Better Golf Practice: How to Make your Practice Time More Productive

Dan Gold
Written by
Last update:

Create a Solid Foundation

The first step in becoming an effective practice golfer is to learn how to build a solid foundation. The key to this is keeping things simple and understanding that excellence is the result of a balance of development and preparation.

Discarding your notion that you need to learn too many things is the first step to creating a solid foundation. Instead, spend time on critical basics that must be mastered to the tee. Take dead aim at what applies most to your game. Getting your fundamentals in good shape is much more important than just hitting the ball as far as you can.

Don’t forget that boring may be a good thing for some of your practice sessions. Not every single practice session needs to have a fun and exciting game. Practice under some structured drills or even just alone. This will enable you to concentrate more on the basics. If you have your foundation down, practice will be exciting and fun.

Another important thing to have in your golf game is something called “inside game”. Learning different skills can be fun and exciting. Focusing more on having a balance of good fundamentals and solid practice skills can make practice more fun.

How to Aim

What is the lowest score you have ever shot on a golf course?

Most people would think that it is a score of 18 on a par-three hole. Not true!

The lowest round of golf is a score of 59. That’s right, just five-over par.

Most golfers are unaware of this. So when you play your next round, if you shoot a par-38, you have actually shot to par.

Typically on a par-three hole, most golfers will hit three or four drives that are par-three drives. Based on your handicap, you may also hit one par-four and one par-five drive.

Just hitting the fairway on a par-three is “score-to-par.”

On average, each time you miss a fairway, your score will increase by one stroke. So hitting a fairway means you’re getting closer to par.

It’s interesting to see how few golfers actually pay attention to this.

Practice With Purpose

If you practice mindfully, you will discover that your time will be more productive. Here’s why.

When you practice with purpose, you will discover that you will get more results with less effort.

When you practice mindfully with focus and concentration, you will achieve much better results than practicing haphazardly.

When you practice with purpose, you will discover that you will play more consistently.

You will discover that it’s easier to concentrate on the current hole as opposed to missing shots and worrying about the next one.

You will discover that you will manage your missed shots better. Missing a few shots in a row could easily throw off a player playing haphazardly. But when you’re playing with purpose, you will have much better self control.

You will discover that you will learn much faster. When the mind is focused and concentrated, you will notice things in the game that you wouldn’t otherwise. And that will help you learn faster.

Understand Internal vs. External Focus

When it comes to golf improvement and performance, it is very important to understand that golf is a sport of mental execution.

Because of this, self efficiency and practice performance level shows a direct correlation with improvement.

Separate to the golf swing itself, there are two important components to having a good practice session when it comes to performing to your… or a lower handicap. They are concentration and controlling your mind or your mental game.

It is no secret that you need to spend time on the golf course to improve your skills. Training and practice are the key to success in life as much as picking up skills.

However, if you went to the driving range every day, you would be expected to improve regardless of the quality and length of time you spent.

The key in practicing for golf improvement is not about how long you have trained with your better golf buddies or how many clubs you brought to the range. The key is in your level of self-awareness and concentration.

This is because concentration is a form of self-awareness.

When practicing golf, you need to understand how to focus on the right aspect to improve. This is known as internal or external focus.

If your mind is not focused in the right direction, you might hit the ball or train the wrong way.

Choose Quality of Shots vs. Quantity

Which is more important: the volume of shots or their quality? That’s a decision you need to make before you pick up a golf club and before you make a practice plan. If it helps, you can frame the decision in terms of your goals and objectives.

If you’re performing a skill you’ve developed a lot, you might be over-practicing. Good golfers are like other professionals in that they don’t over-practice their skills. They work on the weakest part of their game and over time, they eliminate those weaknesses.

They also pick the shots that matter the most and work single-mindedly on those. You might find it easier to work on one option or one shot and to cut out most of the ineffective ones.

The number of shots you need to practice to become a great golfer is around 60,000. That’s a lot of shots. As you can see, you really need to be selective about which shots you practice. Good golfers are masters at choosing the best shots. They pick their targets based on their strengths and weaknesses, and they eliminate the practice of shots they are already good at.

Mix Up Your Practice Routine

Most golfers practice the same old drills and the same old games over and over. Sure, it’s a good way to get the stroke down, but it’s certainly not the best way to develop the feel that you get out on the course. A better approach is to focus on a specific goal and use the game as a practice tool.

For example, if you want to learn to break out of steep downhill lies, the best way to do that is by using them on the golf course. Play a few games when you’re on uphill.

When you’re on the practice green or range, try the carry on a steep downhill lie. A few practice shots should be all you need to make the adjustment.

Another great example is the putting game. Almost every golfer works on full shots from five feet, five yards, twelve feet and twenty-five yards every time that he goes out onto the range. Why? Because it’s the only way to practice full shots at those distances. The problem is that the stuff you work on rarely shows up on the course every day. So work on something else, like short game chipping or putting … learn to make the adjustment from full shots to short shots.

Play A Round on the Range

If you don’t live near a golf course but you’re lucky enough to live near one, you can get all your golf practice in preparing for a round of golf in a few hours.

Simply take your pro shops most difficult club and head on the range. Start with the tee. Use one iron at a time and set up a target five paces back.

Take a driver to a wedge and hit 4-6 shots with each club to familiarize yourself with its flight and also to see if you are missing the sweet spot on the club face.

Then step up five paces and set up a target.

Hit your irons off the tee, out of the fairway and out of the rough from five different marks.

From the green hit a few chips. Work on your alignment and posture.

Hit a few putts from five different spots on the green.

When you have finished, make a note of the yardage you have hit each ball. This gives you a starting place for your practice.

You should also make note of any adjustments and anything that you have missed with each club.

You can practice from other distances with each club. Use sand traps and bunkers for a different experience.

Become a Wedge Wizard

If you play genuine golf and not just a mini-golf version in the backyard, then putt-putt has to play second fiddle to wedge shots. The longer you play, the more you learn to revere the wedge shot, which just may lie at the heart of golf’s golden mean—and yours, too.

The swing is straight; it gives the club a chance to swing freely while delivering a full shot more efficiently and consistently than the woods. It also means more practice is in order, because unlike the driver, the wedge shot has to be honed to a fine art.

There are also putt-putt courses that have a fine art of their own. The greens can be challenged, particularly when you’re trying to putt straight and this takes practice. “Putts that break left or right are far harder to pick up. So practicing on a mirror image green can really help,” says Jeff Ritter, Dave Pelz’s instructor at the Pelz Golf Institute. “A good lie from a bunker and a simple dry putting green with an eight-inch hole are both great drills.”

In addition to practicing…(read practicing) your putting game:

Practice Your Weaknesses

Every golfer has strengths and weaknesses. Some may have good drives, but they may be lacking when it comes to short game. Others may have their short games down, but their distance might leave something to be desired. Whatever your strengths or weaknesses, it is important to know what they are.

Before you head to the course for the first time in the year, however, take some time to work on your weaknesses. This is usually a tedious task, but it would do you a world of good when you are able to turn your weaknesses into strengths.

Start Creating a Better Practice Routine

The first step to a more productive practice routine is to be aware of the habits you currently have. While you are smack dab in the middle of doing them, it’s hard to recognize which them are great and which are not so great. It’s a bit like an airplane that is flying through a storm.

While you are flying directly through the storm with lightning thundering all around you, you may find yourself thinking that this storm has nothing at all to do with you.

Think of the way you practice as the flight through the storm. You want to get from point A to point B as quickly and as safely as possible. You’re mostly focused on flying the plane.

Just like the plane, you may get completely caught up in your mission to improve your swing. All the while, you may have subconsciously adopted someone else’s practice habits, or you’ve unknowingly developed some of your own unsavvy practice habits.

Before you know it, your practice time becomes disconnected from your priorities.