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Practice Like the Pros

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on

“Practice like you Play and Play like you Practice” is a common saying that floats around in the golf universe. The meaning behind this suggestion is basically to help golfers become more successful in transitioning from practice sessions, to playing the golf course. Doing this is often a struggle for many. To help in making this concept become more attainable to more golfers, let’s start with looking at what types of practice sessions exist. From there, we will look at what a large majority of Tour Professionals do as they practice and how that usually creates a smooth transition to on-course play.
Practice comes in a couple forms. There are those moments where a golfer is working with a PGA Coach to learn, or get a refresher on, core concepts. These sessions are more educational and consist of a coach trying to create an understanding of basics, or in some cases, higher level concepts, with a student. Demonstration of the concept being touched on, a discussion on the why and how of that concept, and even a first level of trying to get the student to feel the concept or movement, are all parts of this level.
The next form of practice is where a golfer practices on their own, trying to incorporate the concepts and ideas that were taught to them by their coach in that coaching and instructional form of practice. Most coaches will prescribe, much like a doctor would, a plan for the student to follow. This form of practice is much more about trying to perfect movements or technique.
Neither of the forms of practice described above have much to do with working with the on-course, situational concepts, we should focus on as it relates to shooting better scores. Tour Professionals, when they practice, largely do the things most amateurs don’t do, that allow for smooth transitions between practice sessions and on course play.
The Next Level of Practice…
The next level of practice, and going back to that initial thought, “Practice like you Play and Play like you Practice”, consists of creating a simulation of shots and situations you would face on the course, while practicing on the range.
Practice Like the Pro’s
Tour pros spend a great deal of time in this next level of practice. They look to do the following in their range sessions…
  1. From the wedge and working up through the bag, they focus on a target and specific yardages. Flying the ball to exact distances, much like they would need to on the course during a round, is of the utmost importance. Many use a rangefinder and shoot the distances of targets to hit to, and many more use a Trackman, Flightscope or other radar to aid in this.
  2. Shot shaping…combining the above regarding yardages, Tour professionals try to visualize and execute hitting different shot shapes into targets. Fades, slices, draws, hooks, and straight shots…everything that could come up on the course during competition.
  3. Trajectories…in addition to the carry yardages, and the shot shapes, Tour Professionals will also work on hitting a combination of shots at different trajectories into chosen targets.
In many cases, there will not be a physical target on the range, but with many of the radar technologies that are out there today, you can simulate those targets on the accompanying apps on your phone or tablet. In this next layer of practice, with flying exact yardages, shot shaping, and hitting different shot trajectories, the idea is to simulate real time, on-course situations.
Short game practice at this level is a whole other animal but follows much of the same outline as above.
It’s really all about gearing your practice sessions up to mimic playing the course. Over time, incorporating this form of practice into your routine, will help in freeing you up, to just play the game, the next time you are on the course and in the heat of competition.

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