on your ball striking/iron game. Or if you hit 14 greens, but had 40 putts, we need to get over to the putting green and work on 5 and 6 footers and your lag putting. I call it Practice with a Purpose. Good statistics really provide an instructor with information that should help him develop short-term and long-term goals for a student.
Evan Scobie, Director of Instruction
It seems like course strategy is missing in most golfers’ games. One of the things I see most common is the lack of preparation in playing – and that includes your home course.
What I mean by that is you should warm up according to how you are going to play the golf course. For instance, before I play any course, I look at the scorecard in order to determine what clubs I am likely to use on the opening holes. I will not warm up thinking about all 18 holes, but I will mentally play the first five holes and warm up accordingly. For example, at KCCC, I know I am going to have driver on hole #1 and pitching wedge; pitching wedge or gap wedge on #2; Driver and 7 iron on #3. I will also tee the ball up with a pitching wedge during warm-ups knowing that is what I am going to use on hole #2.
Then I would tell myself that on the five par 3s at KCCC, I need at least four pars. I tell our members that if you can get close to par or “net par” on our par 3s, you will shoot a lower score than normal.
Obviously, helping members with their swing mechanics is a big part of my job, but I believe teaching strategy and course management are equally important. Whether you are warming up before a round or on the range practicing, think shot shape and target. Remember, nobody has ever shot their best score on the driving range.
Finnian O’Doherty, who is from Letterkenny, a town in Ireland’s County Donegal
Practice can be incredibly tedious and it often takes a long time to see any results, which is why I believe making practice fun and competitive.
Create some games and challenges to simulate the pressure you will feel on the course. The main reason you often get bored practicing is because you haven’t established a goal or a reward for yourself. (The Committee often uses a vodka tonic as a reward for making three 3-foot putts in a row.) On the other hand, staying engaged on the course comes naturally when trying to post a decent score or win a bet.
As for how to practice, I'd recommend 80% putting and short game (inside 125 yards) and the rest on long game.
For example: Set up some putting drills such as "round the worlds" (6 stations from various distances around the hole, make the putt to rotate from spot to spot and not completed until you make all 6 in a row. If you miss, you start again. Once completed, double it to 12 stations.). Games like this will help you create a situation where you will feel pressure and this in turn makes the practice more engaging.
J.B. Mensendiek, a University of Nebraska graduate
Most players go to the range and hit full irons and woods. That’s a mistake. Think about it. How often do you find yourself in the middle of the fairway with the perfect yardage to the pin? This is why practicing more creative shots is so important. Instead of hitting all of those full-swing 56° wedges, pick up your 5 iron and practice low-running punch shots that can stay under tree trouble and run up to the green. And instead of just practicing chip shots from immediately off the green, mix it up by hitting flop shots.
Think about predicaments that have the potential of leading to a big number and practice a shot that will give you the best chance of saving bogey – or a miracle par. The thing that separates a good player from the average player is the ability to hit a variety of different shots when the pressure is on.
Some of my favorite and most helpful shots to practice are:
- Bump and run shots with a utility club (hybrid/rescue) around the green for when you are nestled up against the collar or when you have a tight lie.
- Practice drawing and fading punch shots.
- Choose targets on the range that require you to deal with “in-between” yardages.
- Hitting tee shots to an imaginary fairway.
Don’t be afraid to get creative! As they say, there are no pictures on the scorecard.
And finally, KCCC head professional Andy Fisher
Be sure you are practicing the right things and, to be honest, that means taking lessons. Even low handicappers should take check-up lessons. Practice should be reinforcing the fundamentals. Practice should be a dress rehearsal for the real thing. When the heat is on, you want to have the confidence that you own your swing, not renting it.