Golf on the Line: Practicing Target Golf
My Golf Coach Program allows me to spend quality time with students in a supervised golf practice setting. Because the practice sessions are two hours or more we are often able to focus on aspects of the game and the golf swing in a qualitatively different way than the traditional golf lesson.
In last weekend’s practice session I worked with several students on their full- and 3/4-wedge shots inside the scoring zone. We paired up and spent a solid half hour “calibrating” each other’s swing until students could reliably reproduce the same length swing for the two shots. We used clock positions to establish the baseline control swing, with the full swing somewhere between 11:00 – 11:30 and the three-quarter swing somewhere between 9:30 – 10:00, depending on the student. It’s not an exact science, and the point is to find a left arm backswing position that can be reliably reproduced and a resulting distance that is consistent.
Then we had a little fun.
I set up a 40-foot wide target circle 90 yards away. We had a match play contest, with each student alternately hitting 10 balls at the green. They got one point if the ball landed within the target green area. Most points out of 10 balls won the set, and best 2 out of 3 sets won the match.
It wasn’t unusual to see 4 to 6 points win the first match, and then 6 to 8 balls win the second and third matches. That’s because adding just a little bit of pressure makes the task a lot more challenging. At first most of the students focused on “how” to do the shot. No surprise, since we had just spent half an hour on the mechanics of How To. Focusing on the How To tends to diminish accuracy and consistency.
But the point was to learn more about how to handle pressure shots, and simulating competition on the range is a great way to prepare for the real thing on the golf course. The second and third sets typically got better results as the students “let go” of the How To and focused more on their objective.
Then I changed tactics.
I changed the target to a 3-foot tall, 3-foot wide yardage marker about the same distance away. The objective was to hit the marker on the fly. We took turns hitting. First to hit won. The first direct hit took about 5 minutes. By the end of 20 minutes all 4 students had hit the sign at least once.
We debriefed. I asked them to look at the balls littering the ground around the sign. Then I asked them to think back on the shots they hit and compare their accuracy when they had a specific target to aim at vs. just getting the ball inside a circle. Every student realized that their shots at a specific target would have consistently resulted in 9 and 10-point sets had the target circle been there. What’s more, they immediately saw how to apply the day’s lessons to their play on the course.
Pick a specific target on the green and focus your whole attention on hitting it. Don’t worry about “how to.” The more you can get your brain out of your body’s way the better your performance will be.
A quality practice should combine elements of both mechanics to improve efficiency, and target focus to improve effectiveness. Plus a little fun.