Are You Practicing Effectively?

 In Golf Instruction MD

Everyone knows that to get better at something you must practice. If no action is taken towards developing a skill, you cannot expect improvement. Nothing new here. What many do not realize is the importance of HOW you practice and the impact it has on skill transfer and skill retention.

In this post, I will explain two methods of practice that when performed correctly together can allow for quicker development and greater learning to take place. If I went to any driving range I would most likely see lots of blocked practice. In this style of practice, individuals rehearse the same skill over and over until some improvement is seen. This should lead to more consistency on the course, right? Wrong.

Blocked practice can trick you into thinking that you’re performing well on the range because it allows you to get into a rhythm. If you get out of rhythm, a solution is applied to the very next shot. This, in turn, reduces the number of times you must come up with a new solution.  People enjoy practicing this way because it is easy and boosts confidence. Unfortunately, this style does not pan out well when transferring to the course. When you are hitting a different club on every shot, it is difficult to channel the rhythm you get after hitting 100 7-irons in a row. This style practice can also raise your expectations which can lead to poor decision making on the course.   

Now, this does not mean we need to throw this style of practice out the window. It does have its benefits. Blocked practice is great when working on a new position or feels in your golf swing. The issue many have is focusing too much on the instant result or ball flight when working on something mechanical. This does require hard work and patience but is essential if wanting to make any meaningful changes.

Numerous studies have found that random practice has more benefits when it comes to performance on the course. So what is this secret practice technique that will help me perform better on the course? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It is the opposite of blocked in that each shot is randomized or different from the previous. It teaches you to put thought into every shot!

“What? So you’re saying I have to actually organize my thoughts between every shot on the range?”

Yes, I am. This may take a little bit longer but it is MUCH more meaningful and more learning is taking place. If you want to keep the same club in your hand, that is fine – as long as you change one thing at a minimum! Try changing targets, distances, curve, trajectory, but going through your routine on each shot. Changing clubs between every shot is not a bad idea as it creates the feeling of playing an actual round. Why not practice how you play?

“If this practice style is so great, why doesn’t everyone do it?”

It comes down to one word, discipline. This style of practice is not easy. It can be uncomfortable because you don’t get the chance redeem yourself after hitting a poor shot like you would in blocked practice. This style practice provides you with a much more realistic representation of where your skill levels are. As a golfer, you will begin to compare and contrast these skills and start to recognize similarities and differences. This will allow you to categorize and store specific movement patterns in your long-term memory. In other words, you are starting to create a “shot library”. These are shots can be called on and performed without hesitation throughout a round.

In random practice, you are more actively engaged and are putting less stress on the body because the shot quantity is less than of blocked style practice. Short-term solutions are forgotten and you are forced to come up with the solution on the next shot. This is quite beneficial in learning.

By implementing this mixture of blocked and random practice, your practice will become way more effective and you will leave the range feeling way more accomplished. If experiencing frustration on the course because your skills just aren’t transferring from the range, make random practice your best friend! 

Keep golfing, never stop!

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