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Senior Golfer - On The Green


Six gifts for mastering deliberate practice

The Putting Green

Last month’s column was based on the premise that playing your best golf isn’t about talent, but rather practicing harder and smarter. I ended the column by alerting you to six drills that golfers of all levels can use to stretch their comfort zones, an integral part of deliberate practice. These drills come from Mike McGetrick, a top 100 golf teacher, who wrote about them in the Oct. 2013 issue of Golf Magazine.

Rehearse your full swing — Take one deliberate practice swing before each shot on the range that mimics the technique you’re working on that day. For example, if you’re working on a longer backswing, take it back to the desired length on the practice swing, and then do the same when hitting the range ball. Practice makes perfect!

Make “dead aim” a game — On the practice tee, visualize the shots you’ll hit on the course playing an entire round of 18 holes without putts. This drill makes you hit the clubs in order, rather than mindlessly hitting one or two clubs. You can make it a game by giving yourself a score for high-quality swings, average swings and poorly hit shots. Make the game bettering the previous score each time on the range.

Chipping distance — Take six balls and hit the chip shot the correct distance, to within the three foot circle. Don’t stop until you’ve hit each one of the six balls the correct distance, and then reduce the target to within two feet of the hole.

Make those five footers — Find a straight five-foot putt on the putting green and make 50 of them in a row. Is this possible? Yes, but it make take some time, so make your leaps in smaller steps, such as making 25 in a row from three feet. This drill smoothes out the short putting stroke and builds up your confidence.

Get a feel for half wedges — Few amateur golfer practice hitting half wedges but they’ll need these clubs for those shots under 100 yards. If you hit a 56 degree wedge 80 yards, take 10 balls and try hitting it 60 yards. Do the same with your other wedges, and make a game out of it by giving yourself a point the shot lands within 10 feet of the pin, no points if its 10-15 feet, and subtract one point for a longer distance. Strive for the perfect score of 30 at each practice session.

Make sand your friend — The sand shot is one that pros love and amateurs dread. Choose a radius around the hole based on your skill level. In my case, it’s 10 feet. Take five balls and hit shots out of the sand from 10 yards, keeping them within the set radius. Once you’ve achieved your goal with all five shots, shrink your radius, lengthen your distance, and achieve the same results.

Don’t be intimidated by either the number of drills or the specific goals. On the other hand, remember that mastering the art of deliberate practice requires you to stretch your comfort zone; or as Geoff Colvin says, “Deliberate practice should push you just beyond your abilities.”

My golfing buddy Larry K. suggests two more drills that he’s found helpful in improving his game (his handicap dropped to 7.3 from 11.6 at the beginning of the year. The first drill is to cross your legs when chipping. This drill stops you from moving the body when chipping. You’ll hit these shots with your arms and shoulders and be able to hit your chip shots within three feet each and every time.

The second drill is designed to counter a lack of balance. So, set up to hit a full shot, place your left foot behind you, and then swing the club without losing balance. You’ll find that you can’t hit a good shot if you’re not in balance. Remember that you can get better, but it requires deliberate practice. So, enjoy Christmas and make your New Year’s resolution to focus on mastering deliberate practice, which will lead to better shots and lower scores.


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