When it comes to practicing, a little enjoyment goes a long way

The importance of developing a workable practice routine is a key component to improving your golf game. But all too often, practicing at a driving range or on the putting green can seem like just another chore – something you should do but don’t really look forward to.

So why not incorporate a little fun into your practice session?

Rather than trudging out to the range because you think you need to, approach practice as something you want to do – an enjoyable process that doesn’t have to be a monotonous task.

We canvassed some teaching professionals and asked for tips on how to make practice time more enjoyable. From competitive putting and chipping games to channeling your inner Bubba Watson, there’s no shortage of great ideas.

PRACTICE LIKE YOU PLAY: Practice should not be a monotonous endeavor. Think about how you play on the course. Every shot is different. You go from driver to wedge, to putter to 8-iron. Try approaching practice by playing the course on the range. Start by hitting driver, followed by a shot into the green. Picture the hole in your head and be honest with yourself as to where the ball lands. Once you finish the course on the range, go back and chart how many fairways and greens you hit during your simulated round. Then you will know what you need to work on to be ready for the course. If you missed three greens with wedges then spend more time on those shots to build your confidence. The mind is a powerful tool. By creating confidence before you get on the course, you have a better chance of keeping it once you get there. – Scott Heyn, PGA General Manager, Black Gold Golf Club

IMPROVE YOUR PUTTING PROWESS: There are a variety of ways to make practice fun, such as a great skins-like putting game that can be played with three or more players called Save Me. On the practice green, players take turns putting to a designated hole. Points, based on the number of players (less one) in the game are awarded to the player closest to the hole, or double points for the first player that makes the putt. The player furthest from the hole receives the corresponding negative point value. It is a great game to learn the value of speed control under pressure. At the end of the game, the player with the lowest point total buys a round of the appropriate beverage for the others to enjoy. – Rick Adams, PGA General Manage, Los Serranos Country Club

CHANNEL YOUR INNER BUBBA: Golf is a battle of right brain vs. left brain – especially when we practice. Should we be technical (left brain) or creative (right brain)? We all know we should be working on fundamentals such as grip, stance, posture and alignment. But where is the fun in that? The next time you’re on the range, experiment working on extreme shot shaping. Learn the Bubba Watson boomerang wedge shot that vaulted him to victory at last year’s Masters. With a lofted iron, aim well right of target and shut the face 30 degrees. Swing along your stance line and enjoy watching the ball bend. Also, try the “snap slice” with a stronger lofted club. Aim your body lines to the left with the club face aimed less left and hit some banana slices. By learning each extreme curve, you will develop your shot-making skills and have a lot of fun doing it. – Martin Chuck, PGA, Tour Striker Golf Academy, Raven Golf Club – Phoenix

PLAY A GAME OF HORSE: Practice time for me is more fun when I have someone to practice with and play games. One I like to play is called HORSE. If you ever played basketball, you may know this game. Here’s how it works: 1) Call out a shot you are going to hit – low hook or high fade or pitch to a certain spot on the range. 2) You then have to execute the shot. If you make the shot you called then the others you are playing against have to hit the same shot. If they don’t make it, they get a letter H. 3) Continue playing until you knock each player out by spelling H-O-R-S-E. 4) If you don’t make the shot you called out loud it is the next player’s turn to choose their own shot and execute it. 5) Now you have to make that shot, otherwise add a letter. – Michelle Dubé, LPGA Master Teaching Professional. Tijeras Creek Golf Club

PUT YOURSELF TO THE TEST: Fun means different things to different people, but I always had fun when I was competing and being tested. When you practice, bring along a friend of similar ability and make up games that will be fun but also will improve your play. If you usually practice on your own, come up with weekly tests and try to set personal records in that area of your game each time you practice. For instance, you could imagine a fairway on the range between two targets and see how many times out of 10 you hit the fairway. Keep track of the date and score. Re-create the same test each week to see if you are improving. – Chris Mayson, Director of Instruction, Maderas Golf Academy

SET GOALS FOR YOURSELF: The game of golf can be incredibly isolating, which can lead toward a lack of motivation to practice. Chasing a consistent swing motion can lead to boredom. Practicing with a friend can bring out your inner competitor. Playing a variety of games creates a goal and a drive to work efficiently until that goal is reached. Also, it allows for structure in the practice session, which in turn gets you away from mindlessly hitting golf balls. If you practice by yourself, there must be focus on a goal, which involves outcome. Being able to track progress – such as hitting seven out of ten shots desirable – will spark fun. – Kris Brown, Director of Instruction, Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles

CLOSEST TO THE PIN: One way to keep things fun and improve around the practice green is to find a partner and play a chipping game called “Sevens.” The key to this game is to be the first player to win seven points by getting a single point for closest to the hole and two points for chipping in. The catch to the game is if you do not hit the green with your chip shot you will get a point taken away. The game of Sevens will inspire you to practice for a longer period of time, hit a variety of shots you normally wouldn’t hit and teach you how to hit to the safe part of the green to keep yourself from losing a point. – David Siordia, Instructor and Club Fitting Specialist, Sandpiper Golf Club

BRING THE COURSE TO THE RANGE: Golf practice can be monotonous, especially since it is one of the only sports where we practice in a different place than we compete. To make practice on the range more fun, bring the course to the range with you. Rather than hit ball after ball with no plan, play your favorite golf course. Start on the No. 1 tee and pick the club and shot you would hit. Then imagine that hole out in the range. Use targets or landmarks to define the fairway, go through your normal pre-shot routine, and fire away. Continue this for every shot on the course and you will break up the routine of boring practice. – Jeff Fisher, Director of Instruction, OB Sports Golf Academy

TRY SOME TARGET PRACTICE: Practicing at the range or on the course should be fun. Even if you are at a practice facility that does not have “greens” to shoot at you still need to have a specific target to aim at and try to hit. It may be a flag on the range or a pole with a yardage indicator. Try to use all the clubs in your bag as you attempt to hit these targets. I often practice on one side of the range or the other and attempt to visualize a 20-yard-wide tunnel in which to drive the ball. On-course practice is where you can really get creative. Play from the tips one day and the forward tees the next. Play from all the different sets of tees available and you will be able to use all the clubs in your bag. – Willie Maples, PGA Director of Golf, Eagle Falls Golf Course


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