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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Target practice for golfers

It’s no secret that golfers have notoriously sloppy practice habits.  In any other target based activity activity, whether shooting a basketball, shooting a gun, or throwing a football, the thought of sending a projectile down range without any sense of target would seem preposterous, but in golf it is somehow accepted as custom.  Could you imagine the guys in the first picture showing up to the rifle range and just spraying bullets somewhere in the direction of the target with the hope that a few of them might connect?  Sounds ridiculous, but that’s what most golfers do just about every time they practice. (Note, I’m not exempting myself from criticism here as I have certainly wasted my share of ammo/range balls over the years). 

 Ok, but you’re a fitness guy…

Now, you might be thinking “Why’s a fitness guy telling me how to practice?”  For one, practice habits are just an extension of how you approach your physical conditioning.  In both the gym and the golf course, the goal is to impart effective muscle memory.  Throwing around a bunch of weight with no sense of how it relates to motor neural learning accomplishes very little toward advancing your game.  Likewise, if you have sloppy practice habits, those habits will carry over to the course when the shots actually count.   

What about distance….

Distance is a critical component of hitting a golf ball.  There are times during which it is useful to strive for distance at the expense of accuracy.  For example, a “hit-it-hard and straighten it out later” approach is very beneficial for juniors if they are in specifically identified stages of development where speed is most trainable (See Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development model at www.ltad.ca, for more information on this topic).  Nevertheless, there’s a big difference between a long term planned approach to increasing distance and simply showing up at the range to whack balls with no plan.  

Facing the consequences

If the guys in the first picture don’t hit their target, the target fires back.  In terms of target practice, it makes little sense to play a target oriented sport without caring about the target. “Because we have always done it” seems to be the best justification for sloppy practice habits.  As such, the time we step on the course is the only time we actually deal with consequences for errant shots.  Unless you can come up with a legitimate justification for not caring where the ball goes (such as performing specific swing drills or doing focused work on distance), start taking a target-centric approach to practice sessions. 

You can transfer the same mindset to the gym.  Avoid wasting reps with less the perfect form the same way that golfers waste shots on the range.  Just as every shot is an opportunity to come one shot closer to mastery, every quality repetition brings you that much closer to technical excellence.  Time on the practice area and time in the gym are both critical parts of the skill acquisition process. 

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