Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The New Year! Let's Make a Resolution to Practice.

Howdy!  Welcome to 2011.  Are you the type of person who makes resolutions?  I am not, but I do feel the pressure of the season when I read magazines, watch morning shows or listen to others talking about what they resolve to do in the New Year.  If you are a person who makes resolutions, I would like to suggest one to you.  Make 2011 the year that you learn to practice in a very efficient and effective way to truly lower your handicap.  With that in mind, today's blog will be a practice schedule that I am doing for a friend who wants a bit of guidance with her game.  She is a professional, so if it looks demanding, it is.  However, you can adjust anything on it to fit your time frame, playing ability or facilities.  The real message isn't in the actual tasks, but in the idea that you understand what you are focusing on during practice and preparing yourself for an actual  game of golf.  In other words, don't practice for the sake of practicing and don't let the process become more important than the results you hope to achieve.

Here is an excerpt of the email I received:
"When you get a chance can you email me a daily practice schedule for chipping and putting?  For the putting portion can you include a mechanical segment= what I need to focus on mechanically/drill
*A drill geared towards short putts
*A drill geared towards distance control
For The chipping segment include:
*Mechanical thoughts
*A drill that involves picking shots
*A drill that involves routine.

This is a very clear request and if you want to improve your handicap, this is the type of control you need to take over your game and the skills you possess.  Here are some important things to notice about the request:  She breaks the skills down into working on mechanics, working on distance control and working on different lengths of putts.  She also understands that to take her skills with her the next time she tees it up, she will need a well practiced routine that involves picking the right club and landing area and also prepares her for execution.

As a teacher, I can respond to the requests specifically by knowing her game and also by labeling each drill for the purpose it fits.  Practice is practice and while it is good to individualize, most golfers have the same needs of good mechanics, a good routine, a sound thought process and successful execution.  Here is the practice schedule written for my client.

Mechanical -
I know you don't like the quarter drill, but doing it five or six times to start your practice session would give you the proper motion of the putter moving down through the ball instead of flipping up through it.  It is a great focused way to start your putting practice.  Put a quarter on the green where your ball would be and simulate a putting stroke, making sure that your putter moves the quarter as you swing through.  If you miss the quarter, your hands are not powering the putter from the grip end effectively and the putter is probably working up through the putt.
Here is another drill to help you focus your mechanics:
Put a tee in the ground 3 feet from the hole on a flat spot.  Push six balls into the hole with no back swing.  If you make all six, move to alternating between putting a ball and pushing a ball.  You want to feel as though your hands are leading the clubhead through.  If you make 6 in a row alternating, move to 6 feet away and putt 6 balls with the same thought to allowing your hands to lead the clubhead.  Remember to hold your finish and see what the putter face looks like when you are pushing the ball into the hole and replicate that with your finish when you swing the putter.  Don't push the ball longer than 3 or 4 feet.  Past that distance, you need momentum to do it correctly.  You will make three sets of six in a row to be successful with this drill.

The other mechanical thing I would like you to focus on is staying still with your body, especially your lower body as you putt.  Work on this by putting a tee in the ground 10 feet from the hole.  This will be where your ball will be placed.  Now put a tee about 2 inches behind that tee and another 2 inches in front of it.  We want to focus on the length of your stroke and also isolate your focus on how much energy it takes to swing the putter that distance.  Focus your energy into really stable and strong legs that support you and swinging the putter with the muscles in your mid back, not high in the back or shoulders.  Your shoulders will rock a bit instead of rotating.  Spend some time focused on stability, where the motion comes from in your back and keeping your stroke minimal.  

Short putts - Around the world.  Putt 5 tees in from 4, 6, 8 and 10 feet on a hole with some slope.  Make 1 putt from each tee at 4 feet (five in a row) and move to 6 feet.  Focus and go through your routine.  Your goal is to make 20 in a row.  See how close to 20 you get each day.  You are only allowed to do this once per day, so focus and get it done.  Let me know when you get 20.
Short putts #2 - Teed Off - Put a tee in the ground as a target.  Now put tees in the ground at 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 feet away.  Putt to the target tee three times.  Each ball must either be stopped by the target tee or must end within one putter head of the tee.  It is very important for your distance control on short putts to be as good as it is on your long lags.  Short doesn't count.  The ball can be past the tee, to the right or left of it within a putter head, but short means you start over.  If you are successful with this drill, you will putt only 15 balls.  Do this up to 3 times per day.  No do overs.  It would be best if you went through your routine, but I will leave it up to you.

Distance control - you just got a great one above, but I know you probably had longer putts in mind.  You are a great lag putter.  Now you need to drop more of those lags.  The keys to that will be your power of visualization and your thought process.  You need to see the putt in real time from the time it leaves your putter to the time it drops in the hole.  In other words, I don't want you to read just the line, but to also read the speed along that line.  This will be a new drill to help you do that.  Find a putt at least 30 feet long.  It would be best if it was a breaking putt.  Put a tee in the ground as a starting point.  Now, split the putt into thirds and put a tee in the ground at the point the ball will have to roll over at each third.  You will have a tee in the ground 20 feet from the hole and 10 feet from the hole.  Now, go putt from the tee at 10 feet until you make the putt at the speed you picture.  When successful, go to the tee at 20 feet and do the same thing.  Now when you get to the original putt, your goal is to get the ball rolling at the speed you needed from 10 and 20 feet.  Do this from any distance over 30 feet on uphill, sidehill and downhill putts.  Learn what works and focus on visualizing the roll of the ball into the hole.  Let me know if you like this drill.

For the blogs purpose, I will save the chipping practice schedule for another day.  I hope this gives you an idea of how to practice and how to control your focus when you practice.  Be specific with yourself about what you want to accomplish each time you practice.  Decide if you need help with execution, mental approach, visualization, body control or routine.  Most people I see work on mechanics and results at the same time, which is human nature, but you need to evaluate yourself by your focus level sometimes and not the results you see with your shot.  Also, get help from a PGA or LPGA pro.  Most of us are pretty good at providing guidance for practice.

Oh yea, I do sort of have a resolution, but I made it in November.  Blog about coaching and teaching golf enough in the next year to put together a guide for students to learn to coach themselves.  Your feedback will help me with that.

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