I get a question every summer when I teach youth camps back home. Young kids will ask me something about golf that is almost impossible to explain in one sentence. “How do I get better at golf”.
It’s a good question, how do you get better at golf? There’s honestly no phrase that could encompass all of the things you need in order to improve but usually, for kids, a great place to start is simply practice.
Practice. A lot of practice. In fact, there is a good chance that none of us will ever reach a point where we would start to see diminishing returns from practicing more.
Psychology tells us that repetition is extremely effective at helping us learn a new skill or memorize something. And we can probably all agree that practice is an important part of our improvement in all sports and just life in general.
But why is practice so essential to see improvement in golf? After all, in other sports, say football, most of the athletes in the professional spotlight have a certain level of God-given talent.
Yes, they had to work hard to refine that talent, they took advantage of some good coaching along the way, and honestly got lucky somewhere along the line, but at the end of the day, if you’re 5’3″ and 140 pounds you’re going to have limited opportunities when it comes to professional football.
Golf isn’t like that. While certain great golfers might have some innate skill, good coaching, and luck, they have to practice, a lot, maybe more so than other sports.
Why Practice is So Important for Golf
Practice in golf is so important because I think the absolute pinnacle of golf is a place where you never hit a bad shot. One where you were consistent 100% of the time when it came to hitting a ball where you wanted to.
Of course, this isn’t realistic but this is the ultimate goal, this is what we all work to achieve. And unlike other sports where other athletes directly affect your game, golf is just you, a small white ball, some clubs, and a course.
This, in my opinion, is what makes practice so rewarding. Every improvement you make during practice can directly translate to your performance.
A striker in soccer might practice heading balls into the net until it’s second nature but if he never gets a cross into the box, he’ll never get to take advantage of this improvement. That’s what separates a wide range of other sports from golf because, at the end of the day, you are only competing against the course to see how well you can shoot, not other athletes.
Practice might not always make perfect, but in golf, perfect practice will make you exceptional. You can read all of the guides on this site about how to tackle the different aspects of golf. You can get professional lessons. But if you don’t practice the things you learn, you’re doomed to forget them before they can do you any real good.
The Role of Practice
This actually goes hand in hand with another recent article here on The Golf Academy about mastering your mind.
As we discussed in that article, there are a wide variety of things you need to focus on during your golf round and ideally, none of them would be basic mechanics. While it’s 100% acceptable to think about your stance if you need to hit a punch shot, or a draw, it can be very damaging for your game if you focus on putting technique as you go to strike a 5-foot putt.
You should commit your mind to reading the putt, and striking the ball well instead of worrying about whether you’re breaking your wrists or decelerating through contact. Being able to have a quiet mind as you strike a putt, or hit a chip, is something you can only achieve through practice.
There’s a term in sports called “muscle memory” and it’s where you link a specific motion to a specific thought. To stay with the same example as above, your putting stroke might be an example of this.
Every part of your stroke that you don’t think of, that still happens the way you want it to, is a part of your game you can consider memorized. And the more things you have memorized, the less you have to think about while you play.
This gives you more mental capacity to focus on the things that change from shot to shot like wind or elevation. This, truly, is why practice is so important.
Because practice forces you to repeat the same motion, sometimes hundreds of times, until it is so finely tuned that it performs exactly how you want it to automatically.
These should be your goals when you practice. You want to get a feel for how different shots react to different environmental factors, and you want to gain experience also.
But beyond that, you want to start refining your mechanics to an intuitive level, a place where you couldn’t imagine swinging the club differently because the current method is so deeply ingrained in your mind.
How Should You Practice
You should be completely convinced on the value and focus your practices should take, so the next logical thing to ask is “how should you practice”?
The obvious answer might sound something like “go to the range, hit some balls”, but we can do better than that.
You want drills, things to focus on, guided practice. And I can give that to you! That is exactly why we not only created multiple articles about practice here at The Golf Academy but we also even wrote our own FREE Ebook! Here are some of our favorite articles:
- How to Practice Putting
- How to Practice Chipping
- How to Practice Getting Up and Down
- How to Practice at the Range
- How to Practice in the Winter
Hopefully, some of these articles or our ebook help you get the most out of your game. But before you head out to start getting better, a quick recap of this article.
You need to practice if you want to improve in anything, and especially in golf. It is a major time commitment but any practice counts. Ingraining your technique through practice will free your mind up to think about conditions on the course while you plan out your shots.
This will not only lower your scores but, ultimately, this will make the game more enjoyable too. Something I’m sure we would all be happy about!
So until next time golfers, go check out the great articles we have here and spend some time practicing. Your body and your game will thank you!