February 2019:Practice versus Play

Having recently returned to full time coaching after 21 years as a Club Professional it gave me time to reflect on what direction the game is going. How can we as coaches get the very best out of our students? How can we as Coaches get the very best out of ourselves? The main topic discussed with both players and coaches over the recent past was in relation to practice versus play. Are we practicing correctly? What is the best way forward? Why do most people play well on the range but struggle on the course. There are a number of reasons. If we practice in a driving range we normally take our stance on level ground. We normally hit the same club numerous times in a row. I see it every day at Cork Golf Centre, 30 shots with a 7 iron, 20 with a driver and then players may repeat the same again. This doesn’t relate to what is happening on the course but it is a habit that we have all been bred into, certainly my generation has. I have even recommended that students do this to develop a swing in the recent past. Was I wrong? In many cases yes! It is a good practice regime for beginners but for competitive golfers it can be a time wasting exercise. A competitive golfer is a golfer in my opinion who shoots in the 90’s or better.

What is the best way for a competitive golfer to practice? My view would be that technical changes can be advanced much faster with hundreds of practice swings without a ball. When you visit the range to practice, start with a physical warm up before hitting any shots. Then start with 4-5 pitch shots slowly increasing speed. After that hit 2 shots with every club in the bag randomly but always aim at a target. At this stage you will have hit approx.. 30 balls from a level stance. Your next step is to simulate a game of golf that you will play in your next round, Pull out whatever club you use on the first tee and take it from there. Always aim at a target and judge how far away from your target you are with every shot. Hit a chip or a pitch if you feel you have missed the green. Play every shot that you think you need to get the ball onto the green throughout the round. Analyse your misses, are they long, short, left or right. Build a database,review it and you will continually improve. Your targets should reflect the middle of the fairway and middle of every green. Your next step has to be hitting shots from sloped lies. In Cork golf centre we have developed “Golf Buda” in collaboration with its designer to allow players to practice from sloped stances. Most of the time outside of tee boxes you will be faced with varying degrees of slope to hit from. Controlling your ball flight from slopes is a major part of the game and you will require guidance from your coach as well as continuous practice to hit these shots successfully. This is also crucial for chip and pitch shots. Don’t forget bunker shot practice!

Finally , correct putting practice is critical to a players development and is probably the most neglected area in golf. The technology and expertise is now available to completely transform your putting. It is the one area where less skilled golfers can almost reach tour standard if they are prepared to work hard enough. At Cork Golf Centre & Spawell Golf Academy, I use The Capto putting system which has transformed many players putting performance. It is now taking the tour by storm with Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari taking their putting to a different level. We will include some putting drills in our next blog.

In the meantime I hope that you start a new practice regime when you visit the range. It is all about performance practice. For lesson bookings please email: info@davidkeatingolf.com

Happy Golfing

David Keating

P.G.A. Fellow Professional

Cork Golf Centre & Spawell Golf Academy

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