September 2010

September 2010: GOLF TIPS FROM A PRO - Make The Most Of Your Practice Time

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Are you spending countless hours on the driving range or putting green without lowering your scores? Do you vainly hit ball after ball, chip after chip or putt after putt? Are you a great ‘range player’ but finding it difficult to take your range game to the course? There are various ways to practice improving your game. Knowing and applying them ensures that your practice time is effective.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not practice prior to your round of golf. That time is for warming up. The best time to practice can either be immediately after your round or when you have a few days off from playing. Immediately after your round is the best time to work on a minor problem since your misses are fresh in your mind. Waiting until tomorrow does not help fix what is broken today. At the same time, having a day or two away from playing frees you from the pressure of trying to score, and you can concentrate on your areas of greater weakness. It puts your attention where it needs to be and allows you to apply what your instructor recommended.

Regardless of skill level, all golfers should practice their short game as much as possible. Our definition of the short game is less than 100 yards, including putting, chipping/pitching, and sand. This part of the game makes up 40-65 percent of all golf strokes during a round, so why wouldn’t you practice this part of your game the most? The easiest way to shave strokes from your game is to make more putts. Putting greens are rarely closed. Also, you can putt on your living room carpet. The foremost aspect of improved putting (assuming a properly fitted putter) is distance control, and it can be improved by using a metronome (found at most music stores). Putting two-three days/nights per week with a metronome will greatly improve your ability to control distance. A putting lesson can also take many strokes off your game immediately.

Chipping/pitching and sand must also be practiced in various ways. Hit different shots—high and soft, low and running—from various lies around the green so you become accustomed to the shot types you encounter while playing. You rarely have the same shot from the same lie on the course, so why would you practice standing in one spot hitting to the same hole over and over again?

Practicing with your wedges can save strokes by giving you shorter putts for birdie and par. However, if you only hit each of your wedges a fixed distance, you are limiting your scoring potential. Learning to control the distance and trajectory of each wedge is a bonus to anyone’s game. One way to alter wedge distance is by using the clock system. Imagine a large clock around your body with you in the center. By taking your lead arm (left arm for right-handers) to a specified ‘time’, i.e. 7:30, 9:00, 10:30, you can hit the ball various distances with the same club. Once you know the distance for each ‘time’ you will be able to dial in your wedge shots, hit the ball closer and shoot lower scores. If you can’t do it, find an instructor to show you how.

If you go to the range without a specific purpose, the time spent there is wasted. Each visit to the range should be spent working on something in particular. It is also important to make your practice time as realistic as possible, i.e. Instead of hitting to the same target, hit to different targets. Hit a shot with your driver followed by a shot with an iron, as you would on the course. Use one club to one target and another club to another target so you don’t get used to swinging the same club over and over at the same target.

Setting goals also enhances your practice time. If you are a beginner or novice, simply hitting 10 consecutive shots high into the air might be your goal. If you are a better player, fading or drawing the ball to your target might be your goal.

By practicing the same way you would play—hitting shots you would use on the golf course—you will improve your game and lower your scores.

If you would like help making your practice time more effective, call the Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head. We GUARANTEE we can improve your game. For an appointment or more information, call (843) 338-6737. Follow us on Facebook or visit online at

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