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Top 5 Practice Tips
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy

Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at askme@thewedgeguy.com.

While there are many golfers who barely know where the driving range is located, I think there are fewer who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater”, since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing. It was prompted by an email I received from Jesse H., who asked:
I have a problem when I am trying to practice either on the range or the course. On the range, I feel like I rush through shots without a goal. On the course, I get caught up in my score and feel like when I try to practice and keep a real score I get distracted.

I also can't work on my short game long, putting and chipping, without getting bored. I truly love golf and want to get better. What would be your top five tips while practicing on the range or the course from tee to green?
Well, Jesse, making practice fun and interesting – and challenging if that motivates you – is the key to getting enough of it in your golf routine. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and find the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do always to be intriguing. So, Jesse, here are what I believe to be my “Top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.
1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a driving range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective . . . how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot, or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose . . . always.

2. Don’t just “do”. . . observe. There are two elements of learning something new. The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.

3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.

4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.

5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than 5-6 shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver”. He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.
My “bonus” tip, Jesse, addresses that comment about practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right? See you guys . . . and ladies . . . on Friday.


* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

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The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
Tropfish1 says:
Thank you for taking the time to share these tips with us. I can't help but wonder where you are playing that you can sit there and hit putts after each hole or take up to an to play 3 or 4 holes. It seems to me I would be asked to leave the course if I were doing that during play.
Maybe someone could comment on this and I could learn from that aspect as well.
Thank you again for your time.
5/5/10
 
WedgeGuy says:
Tropfish, I can do that at my private club in the evenings, fortunately. I understand this is tougher for those who play public courses, but many have "twilight specials" for play after mid-afternoon, and that might be a solution for you. At the very least, you can make practice games around the chipping green in most places to give yourself some sense of "reality".
5/7/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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