The Worst Practiced Sport In The World

You may not believe it, but golf is one of, if not the worst practiced sport on the planet. Inroads have been made here through modern technology and programming that claims to have “discovered” the essential components to practicing golf in an effective manner. Instructors have sought countless resources like the Titleist Performance Institute and others to learn the best way to, well, learn. Before I dive into a few brief tips about how to practice more effectively, let me first take you on a brief, and broad, history lesson.

In the early days of golf course design and architecture, driving ranges were a mere afterthought, and in many cases completely non-existent. This meant the game was mostly played. Beginning players were forced to be far more creative in their approach to finding the best way to lower their scores, utilizing strategy at a far higher level than skill. In the case of skill development, beginning players learned by merely playing the game, and out of pure necessity, they were forced to adapt far more quickly and think more critically about how to improve their technical skills. They were forced to engage in what is now referred to as “random practice” – a form of practice in which the shots hit, targets used, clubs used, and pressure applied is changed on virtually every shot or every few shots.

As the popularity of the game grew, driving ranges became a place to let newer players “stick their toe in the water” and where more accomplished players could spend more focused time to hone their skills. However, even in the design of these driving ranges up into the late 1990s and early 2000s driving ranges were plainly designed with a few basic targets with minimal contouring, certainly nothing resembling the challenges of the course itself. In the search for more technical work and practice through repetition to ingrain a habit (which has been tremendously valuable) and to get more people into the game, the game has evolved, and thus lost, the greatest training asset it once had – real pressure and “random practice” through the playing of the game which gives the highest levels of pressure that you will actually face on the course.

We need to get away from our habits of “block practice” hitting ball after ball with the same club or just a few clubs, chipping from the same spot to the same target, hitting the same putts over and over. There is no real meaningful pressure in practice like this. Sure, you may be nervous or get frustrated with your swing or game, but you’ve got another ball coming right after it with no real consequence for making a mistake. It’s a proven fact that the more “safety nets” (like extra balls, more shots, more attempts, etc) that people have, the lower the incentive to get it right. It’s why in many of my group classes (adults and juniors), I call players to the front to hit a shot or two or three in front of the group. You know what’s funny…this is often the time they make the best swings…why? Because the pressure of avoiding embarrassment forces them to. 

Do players sometimes freeze and get stuck when we do this…YOU BET! Bet I show them how to work through it and then they are far more prepared to handle similar situations in the future. 

Now that I’ve thoroughly bored you, here’s the tip: listen to this podcast episode I recently shot…it describes what we see above in more detail! In the next 3 weeks, I’m going to share with you  SPECIFIC ways to practice like you play so that you can take your range swing to the course. Yes, I know, there’s nothing specific here. But the specific doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the deeper importance of how we got to where we are, and why you may be stuck in your progress in this game! 

LISTEN IN HERE FOR MORE FROM A RECENT PODCAST (Start around minute 10-15 and continue to the end for the juicy secrets with Agape Tactical.)

I look forward to sharing more secrets with you in the coming weeks! Stay tuned!