Is practice making you worse? It could be! The old saying "Practice makes perfect" is only a half truth. While it may not be exactly true, "perfect practice makes perfect" is at least closer to what you should strive for.
In a past article I wrote about the power of intentional practice. It's the idea that every shot must have a purpose. You should always have a goal in mind, something to work towards.
In the early stages of learning how to golf it's important to hit a lot of balls to get the reps in and become familiar with the club and your body, but there comes a point, usually when you can consistently get the ball in the air and in the general direction you want, when hitting large numbers of balls can actually become detrimental if you're not focused on the right things.
Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with hitting large numbers of balls. In fact, it could really help you work through some things you're uncomfortable with but it all depends on your mindset. If you're focused with goals and intentions, it'll help. If you're lazily hitting balls hoping you might accidentally find "perfect", you're going to make things worse.
It's important to understand that when it comes to golf, shots aren't going to be perfect. That is, they aren't going to perfectly meet your expectations. But a big part of that depends on what your expectations are. If your expectations are to hit every club in your bag laser straight every time, you're probably going to be disappointed. Get used to visualizing shots with movement and or height and challenge yourself.
There seems to be a separation between practice and play. We "practice" on the range and we "play" on the course. What you need to do is blend the two together. When you're on the range, simulate being on the course. When you're on the course, hit balls as if you're as dialed in and focused as you are on the range and in your flow state.
What the best players in the world do on a consistent basis is practice like they play. They don't just beat 7 irons all day, they add variety to their shots. They imagine the course they will be playing later that week and visualize the first hole. They hit a driver and imagine that shot landing in the middle of the fairway. Then they hit an iron, wedge, and move on to the next hole. If they need to repeat the shot once or twice until they're comfortable, they do so, but then move on. That way when they're on that course later in the week, it's like they've already done it!
Golf is infinitely variable so you need to practice with infinite variety. If all you practice is your full swing 7 iron, what are you going to do when you need to knock one down in the wind with a slower tempo? If all you practice is that stock 7, you will get good only at your stock 7.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is this... Trust the process, not the result.
What this means is, if you focus on making every shot count, going into every swing with a plan and focus, making sure your fundamentals are in check, and staying in the moment throughout the swing, that's all you can do. Everything else is out of your control. When you trust the process, you'll get better and hit some great shots. When you focus on the result, you get frustrated and your game moves backwards.
So next time you're practicing, make every ball as intentional as possible. Have a game plan going into the session. Be fully present and aware. Warmup properly before hitting balls. Get your blood flowing and mind turned on. If you practice sloppy and lazy, that's exactly what you'll get.
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