Train Ugly for Golf by David Ogrin
Essay 1: Variation
Most golf practice facilities are designed flat. Most of the time, the grass is mowed to TEE height rather than FAIRWAY height. After all it is the Practice tee. This design leads golfers to fall into block practice; the art of hitting one shot after another with the same club. Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson of Vision54 call this “rake and hit”. By practicing “rake and hit” you get good at “rake and hit”.
Golf practice and golf training probably should have the goal of making you a better golfer. So the question becomes how can we use the area of the practice tee which is perfectly designed for block practice to actually better our golf game?
The golf course is different from the practice tee in two fundamental ways. The first is there is now a goal and consequences for a foul ball. I’ll leave that one for later. The second is constant variation of grass, lies, surface, and skills. On the golf course you get 18 shots that are perfectly represented on the practice tee. You get 18 tee shots. All the rest are variable. Therefore I suggest one way to improve your game is by improving your practice to include variation.
Here are a few ideas to chunk up your practice to add variation.
No Princess Lies: instead of raking a ball from the pile and putting it on a perfect lie pick the ball up with your hand and drop it onto the ground. Play that ball from where it lies. Playing the ball where it lies is a fundamental tenant of golf.
Change Clubs with Every Shot: a simple way to chunk it up is to change clubs with every shot. Go ahead and hit a driver but follow it up with a 7 iron. One of my favorite practices is the “Every Club” practice. You hit one shot with every club including the putter, (Texas Wedge). The only time in golf where you get to hit the same club again immediately occurs when you take a penalty. Enough said.
Touch the Water Cooler: one way to add time and space to your practice is to pick an object 20 yards away from you like your cart or the water cooler and between shots walk over to the cooler and touch it. Adding time between shots and adding walking between shots simulate elements on the golf course. Truth be told I often pack 70 shots into 4.5 hours of golf. Adding time and space between shots will help you avoid the block practice trap.
Practice on the Edge: another of my favorite practice is practicing on the end of the tee line or edge of the tee box. It is there where you might find different height grass and a slope. Practicing off a slope is hard to find but if your practice area has a slope use it. I guaranty the course has slopes.
Nine Shots: every now and then I bring just one club to the practice tee; usually a 6 iron. What I do to chunk it up is practice Nine Shots: High fade, straight, draw-Medium fade, straight, draw-Low fade, straight, draw. I call it the Hollywood Squares practice. The art of changing trajectories and changing curves is in itself random.
Putt to the Edge of the Green: to practice lag putting I suggest you at first do not use the hole but the edge of the green. Since distance control is of supreme importance in putting the collar of the green gives you a good definition to practice toward. It goes without saying I would never putt the same putt over and over again. Vary the distances to the edge of the green.
Random Short Putts: using just one golf ball and staying within 10 feet from the hole practice making putts in a totally random way. Do not ignore one and two foot putts either. I call this the Jackie Burke Jr. 100 Putt Challenge. My friend Terry Dill was getting ready for the Champions Tour after 30 years as an attorney. Mr. Burke challenged him to make 100 puts a day from between 2-10 feet. Terry went home and did this. When Mr. Burke asked Terry how it was going two weeks later Terry told him he had made 1400 putts. (Note this is not “in a row” practice. A miss is part of random practice too.)
Small Golf: of all the practices I have come up with Small Golf might be the best. I simply put 9 cones down around the chipping green and my students play golf from there. The students keep score. I put the cones out in random fashion and my designs are very “normal”. When the kids I teach do this the shots they pick are often preposterous. At the end of each hole, at the end of the day the variation around the green is endless. Small Golf is the essence of the game. (Note: I created Small Golf as a practice after watching Brazilian kids playing street soccer and Novak Djokovic practice tennis. You have to love YouTube.)
To sum up creating variation in golf practice you will do well to remember never hit the same club twice in a row and no Princess Lies.
Assistant Golf Coach, Texas Lutheran University