Improve Practice for Better Performance

One of the hardest things to do in the game of golf is to transition from the practice tee to the golf course.

Have you ever felt like your range practice was good but when you take it to the course that same feeling is nowhere to be found?  The answer to this dilemma could be in the way that you practice. There are three different types of practice – block, random and variable – that should be utilized to help you transition your game from the range to the course.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of practice:

  1. Block Practice: This is what you see at the range everyday. Golfers hitting golf balls one right after the other with no particular purpose. This is quantity practice but not always quality practice. Block practice is great when you are trying to master a particular swing position and need to get your ‘reps’ in.

2.  Random Practice: This is what will help you transition your range game to the golf course. Random practice is where you actually practice like you are going to play. With random practice, you are preparing for the course by hitting different clubs shot after shot. The next time you are at the range imagine that you are playing each hole of your home course on the range. This type of practice should include a strong focus on your pre-shot routine. Random practice is extremely effective in creating good on-course habits. It will take longer to practice this way so just grab a small bucket to help you stay focused.

  1. Variable Practice: In this method, you take a particular skill and vary the way you practice it. For instance, if you decide to practice your 20-30 yard pitch shots be sure that you vary how you play that shot. Work on changing the trajectory of each pitch shot. Start with your standard pitch and then vary it by hitting the ball lower and higher. And be sure to adopt this approach with every shot you practice during a given session.

Take the time to ‘Practice Like a Pro’ and you will see the results of your hard work on your scorecard.

You’ve Been Practicing Golf All Wrong, and There’s Science to Prove It

Have you been to the range recently? If so, you probably adhered to the typical range pattern, starting with some wedges, working your way through your irons, before moving on to hybrids, fairway woods, and then driver.

The majority of amateurs hit a bunch of shots with a selected club and move on once the swing is grooved. That’s how a lot of golfers practice, and it’s no different than musicians trying to master a difficult piece of music. Much like a golfer who will toil away at his 7-iron until he starts hitting it clean, a violinist, for instance, will repeat a certain passage of music until he or she feels they have it down pat.

That’s called a “blocked practice schedule,” and it’s the way a lot of us have gone about learning a variety of tasks. It’s also woefully ineffective.

Dr. Christine Carter is a clarinetist who wrote her dissertation on “contextual interference effect.” It’s a method that she champions for musicians, and which she expounds upon in a recent post on Golf is never mentioned, and yet the thinking directly applies to the way we work on our games.

As Carter writes, the problem with repetition is after a while our brains aren’t as receptive, because what we really respond to more is change. We might feel like that 13th consecutive 7-iron felt pretty good, but we’re still not learning it as effectively as we could. And unless you’re playing a version of golf that requires you to hit 13 consecutive 7-irons, it’s not applicable to a real golf situation.

“The fact is, repeated information does not receive the same amount of processing as new information,” Carter said. “And on some level, we all know this. Constant repetition is boring and our boredom is telling us that our brains are not engaged.”

Instead, what Carter advocates is called a “random practice schedule” where your brain has to constantly re-adapt. In music, it would mean bouncing around to different passages so you’re constantly engaged. And in golf, it would mean different clubs: a driver, followed by a wedge, followed by a 7-iron. The goal is to still hit a bunch of one particular club, just not in a row — which, of course, is how golf is played anyway.

“This challenge lies at the heart of why random practice schedules are more effective,” Carter writes. “When we come back to a task after an intervening task, our brain must reconstruct the action plan for what we are about to do. And it is at this moment of reconstruction that our brains are the most active. More mental activity leads to greater long-term learning.”

Although Carter doesn’t address golf, she does cite another sports example in which two sets of elite baseball players are thrown pitches in either a blocked pattern — i.e. a bunch of fastballs, followed by a bunch of curves, followed by a bunch of sliders — or a random pattern. The results were dramatic.

“After twelve practice sessions, the baseball players in the random practice schedule hit 57% more of the pitches than when they started. The blocked group only hit 25% more of the pitches, meaning that the random practice schedule was almost twice as effective, even though the two groups hit the same number of practice pitches.”

So consider this an argument for scrapping your usual range routine. The next time, bring a bunch of clubs with you. And make sure you switch them out often.