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The Key to Winning: Practice with a Different Mindset

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Sam Burns lines up a putt as Justin Thomas looks on during the final round of the Valspar Championship.Getty Images

You can’t win on the PGA tour without having more than one skill firing on all cylinders. Take the two gentlemen in the playoff yesterday. Both were Top 10 in putting. Davis Riley was ranked 1st off the tee and Sam Burns was 3rd on approach. To play your best golf, you must strive to be a well-rounded player.
Who has the time to practice every aspect of their game? Most amateurs do not. Even worse when they do practice, all PGA Coaches see are players hitting shots with little to no
accountability. That’s why today’s lesson is all about making sure your next session involves more function than form. Working on your backswing is important, but at some point, you have to trust that work and test it!
Try this practice test the next time you are on the range.
  1. Find two targets down range that are about 30 yards apart. Make that an imaginary fairway and hit 10 drives. Count how many finish in the fairway.
  2. Find a target for your 8-iron. Hit 10 shots and count how many come to rest within 15 yards of the target on either side.
  3. Locate a short pitching target. Hit 10 shots to it and see how many balls come to rest within 25 feet of the target.
By keeping score, you are holding yourself accountable. Not enough amateur golfers practice this way. Have a small index card in your bag to write the date and score.
Very quickly, players notice they can’t think about their lead arm position and hit successful shots. You must let go of that “form” mindset and start trusting your swing. By using it, you’re now in a function mindset. One that allows you to hit solid successful shots.
Putting is another area where we want to employ a function mindset. Find a friend to go practice putting with and try this game.
  • Both players need their putter and one ball.
  • Pick two holes (A and B) about 10 feet apart in a relatively flat area of the practice green.
  • One player stands at Hole A, the second player stands at Hole B.
  • Each player putts to the other hole.
  • If you make it you get a score of 1. First player to make 5 wins.
By playing head-to-head it reveals a whole different dynamic. Now making the putt becomes a bigger priority. You will rely more on function than form in those situations. Instead of fixating on your stroke, you will take a practice swing, feel the speed, see the line and go. That’s a powerful way to practice putting. Not enough amateurs practice making putts. This game will Soon become one of your favorite drills.
We all don’t have enough time to practice every aspect of our game each time we go to the range. Therefore, it is important to use what valuable time we do have to train our brain for performance rather than questioning. Forget form the next time you practice. Stick to a function mindset and use these two games. The accountability you create off the course will serve you extremely well when you play.
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