Importance of Practicing Properly & How to Practice Properly
Are you practicing properly or do you know how to properly practice? If you think you are, analyze the most recent practice session you've had and continue reading. Most players go to the driving range, get a large bucket, warm up for five minutes, dump the large bucket in the ball tray, hit them in 15 minutes and then leave. If that sounds like your practice sessions, this article is just for you. Most golfers think that's a good practice session but in reality, it wasn't very effective at all. This is the type of practice that will continue to keep someone treading water instead of actually improving.
A good practice habit to get into is making more practice swings than swings while hitting the ball...
Your practice sessions, just like your golf game, need to have a goal in mind. If you've recently taken a lesson with your coach, the topic of your last lesson should be the goal of your practice session. For example, if your lesson was about your hand path in the backswing moving more inwards, you should have a goal of making sure your hands move more inwards on every swing. The last "tip" you received from your friend, YouTube, or anywhere else you've heard a change shouldn't be part of your practice session.
Once you have your goal in mind, your practice session should be all about ingraining that one, single motion. The practice session should be about quality instead of quantity. I usually tell my students that I would rather them get a small bucket instead of a large bucket and spend the same amount of time of that bucket. A good practice habit to get into is making more practice swings than swings while hitting the ball. I recommend that my students make 10-15 practice swings while exaggerating the swing change. If you have access to video, practicing while in front of a video camera can give you a significant advantage to making the swing change ingrained. You can instantly see if you have made the swing change or not and then adjust quickly to make sure you are making the change in the correct way.
There are quite a few things you can do to make the swing change easier. You can take away the golf ball or make practice swings to make sure you can exaggerate the swing change. Once you get the swing change more ingrained you can add the golf ball back in to see if the swing change has stayed with you. You can shorten the swing and slow the swing down to help ingrain the motions as well. You can start with ¼ swings at ¼ speed and then slowly increase the speed. Once you start seeing your swing going back to the old habits when increasing the speed and length, you can stop at that speed and length. From there, you can slowly exaggerate the swings from there and once you're ready, you can start adding more speed or increasing the length of the swing. Be sure to not increase the speed and length at the same time.
While you are practicing properly, remember that not all shots will be perfect. You are changing a motor skill when practicing properly and are not thinking about hitting the ball. You will feel like you are taking one step back before taking two steps forward. That's not always the case because while changing a motor skill, you are not thinking about making contact or shaping your shot. Don't worry about poor contact/direction because that will come back when you aren't thinking about making the change after it's ingrained.
By following these guidelines on how to properly practice, the changes in your swing with be ingrained faster and last longer. Your practice sessions will be different than most people on the driving range but then again, most people don't know how to properly practice.