The old adage says practice makes perfect, and the same holds true on the golf course.
Practicing is lots of fun – not! – but it can be if you do it properly and use your time well. There are so many things that can be fit into a good practice session that the room I have here is not nearly big enough to list 10 percent of them, but I will try to give you a few ideas to make it more structured and fun.
Let’s start by imagining the average practice session lasts one hour. Here is how I suggest you split up the time.
0 to 5 minutes: Stretch, make warm-up swings with a low iron (I use a pitching wedge) and focus on keeping the swing as floppy and loose as possible. Do not worry how well you hit these shots.
5 to 10 minutes: Using a sand wedge or similar club, find a target within 50 yards and hit shots at it. This should be a very easy swing and the effort level will be low. It will also help a great deal with your tempo and timing. Focus on the process of the swing making good shoulder turns and hitting each ball crisply.
10 to 20 minutes: Hit short-iron shots. Find a target on the range and hit wedge, 9-iron and 8-iron shots at it. Focus on keeping the swing fluid and finishing every shot in a pose you would be proud of if the Golf Magazine photographer was taking your photo at the end of your swing.
20 to 30 minutes: Hit mid- and long-iron shots. Similar to short-iron shots, find a target but this time make it a 10-yard wide target or between two points. Focus on stability and balance with these full swings and again work on the process, not the result.
30 to 40 minutes: Driver and fairway woods. The target increases in size here to 20 to 30 yards wide. Focus on keeping the swing smooth and relaxed. Try to hit five consecutive drives in your “fairway.”
40 to 50 minutes: Practice chipping and sand play. Work on the shots that will help you score better. I count the number of successful up and downs that I make for every five balls that I hit. First, that gives me a small number of balls to hit and second, it helps me chart my progress.
50 to 60 minutes: Head to the putting green. Alternate between short putts and long putts and, if possible, finish off by playing a nine-hole putting course around the practice green using one ball and keeping your score.
As you can see, this practice session really moves along and doesn’t leave much time to get bored.
Finally, in keeping with Rory McIlroy’s win at The British Open Championship this year, take a page out of his book and focus on the process while hitting balls. It is a key element in my instruction and if done properly will help lower your score.
Good luck out there, and should you need more help contact me or your local PGA professional.
Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club at 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville at 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at Iansgolf@aol.com.