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Swing Practice vs Playing Mode Practice

October 12, 2011

Is practice a lost art? What is practice and how can it help people play better golf?

Last week I had the great opportunity to observe a couple of local instructors give lessons to adults and juniors. The teaching academy is based at a public course and the teaching bays are in the middle of the open public bays. As I was observing the lessons I began noticing a pattern to people’s practice/warm-up  tendencies.

– Most of the golfers I observed did not stretch or warm up in any way
– Most of the golfers started hitting balls with long irons or drivers first
– From my observations, most of the golfers did not have a specific target in mind
– Not one golfer alternated from a driver to a medium iron to short iron or any combination of clubs
– The driving range was  80% full for the 3 hours I was there and the putting green was never more than 25% full at anytime in that 3 hour period.

Is the information above ground breaking? No, of course not. However, it does serve as a fresh reminder to encourage all golfers to re-evaluate their practice habits prior to playing a round. Now let’s discuss the difference between swing  practice and playing mode practice.

Swing Practice:
Swing technique practice should be specific and not something that should be worked on prior to playing a round of golf. Many of you might be in the middle of swing changes and excited to unleash them on the course, however, the more you can separate your swing practice and playing mode practice, the more prepared you will be when playing the course and the quicker swing changes will be groved. The less golfers concentrate on swing movements while playing golf, the more time and energy they can spend on picking out specific targets and course managment stratagies.

Playing Mode Practice:
I want my clients to focus more on playing the course, making smart course management decisions and concentrating on targets. Prior to a round, be sure to spend at least 50% of your practice time in playing mode. Warm up yput body then begin to get your mind and body in “playing mode”. Most rounds of golf are not filled with hitting multiple 7 irons and drivers in a row so when I hear “Coach, I’m finding it hard to take my range game to course” I dive into my client’s practice habits. Some part of your  practice sessions should consist of playing holes on the range. Pick specific targets of fairways and greens and if you miss the fairway with your drive, hit your next shot from an uneven lie to a different target,  do the same for chip and pitch shots. Be critical about your targets and think outside your comfort zone when selecting targets as that’s exactly what happens on the course and the more time you can spend practicing this way, the more prepared you will be when playing.  Putting practice is obviuosly vitally important but that area of the game will be discussed in a future blog.

Example: 1 week before playing a tournament.

Day 7 – Swing Practice 50%, Playing Mode Practice 50%

Day 6 –  Swing Practice 50% Playing Mode Practice 50%

Day 5 –  Swing Practice 40% Playing Mode Practice 60%

Day 4  – Swing Practice  40% Playing Mode Practice 60%

Day 3  – Swing Practice 25% Playing Mode Practice 75%

Day 2 –  Swing Practice  25% Playing Mode Practice 75%

Day1  – Swing Practice 0% Playing Mode Practice 100%

Warm Up: 100% Practice Mode prior to teeing off.

Obviously the example above would take place in an ideal world, but the purpose is to help golfers practice playing the game as well as swing technique.

Please let me know if you think these techniques are helpful or if you have similar practice habits.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. John Graham permalink
    October 12, 2011 4:27 PM


    Fun to read and really enjoyed it.

    Keep them coming.


  2. October 12, 2011 8:25 PM

    Been saying it for years…how you practice is just as important as what you practice!!!

    Great post…

    Kevin Hamluk, PGA

  3. CW Golfs permalink
    October 12, 2011 10:13 PM

    This is great idea and actually, quite close to the way I currently practice. After a few warm ups with a wedge, and mid-iron, I do the following: If I have specific knowledge of a course and know I will be playing there soon, I’ll play all 18 holes when I’m at the range. Driver – 7 iron; 3 wood – wedge; etc. I find it to be a really good prep for the event.

  4. Lance Ebeling permalink
    October 13, 2011 9:51 PM

    great insight.
    look forward to learning more about how to be the most productive with your practice time.

    Important question:
    what microbrews would u recommend for “post-round practice.”

  5. October 14, 2011 12:47 AM

    I love it! I used to work at a range and watch people only bring their driver and get a large bucket. “I just need help with my driver and I would score so much better”. Just the simple act of hitting a few ‘playing mode’ chips, pitches and putts before teeing off is so beneficial.
    Keep it up Andrew!

    John, PGA

    • October 14, 2011 7:38 PM

      Thanks John – it’s amazing how much improvement can be made by practicing the right way,

  6. October 14, 2011 11:34 PM

    Why do you have a picture of a goat trail at the top of your blog?

    JC, PGA

  7. October 18, 2011 6:48 PM

    Great work. I totally agree with you but as you well know getting players to practice like this is difficult. Most golfers want to practice with their favorite clubs and when they are hitting the ball well will continue to hit not only the same club, but the same shot, over and over. I know I am guilty of this myself. Great practice involves getting as close to a game like situation as possible and trying to pull off desired shots under a certain amount of pressure. Playing short game challenges around a green or calling your shots against an opponent is a great way to do this. This works particularly well after a short game or shot shaping “swing practice” session. I have even gone as far as having a College player I work with, play his home course on the range and talk about each shot he has to hit and then what the likely outcome would be for the shot if he had struck it on the course. When you take this to it’s simplest form, I know we all became pretty good putters in our younger days by spending hours playing against each other on the putting green at the Muni and not standing hitting the same 6 footer 100 times over…
    Keep up the good work pal.

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