The Driving range vs The Golf Course...
How many times have you stood on the range or practice area, making the best strikes imaginable, one after the other connecting with the ball out of the sweet spot, feeling every inch of your swing in complete sync and harmony...
Then you come to the first tee and suddenly you feel that grip tighten, your heart beat a little faster and your mind start to think of every little swing thought you have ever learnt in golf, or every bad strike you have ever made! Then before you know it you have hit your shot in the blink of an eye and it was the worst strike you could have possibly hit.
We all know that we can hit the ball well & we all know we can par the first hole easy....
so why is it that it all changes when we get on the course...
1. There are no consequences on the driving range
One of the major differences between the practice facilities & the course is that when your practicing, there are no real consequences to your game. You can hit a ball offline on the driving range and there is nothing there to hurt you. Imagine playing a golf course with no trouble, no water, no bunkers, no trees, just a fairway and a flag. You would have no pressure or stress in the world because you know that you can just swing away with no worries or obstacles in your way.
2. You can try again & again until its right
Firstly if you hit a bad shot on the range, it doesn't matter and you just try again with the next ball, without penalty. Also when your on the range you hit 5/10 shots with your PW, then your 8, 6 and so on, hitting the same club again and again until you feel like you get into a groove with it. This type of practice is of course beneficial when you are working on swing changes, however it is so unrealistic to actually playing golf . Very rarely are you going to be playing the same club, or same shot for that matter two times in a row. Therefore, when we practice like that at the range, or the practice putting green we are conditioning ourselves to different situations than we experience out on the course.
So, how can we fix this.....
Create pressure in practice to train your brain to focus & deal with that pressure
You have to make sure that your practice means something & that you are setting yourself challenges that increase your feeling of pressure so that you learn how to deal with it. We want to get to a point where we can go out onto the course and nothing will phase you.
You want your practice sessions to simulate as close as possible to on course playing so we dont get that shift in mentality between the two.
I really cannot express how important it is that you ALWAYS choose different targets & clubs when you are practicing and ALWAYS go through your pre-shot routine with every shot. You want to create as closely as possible the feelings and situations that you are going to experience whilst playing.
For example, a Doctor wouldn´t head into an operation without having first practiced his technique under the most extreme of mentally challenging circumstances, in order to prepare himself for anything he might face......?
Now I know golf is a little less mentally tasking than being a surgeon ( even if sometimes it may feel like it) but still, we have to remember that technique is only a small portion of golf.
Of course some golfers head to the driving range because they are working on their swing, and are going to be focusing intently on their technique, which is fine.
However I can safely say that a majority of golfers who go to the range to just " warm up" or " hit a basket" will go and just machine gun their basket of balls, with very little focus on what they are actually doing, or how they are feeling.
As well as training your swing to play golf, you need to spend time training your mind to focus and stay strong out on the course.
Example ways to add pressure to your practice.....
* Remember when you are doing these challenges/ games make sure there is real pressure involved! Whether that be " I cant go home until I complete this" or " I cant have any form of treat tonight if i dont complete this challenge". The more the challenge is worth, the better you are going to train your mind to deal with pressure situations.
Firstly set yourself up (using range markers/ trees) a fairway that is 50 yds/Mts wide. You are going to attempt to hit 10 drives down this fairway, going through your pre-shot routine before every shot. If you are able to hit 10/10 make the gap fairway gap 10 yards narrower and so on.
Pick out 9 positions around the practice green and see if you can make 9 up and downs. Make all the shots different lengths, lies (throw a ball in a bunker shot if you want).
Record your score and keep track of your progress.
Star Putting Drill (aka The Death Star Drill)
This must be the most frustrating, blood curling yet most successful drill that I found personally helped me with putting pressure & anxiety on the course. The aim of this drill is make it all the way round with holing 12/12 balls. Each tee is placed 3,4,5 feet away from the hole. The aim is to hole the 3,4,5 foot of one leg before moving to the next leg, therefore getting a variety of the distances.
Can you make it all the way round......
1 missed ball sends you back to the start!
This is just a small insight into a larger topic, but I hope that this article at least gives you a little something to take away to your practice Abbey