Practice Golf With Purpose

It is perfectly fine to head to the golf range, hit a bucket of balls working through your bag, then pack up and leave. However, this won’t move the needle in terms of your skill level.

Now and again you need to resolve very specific issues within your golf game. This might be a slice with your driver, miss-hitting your irons, or missing short putts. To resolve these issues you must practice with purpose – in this article we’re going to look at how.

Set clear aims

This is an obvious starting point, but before you hurl your full bucket of balls into the range tray and start raking and whacking, consider why you are there:

  1. What area are you working on?
  2. What technical change is your focus?
  3. What club(s) should you use?
  4. How do you know you’ve done it correctly?
  5. How many balls should you hit?

Below is my curated to-do list to ensure you improve your golf in the most effective way. Before we begin, you will need to know your area of focus and the technical aspect you want to work on, the rest is covered below.

Step 1 – Master the raw movement

Making technical changes whilst swinging a golf club at 70 – 100mph is so tough, and yet we all seem to attempt it. The first step is to practice the movement, or set of positions, without a golf ball. This can be done at home, or at the golf range. It also helps to use a mirror for feedback. Make the movement you feel is correct, hold the position, then check in the mirror and correct the position if required.

Repeating this 10 – 20 times gives your body a far better idea of what the swing change should feel like.

Step 2 – Drills, part-practice and training aids

The next stage is to practice the swing change in parts or segments. This could be a specific swing drill from your coach. Making a mini swing, and possibly, pausing at key positions. Another approach is to make full swings using golf training aids to provide feedback. The approach you use depends on what change you are trying to make and your personal preference.

Golf Insider note: What we are talking about above is part-practice versus whole practice. There is a lot of good research on this topic, considering when to break down the movement into parts and when to practice the movement as a whole. The TL:DR is this – part-practice is better for learning a position, whole practice is better for learning how to sequence movements (temporal aspects). Use and tinker with both approaches at different stages of your swing change.

The aim at this stage is to be able to make the swing change you are looking for consistently with some motion involved. This is a step forward from stage one as your body has to learn how to achieve the swing change, whilst making contact with the golf ball.

During this stage, care far less about the shot outcome (ball flight) and far more about if the actual movement you’ve made is correct.

Step 3 – Implement into your normal swing

The next step in practicing with purpose is to transition the swing change to your normal swing. There are a few key errors many golfers make with this step, so try remember:

  1. To begin with, it is near impossible to over-do the change you are trying to make.
  2. The correct ‘normal swing’ will not feel normal at all, this is fine.
  3. Ensure you use the ball flight from each shot to diagnose if you made enough of the swing change.

After each swing it is critical to evaluate the last shot, make a practice swing or rehearsal, then plan out the feeling you need for your next shot. If you want more detail on this critical process have a read of The Real Reason Golfers Don’t Get Better With Practice.

Practice with purpose structure

If you implement this approach your practice volume should look something like the following:

  • 10 – 20 raw practice swings with mirror
  • 20 – 30 part practice swing or drills
  • 20 – 30 full swings, with rehearsals in between each shot

At the first stage, focus on getting into the correct position. At stage two focus on consistently making the change whilst making contact with the golf ball. At stage three focus on using the position to optimise your performance – the ball flight.

Practice with purpose summary

With this approach you will begin to see real changes in your golf swing and performance whilst only hitting 40 – 60 golf balls. I’m not going to tell you this is the secret to great golf practice – there is no such thing. However, this approach is a huge advancement on how most golfers attempt to improve.

Take this framework, use it, refine it and make it your own. If you like this approach to practice you can check out the Golf Insider Performance Diary – I think that will help you in your quest.

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to receive a free weekly article each Monday, sign up for the Golf Insider weekly post.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

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