Hero to zero blog: When will my practice make perfect?

From Zero to Hero: National Club Golfer staff member Karl Hansell continues his quest to make his world a better place by having golf lessons. Getting embarrassed on all these press trips is getting a tad tiring.

I feel like I’m playing better since my lessons, but my scores aren’t really improving. How does that make sense?

My ball-striking is getting better, and it’s satisfying to know that I’m doing it the ‘correct’ way. Unfortunately, interspersed with those decent shots, are a whole host of crap ones.

I find myself stood over the ball thinking, “I don’t know how to hit this”.

[Oh and golfing journalists like to play off the white tees. I’m not sure if it’s because that’s where you should play when writing a review, or because they’re good enough, but there’s a 50/50 chance it’s because golf journos can be pretty pretentious when they want to be. So when I’m not confident in my game, adding an average of 20 yards to each hole hasn’t helped.]

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But excuses aside, I’ve been stood on the tee, or on the fairway, thinking “back straight, club straight, correct grip” etc, and it’s too much to think about. I’m trying so hard to incorporate what I’ve learned, that I have no confidence in my golf, and as a result I’m making silly mistakes.

At Saturday’s lesson I asked Joe Feather at the Leadbetter Academy whether he thought practice was more important than playing, if you want your scores to tumble. It’s an unfair question really, as both have their significant virtues, and neither are going to hurt. 

Split your practice in half between long and short game
His response wasn’t unexpected, but for the average guy trying to make it in this world, some more money looks to be heading in the golfing pot. At least an hour and a half’s practice each week, he said, was vital.

Seventy-five range balls don’t come cheap these days, so if you’re spending the money, you want to know you’re doing it for a reason – what makes an effective practice session?

Review your round, said Joe. Think back to the last 18 holes you played and think about where you lost shots, then work on those. For me, it was my short game – I couldn’t get on the green.

Had I ever gone to a short game chipping area and practiced this? Well… no I guess not. We had that one lesson on technique, but other than that, no I don’t think I have. Kinda stupid when you think about it eh?

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Breaking things down – when you’re playing a round and you’re a high handicapper (the ratio changes as you become more accurate from distance), around half of your shots are long, and half are shorter – around the green. That means half of my practice should be on short game. But it really, really isn’t at the moment. I go on the range and I wallop a driver (because that’s what stands out as the most obvious error in my game), then I hit the iron or fairway wood I remembered having a minor scuffle with. I’ll even get my wedge out and play on to the green, 80 yards in front of the bay. But nothing closer – even though that’s exactly where I find myself on every single hole.

I don’t go to the short game area. I’m not even sure where it is at my club. Why does it seem so intimidating compared to the range? 

I guess that’s the next step then. Isn’t it amazing how most of the time you already know the right answer, even if it sometimes takes 500 words to realise it?

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