30 Golf Practice Drills (P2)
Components of Deliberate Practice
Practice must have a structure
- If left to our own devices, most of us will have haphazard and unplanned practice. This will produce inconsistent and slow progress at best.
- Most players just practice the same things and expect to improve. For a beginner this will work fine for a period of time, however the beginner will soon reach a fixed point beyond which improvement won’t take place without coaching and focussed practice.
- A structured pracrice plan will push you to learn and be able to execute skills which are currently just out of reach. There is a healthy tension between what challenges you and something that you have the skills to achieve (even if you can’t currently perform at that level).
- If you have a coach, one of the main ways your coach will be able to help you is in showing you how to practice correctly. Beter still if they create a practice plan for you to follow.
- Later in this book is advice on how you can create your own pracfice plan. You can even just copy the suggesfions in this book if you don’t have fime to create your own and you will gain massive benefit.
Look for different ways of actiuiring feedback. This can come from your coach, video reviews, statistics in practice and play as well as you monitoring changes in swing feels. The ultimate form of feedback which you get on every shot is the feel of contact and the flight of the ball.
- Record the results of your play and practice to monitor your progress over time. Most golfers feel that they know their game tiuite well, yet can’t even recall their scores from round to round, let alone over a period of time. They will also have no chance of objectively identifying their stats for putting, driving, scrambling or anything else. There are numerous ways to monitor your practice, from simple statistics to more complex web-based programmes. One I use with players I coach is called Shots to Hole (www.shotstohole.com); I highly recommend it.
- Feedback should be available continuously. The feel of impact and the flight of the ball will provided this. If you are doing drills set by your coach then you will also noTIce how easily you are able to do the drill and how effecTIve it is for improving your ball flight (or short shot, etc.).
- Occasional feedback is like your annual review at work. It is usually less than worthless. You need immediate feedback to continue moving forward. How would that be in the workplace?
Do similar amounts of practice daily rather than cramming large amounts of practice into just a few days of the week.
- Deliberate practice is taxing mentally as your atention is directed entirely to the activity.
- Lots of practice is required to really improve. This repetition may seem monotonous, however building something that withstands the pressure and anxiety of standing on the first tee takes time and lots of repetition.
Set and try to master specific goals in weekly practice. These may be small elements of the total skill.
- Not only does this direct your atention specifically, it keeps your mind on the job.
- It is easier to monitor your progress with specifics than generalitis.
The duration of your practice is limited by your ability to concentrate.
- As soon as your concentration wanders, take a break and either finish for the day or return when you are refreshed.
- Focussing intensely burn up mental energy, so you will need to take short breaks. Your ability to concentrate will improve over time provided your practice is intense.
Practice sessions must stress your ability, i.e. incorporate competitive practice and difficult drills.
- Always practice on the outer edge of your comfort zone.
- Practicing deliberately is not easy. It takes focus, putting up with volumes of similar practice and being continuously mindful of your progress.
- Improvements are small when you only practice the things you are good at. They aren’t the leverage points for massive improvement.
- Developing your weaknesses is where change happens; doing the things you don’t really like doing, but acknowledge are the important things to do.
- Deliberate practice isn’t necessarily fun. In fact, a lot of the time it’s not very enjoyable.
Adopt a disciplined approach
The ideas outlined on the preceding pages describe the elements of deliberate practice. Here are some pointers to consider in addition to following your practice plan.
- Make a personal commitment that you will avoid any sloppy practice.
- No iPods. You can’t split your atention. I know I’m a male, but have it on good authority that females really can’t do two things at once either.
- Practice mental and strategic skills as well as technique. These need to be incorporated into your practice and practice plan. They don’t occur in isolation on the course so need to be incorporated into your technical practice. They are also skills (as much as swinging a club correctly) which means they require atention and practice.
- Practice all different types of shots regularly rather than focussing on either your strengths or weaknesses
- Stay away from the tip of the week and work with what your coach is recommending.
- Experts are able to consistently set up the same way, use consistent routines and prepare physically and mentally on every occasion. This highlights the importance of pre-shot routines having highly developed mental and physical components, so practice that as well.
The debate lives on about which is more important: natural talent or deliberate practice. Of course the ultimate gevident in virtually every world champion g is a combination of the two.
Work done by Dr Anders Ericsson on learning as well as Geoff Colvin in Talent is not Enough describe how the rule of 10 years or 10,000 hours training will create an expert in the fields they have studied, such as music, the arts, some sports and academia.
I’m not so sure this can be accepted as a blanket proposal. I know plenty of golfers who have practiced hard to achieve expert status, i.e. Becoming a professional playing on one of the main Tours of the world. The majority of these players don’t achieve their ambition.
In a sport such as golf, which has an extremely high skills and mental component, it is not enough to just train well for 10 years. There needs to be a basis in athletic skills (preferably a multi-sport background), a young starting age (although not necessarily specialising in golf too soon), exposure to quality coaching and training facilities and an intense desire to excel. Yes, I know, it’s a prety extensive list.
There have been exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. When we hear of an exception, it gives heart to those who believe they can succeed even by taking shortcuts. The road to broken dreams is litered with those who tried to get away with taking shortcuts.
The encouraging news is that whatever your aspirations, the Deliberate Practice concepts will accelerate and guarantee your improvement.
The next chapter looks at the mistakes that most players make in practice and how you can avoid them…