Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?! Practice less to get better, but it is actually true. The traditional doctrine of ‘the answer is in the dirt’ is old fashioned and ill-conceived. There is no correlation between practicing for nine hours a day and becoming a great player. A case could easily be made that too much practice can make you worse and ingrain poor habits and here is why:
- Concentration– A player can only keep a high level of concentration for a short period of time. Golf requires great concentration and coordination in order to keep the integrity and purity of technique. Once a threshold has been crossed fatigue sets in and the good work done prior can quickly be undone. Additionally, a fatigued swing can become flawed very quickly.
- Going through the motions– Traditional practice creates a going through the motions mind set. A player can switch off and just be doing long stints of ‘block’ practice out of guilt or the fear of not being seen to work hard enough.
- Situational practice– Block practice, where a player drags ball after ball onto a perfect lie and hits a stream of them in succession creates a delusion of competence. Any technique after a while, stood in one place can produce some sort of pattern and results. But golf is played in an ever-changing environment using many different implements, lies and conditions. Practice should reflect this.
- Same club– Most traditional practice involves using the same club time after time. Again, not indicative of the actual way the game is played.
Clearly it is possible to practice in a totally different way to how the game is played. Not many sports are like that. Look at tennis, everything in practice is game like, situational and on the actual court of play. Golf it is not.
A more effective way to become a great player is to learn how to practice smarter and do less as a result. You will be less fatigued, more mentally sharp and practicing in a gamelike way more often. Below are some suggestions to improve your practice:
- Less block practice-Work on your swing using block practice, but do not do it for more than an hour at a time
- Cells of time– Cut your practice sessions into cells of time. For example, you might have two hours. You could do block practice on your swing for forty-five minutes, then move to random targets for fifteen minutes. You could then move to putting for thirty and chipping for thirty at which you could plan different styles of practice and games
- Change things up– Create transferable skills by doing variable styles of practice. Change environments, change lies, change targets, change clubs, set challenges
- Mindset– Create the mind-set that less practice of a higher quality is better than lots of time but with variable concentration and poor planning. This will reduce the guilt induced by the old-fashioned mindset of the answer is in the dirt
Of course, you need to work hard in golf, you do in any sport. But you need to work smart too!
Jonathan Yarwood, IJGA Director of Golf