by Abbey Algiers
Players of the 21st century seem destined to break through boundaries as never before. Prior to 1980, only one player, Al Geiberger, ever shot a tournament score of 59 (13 under par), and only a handful of others shot 60. With the new millennium came a couple of unofficial 58s. Annika Sorenstam, the only woman to have shot a tournament 59, had publicly declared her goal to shoot a 54; it has become her mantra and the mantra of many. It is quite obvious a new standard is being set.
You are part of a new generation of golfers who see no boundaries, a group who believes eighteen birdies is an attainable goal. You are working harder and practicing more than ever before. But are you moving closer to your goals? We all understand that, while practice may not ensure perfection, without it you won’t get anywhere. But are you making the most of your practices?
Summer days are behind you, and with school, homework, and other activities, there seem to be few hours in the day to practice. But fall and winter are great seasons to evaluate both your progress and practice program. Novice golfers and seasoned veterans alike need to set and re-set goals with family and coach, and then prioritize a schedule accordingly.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” As true as this statement is, and as necessary it is to make your practice time productive, you also need to keep practice FUN! Golf is a game you play, and play should be fun! When practice becomes as much fun as a trip to the dentist, it won’t be long before your desire to practice will be gone.
You truly are in a generation of golfers who practice better than ever before and break scoring records day in and day out. But not every golfer is on the verge of smashing old records. Understanding where you are on the path is essential to setting realistic goals both in competition . . . and at practice. A golfer who is overly self-critical or unrealistic about short-term goals is very likely to destroy her love of the game.
As skills increase, chance decreases. Here are some helpful hints to make your practices more effective and more productive, a sure way to move you along your personal path toward your goals, both near and far away.
Identify and Work on Your Weak Points
Are your evaluations honest and accurate? You may be getting great distance on your tee shot, but are you missing too many fairways? You might believe you’re a great putter because you rarely three-putt, but have you ever wondered why you don’t make many birdies either? You need to remain as objective as possible when analyzing your game.
Don’t Over Practice
Giving it your all is a great attribute. You never want to be a quitter, but you have to recognize fatigue, both mental and physical. Mix up practice to stay fresh. A player’s game will ebb and flow—prepare to peak at the right time.
Include Mental Elements in Your Practice Routine
Simulate tough match situations but practice playing in a relaxed and focused state. It’s important to stir up real emotions that you may experience in a tournament. So, imagine needing a par to force a tie or a birdie to win. Imagine needing to get up and down to win the US Amateur. Extreme “needs” and “wants” play havoc with your natural rhythm and tempo, so it is important to learn how to deal with these emotions.
Ask your coach to help you incorporate fun games into your practice routine. Do your drills to help with technique changes but then practice the change in “game” situations and have fun trying to improve while using the “new skills”. Keep practice fun, challenging, and exciting.
Develop Specific Short-term Goals
Create goals that are process-oriented rather than result-oriented. Instead of always relating to par, you should look for other areas of the game to measure progress. For example, did you have fewer putts today than yesterday? Did you hit more greens today? Make sure to look at the “why” and not just the “what”.
Avoid Over Monitoring
Set your practice up so that you aren’t “critiqued” every time you tee it up. If you feel like you have to measure up every time you stroke the ball, you may find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster. Give yourself the room you need to grow and realize that not every shot can be better than the one before.
Use Your Resources
Take the pressure off of yourself. Your job is to work on your game. Let the coach figure out how and what to practice and when and where to compete.
The most important thing to remember is to make a plan and stick to it. Practice with a purpose and reach your goals one stroke at a time!