During all these hours of staying home during the pandemic, you’re probably doing a lot of thinking.
And if you’re a golfer, you’re probably thinking about your game more than a little bit. That great round you had last month before the course closed. What you like most about our great game. How you can’t wait to get out there again.
At least I hope that’s what you’re thinking, because they’re all positive thoughts. Chances are, however, your thoughts are leaking over to the negative side:
Why can’t I hit the driver consistently?
What’s the problem with my short game?
Will I ever learn how to hit a long iron, or should I just give up?
Why can’t I play the ninth hole?
I’m one of the lucky ones these days – I live in an area where I’m still able to play as regularly as I like. But I’ve got one overwhelming thought running through my bogey-filled brain:
Why can’t I get my work on the practice range to carry over to the golf course?
When you think about it, it’s probably the No. 1 question in golf.
And after just a little soul-searching, I have the answer: I’ve let some old habits seep into what I’m doing before each round.
In other words, I’m not thinking. I’m just mindlessly hitting ball after ball.
It has happened consistently this year: I leave the practice range thinking, “Wow, that was great! I hit one good shot after another! I’m ready!”
Then I go to the course and, confronted with the usual challenges it offers, I hit one bad shot after another.
After watching several videos about this very topic, I have several takeaways and tips:
First, there’s no question in my mind that I need more time on the course, not on the range. Whenever you can get back on the course, whether it’s next week, next month or (God forbid) next year, go PLAY.
Yes, you’ll need to practice, but you’ll also need to play. Forget about the results. Just enjoy the game you missed so much.
Second, my practice routine needs adjustment. I need to stop concentrating on hitting two or three good shots with each club and start hitting shots. I need to play the golf course in my head while I’m on the range.
One of the videos I found interesting was one that separated each shot into three compartments:
Phase 1: Pre-shot routine: Asking good questions creates clear intent.
Phase 2: The shot.
Phase 3: Post shot. If you let bad feelings carry over, you won’t ask good questions before the next shot. Keep your head up and keep looking at the flag as you walk or drive up the fairway.
I had a bad round yesterday, one of my worst of the year, and I realize now that I wasn’t doing much work in Phases 1 and 3. Oh, the thought of what I wanted to do certainly crossed my mind, but I also thought way too much about what I DIDN’T want to do – and then too often did exactly that.
I also think that if I do more Phase 1 work on the range – visualizing the shot and practicing what it should feel like – it will slow down my blur-with-a-loop-on-top swing and get me to trust my hands more.
The other range danger they talked about on the video was that if you hit a bad practice shot, you simply reach for another ball and hit another shot, hoping to erase the bad memory right away. There isn’t that walk to the sad spot where your errant shot wound up.
You can change that bad habit by stopping, assessing, asking those good questions, creating that intent in your mind, and visualizing what shape the shot should take.
If you do go back to the range first, the message is simple: Slow down. It’s not a race to see how fast you can hit 50 balls. It’s a chance to try to hit 50 quality, thought-out golf shots.
It could lead to a similar experience on the golf course. Ask yourself after each shot, good or bad: What was I thinking?