Have you ever gone to the driving range only to finish hitting balls and feel like your golf swing got worse?
Or maybe you were trying to make a swing change but got bored of hitting the same 7-iron drill from your instructor.
If you’ve been practicing and experienced either of these feelings you might have even begun to wonder to yourself, “What is the point of practicing anymore?”
Golf is one of those sports that shows it’s not how much time you put into practice but how you practice that makes all the difference.
The challenging part about golf is that there are so many types of shots to practice. From drivers, long irons, fairway woods, chipping, flops or putting -- your options are nearly endless.
I’ve found that quality practice is finding a balance of making it fun and effective. You want to make practice challenging, engaging, and effective in the least amount of time possible.
Here are the three ways to help improve your full-swing practice routine and learn the habits to practice smarter than 90% of amateur golfers.
1. Create a Solid Foundation
If you want to get better and consistently lower your scores you have to create a solid foundation for your practice routine. That begins with spending time on the driving range creating positive practice habits not making things worse.
If you go to any driving range you will almost always see three things:
- Golfers almost never using an alignment stick
- Most golfers not picking a specific target
- Golfers nearly always choosing to hit a large bucket rapid fire without ever actually stopping once they begin.
Driving ranges make it very easy to create bad habits. They are wide open, hardly have any targets, and make it a better deal to buy a jumbo bucket than a small one. All of these can factor can lead to you hitting it all over the place and feeling worse than when you arrived. Instead, start with the basics to set yourself up for success.
How to Aim
Most driving ranges are 100 yards wide and make it easy to get lazy about picking a target. The problem is that most fairways are only 20-40 yards wide. It’s so easy to go practice and not aim for anything specific. Or worse, think you are aiming at your target only to be 30 yards right or left and correcting it by pulling or pushing your shot.
The key is making sure you practice square to your intended target. Start with two alignment rods or two clubs. Pick a target and lay one alignment rod down aimed at the target. At the bottom of the alignment rod or club, lay down another club in front of your feet. The front alignment stick will reinforce your path and the bottom rod will make sure your feet are square to the target.
This will instantly improve your practice sessions as you are setting up square to the target. With a bad setup, you’ll never know if you are swinging poorly or if you are aiming poorly. Another great resource to check your aim to have a friend film it or use the front camera on your phone.
Now that you’re set up properly it’s time to start hitting golf balls.
2. Practice With Purpose
How do you practice when you are at the golf course or driving range? If you’re like most golfers you go to the range, grab a jumbo bucket and swing away. While it may be fun to hit a bucket of drivers often times it isn’t doing you any good. Instead, you should practice with purpose by understanding what you are trying to accomplish before you hit your first shot.
Understand Internal vs. External Focus
If you trying to make a swing change it’s important to understand there are two kinds of focus; internal and external. Dr. Gabriele Wulf from UNLV did a study to help understand how people can best learn new motor skills. She found that when instruction focused on the body that it had a negative impacton your performance and learning abilities.
An example of negative internal focus would be “turn your hips 45 degrees on the backswing.” While external focus instruction would be “turn your belt buckle away from the target.”
If you are going to the range to make any mechanical swing changes try to focus on external changes, not internal, to stay fluid with your movements.
Choose Quality of Shots vs. Quantity
I challenge you to never hit a jumbo bucket of balls. Instead, buy a small or medium-sized bucket and focus on making each shot count. Have a purpose and target for each shot you hit. Remember, repetition doesn’t mean you automatically get better. Often times you are just ingraining a bad habit even further.
Also make sure to take a break in between shots. Don’t hit an entire bucket without resting. Slow down, take your time and pick a target for every shot. Go through your full pre-shot routine on some shots to slow down and focus on the shot you are trying to hit. Tell yourself exactly what you are trying to do. For example, “I have a 7 iron, I want to cut it slightly off the left of the flag and end up pin high.”
3. Mix Up Your Practice Routine
The last part of practicing your full swing is constantly be evolving your routine. If you’re like most golfers you grew up hitting range balls in hopes of grooming the perfect swing. But this repetitive practice can be ineffective and even harmful to your game.
Your brain responds best to new information, not the same repetitive 7-iron shot over and over again. Constantly repeating any activity is boring for your brain. Your brain wants new information which is why you should hit different shots on the driving range.
Not only will random practice keep your brain engaged but it will make practice more fun and keep yourself motivated. You never want practice to feel like a chore! Start with these three driving range tips:
1. Play A Round on the Range
One of the best ways to practice your full swing is to play a golf course you are familiar with on the range. This will force you to hit all kinds of different shots and will improve your visualization skills.
Start by imagining that you are playing a course you love (or want to play, like Augusta) and begin with the first tee shot. After you hit it try to visualize the distance and shot that you need for your second shot. If the first tee shot requires a big draw, step up and hit a draw. If the second shot needs to be a fade, try to hit a fade with your next ball. Do this for 18 holes and you’ll hit much more effective shots than a repetitive 7 iron over and over again.
2. Become a Wedge Wizard
While it might be more fun to practice smashing drivers all day don’t forget to dial in your wedges. Your wedges can make a good day great and a bad day salvageable. Try to never swing hard at a wedge as they should be more finesse shots.
Ideally you want to have two distances for each wedge to maximize your scoring zone. Try to create a normal wedge shot (90% effort) and a ¾ wedge (75% effort). Keep it simple for the ¾ shot by choking up one to two inches and swing exactly the same as before. Don’t try to swing shorter or worry about the clock drill. Choking up will make the club shorter and should knock 6-11 yards of each shot to help fill in for those tough distances.
3. Practice Your Weaknesses
Think back to your last round. Did you have a shot that you struggled with or wish you could have hit better? Maybe it was your short irons, fairway woods or even driver. Practice the shots that you want to get better at on the range. You have to train your swing before you can trust it on the course.
Don’t limit this just to shots from your previous round either. Hit all kinds of different shots to keep it fun and teach yourself new shots. The more you can successfully hit a shot at the range the more confidence you will have on the course.
Bonus: Video your Swing
It's not always practical, but recording your golf swing is the easiest way to spot basic swing flaws. By seeing your swing on video, you can make easy adjustments that you may not have realized if you had just stood on the range and pounded balls for an hour.
One more idea, try out a launch monitor. Today, there are several affordable launch monitors out there. It is a great way to upgrade your practice sessions. Click here if you are interested in learning more about launch monitors.
Start Creating a Better Practice Routine
If you’ve read this far you are already on your way to practicing more efficiently than the majority of golfers ever will. Remember, if you want to get better don’t go to the driving range to work on your full swing without having a purpose. With work, family, and other obligations you need to be able to practice efficiently in as little of time as possible.
Remember these three keys:
- Practice to a specific target and make sure you square to the target
- Have a target and shot for each practice ball you hit
- Hit different shots to avoid repetitive practice and keep your mind engaged
The last thing I will is to say have fun practicing your full swing. Go with friends or your family to make games at the range and enjoy working on the game you love.