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Practice makes perfect, especially in golf

Recently I hung out on the driving range and putting green at the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, and what really struck me was the amount of practice time the pros spend. This is one of the many differences between amateurs and professionals.

You’ve heard the old joke, “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”…..“practice, practice, practice.” I guess you could insert the word Augusta, and have the same answer.

There are two driving ranges at Pebble Beach for the Pro-Am, and they are typically packed on the practice round days. There was no exception this year. Many of the players had their coach, a camera, their caddy, and a training aid or two being used. A number of today’s players look to their caddy to be a coach, so they can look for issues while the pro is practicing or playing.

Why I bring this up, is to give you an idea on how to improve. If you are really serious about golf, you need to find the time to practice, or you shouldn’t expect too much out of your game. You can take lessons, read my wisdom, play lots of rounds, but to make a change happen or learn something new, you need to do drills and lots of repetition, to really implement change and improve.

When the pros or top players practice, they will typically start with short shots with wedges. I like to swing a heavy club to warm up and get limber. Now you start making decent contact and can move up to possibly an 8-iron. If you are working on a fundamental or some change, try to put that into the swings you are making, and then think it out after you hit a few shots. Don’t just go willy-nilly banging balls.

If I am on the range for a practice session or a warm-up before playing, I will approach each of those sessions differently. If I’m warming up for a round of golf, I may think about certain shots on the particular course I’m playing. If there are long par-3 holes where I would hit a 3-iron for example, I will practice that shot. If there are lay-up par-4 holes where I would hit my 3-wood off of a tee, I will practice that on the range.

At the end of the bucket, I will hit a few drivers and for those shots, I will use old play balls of my own, or clean off some of the newer looking balls in the basket. Especially on the driver or 3-woods, I don’t like to hit balls that may have sand or dirt on them from the range, as it could mark up the face of the club.

I wrap-up with a few short shots and then I have a real key to finishing my practice session. I never want to end my practice with a bad shot, so with about 5 balls left in my basket I start looking for the really good shot. Once I hit that shot, I will walk away leaving 2 or 3 balls.

Practicing putting is about repetition and feeling good about your set-up and the results you are seeing. Most everyone has a putting flaw that they should constantly work on.  I will focus on that in practice. I also will get a feel for the speed and feel of the greens on that day.

The bottom line for all of this is to get on the course so you can swing and not think. With good practice and a lot of repetition, you will be able to do that, and maybe get to Augusta someday.

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