Range practice is the biggest barrier to a golfer’s success. Period. The driving range is a place where quantity is king and quality is the court jester. Repeated swing after swing in a blocked practice format breeds repetitive injuries and ends careers. Minimal carry over onto the course from the range is what keeps handicaps and frustrations high while contributing to the high number of injuries we see on a regular basis.
Add to this the winter months which means grass doesn’t grow and cold reigns supreme. The means golfers who are beating balls this winter to work on their swing are doing so on mats that increase the virbratory forces into their wrists, arms, shoulders and backs. If you aren’t already thinking it…that is bad for you!
The really sad thing is that most golfers think that simply taking lessons, beating balls on the range and playing in tournaments is the simple three ingredient formula to elite level success.
From a mindset standpoint, it is easy to see how this happens. If you want to get better at golf, hit more golf balls, right? The more balls you hit, the better you will be. At least that is what golfers have done for years so it must be right.
This is where we need to have the discussion about quality vs quantity and how important time management is to make room for the things that add value to your long term improvement if you are a junior player or your longevity if you are looking to play this game until you die…not to mention the implications to your overall health that how you practice and prepare has.
If you do take the more balls hit = more success approach, please consider the physical implications for a moment. The number one injury in golfer is back pain followed by wrist/elbow/shoulder injuries typically on the lead side. Few of these injuries are traumatic in nature. Most injuries in golfers are repetitive in nature. So if you are hitting more and more balls, particularly on mats, you had better be engaged in a solid golf fitness program.
A fitness and performance program that will minimize your injuries as you pound balls is one like ours here at Par4Success in house or online. It will make sure you can rotate enough in your hips, spine, shoulders and neck. The program will work on overall strength and flexibility but will focus on elements that maximize your vertical thrust power, your chest push power and your multisegmental rotational power. These are the three areas that correlate highest to you producing the most speed with the least amount of effort. This lowers your risk of injury as you tissue has increased resilience to vibration and repetitive strain.
The research done on learning is crystal clear; the best learning that sticks and is accessible by an athlete under pressure occurs outside of a blocked format. Unfortunately, 95% of golfers use the blocked format of range practice (aka. hit a whole lot of the same club and same shot flight over and over until they get it right and then switch to the next club).
Random practice (changing your club after each shot and hitting a different type of shot shape, height and distance each time) has been proven to carry over to the course much better and is where golfers will learn to perform different shots under pressure. There are apps and games you can play that tell you, for example, to hit a high draw with a 7 iron on this swing, and then your next shot on the range is a 75 yard approach with a wedge flighted low, etc.
The research is also clear that quality reps produce better results than just a lot of reps. Despite popular belief, there is an Intensity – Performance curve with a decreasing return on your effort at some point.
By attempting to simulate what is more realistic on the course, there is a higher likelihood of you being successful when you get there. Practice on the course, hit off different lies, play games on the range to force you to hit different clubs and different shots, have a specific target like you would on the course and for the love of golf have fun with it!
You wouldn’t tell a kid who wanted to play in the NBA to stand on the free throw line and just shoot free throws all the time. They wouldn’t be able to dribble, pass or shoot without having their feet set. It would be a disaster!
So why do you tell yourself that the key to playing better golf on the course is to not go on the course and work on all of the elements of scoring in a random and somewhat reactive nature? Why do you instead use range practice and do the same thing over and over on a totally flat perfect lie “working on your swing”?
Comment below with the practice strategies that have worked best for you!