Practice your golf 'game' then take it to the course

Do you wonder why you can't take your driving range swing to the golf course? I hear all the time: "I hit it great on the range, but I don't know why it doesn't happen on the course."

First of all, golf is one of the only sports that you practice somewhere different from where you play. Where do you practice softball, basketball, tennis, bowling and hockey? All of these sports are practiced on the same, or on very similar, fields or courts where the game is played.

Golf is practiced on a wide driving range, hitting from a flat surface. Most driving ranges have no trees, hazards such as water or bunkers, out of bounds, or uphill and downhill lies.

On the driving range, we hit dozens of balls at our own pace with just seconds between each hit. Instead, we need to simulate that the ball we are hitting is the only ball we have.

We tend to hit the same club to the same target with a number of balls without going through a pre-shot routine. Most golfers don't even practice their putting, even though putting is at least 30 to 40 percent of your golf score.

The problem is that we are practicing our golf swing instead of our golf game.

Here are some ways to practice your driving range swing so it translates to a golf game on the course.

  • At the driving range, you must go through a pre-shot routine prior to each swing. This includes both physical and mental steps. Practice should include breathing and relaxing thoughts.
  • Practice playing holes on the range. Play the first three holes of your course. Visualize the hole. Start with the driver and depending on your result, you will play the next shot with a fairway wood, hybrid or iron. Change targets and clubs on each shot.
  • Take at least 30 seconds to a minute between shots. A round of golf takes four to four and a half hours, so practice for more than just 20 minutes. Take your time.
  • Change your shot trajectories. Hit high, low, draws and fades with various clubs.
  • Find a spot on the driving range where you can practice uneven lies.
  • Finish your practice going to the putting green and chip and putt with only one ball. Remember, you only get one try on each shot on the course.
  • Go out on the golf course, late in the day, and practice situations such as uneven lies, bunkers and hitting out of the rough. I enjoy playing two balls all the way into the hole.

Remember you need to have a golf "game" in order to succeed on the course.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses. jean.golfdoctor.harris@gmail.com; www.golf doctorjean.com


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