Why Practicing More Can Actually Make You Worse


Congratulations, you’ve finally done it. You’ve committed to getting better at golf, and made the promise to work harder than ever on your game. Or maybe you’re recently retired and have more time on your hands. So off to the course you go, everyday, to bang a tour-size bucket of balls. The problem is, you’re getting worse, not better.

How? The answer is simple. When most golfers hit range balls, they’re often doing little more than ingraining or accentuating swing faults. In order to get better at golf, you must make correct repetitions. “Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect,” Vince Lombardi said.

Think about it: If you have the classic, overly inside takeaway, a slight over-the-top transition, and play a pull-fade, you can still score and play the game with enjoyment if you are a weekend golfer who hardly practices. If you hit 500 balls per day, however, your takeaway will most likely get more inside, and your transition will move more and more over the top. A playable pull-fade becomes a push-slice, or possible a duck-hook. You’ll lose any semblance of ball control, and your score will rise.

So what’s the secret?

Having the time to practice is great, but golfers need a roadmap or plan of action in order to get to the next level. This is where a teaching professional comes into play. Take the time to see an instructor in your area who can audit your entire game. They should look at your long game, short game, putting, and also ask questions about your mental game, course strategy and fitness level. They should also discuss your long-term and short-term goals. Defining your definition of “better” will help you stay focused on improvement, and help your instructor make better decisions about the direction your game needs to go.

From there, you BOTH can lay out a plan of action that allows you to have consistent lessons on every part of the game. They can be as infrequent as once per month, or as frequently as once per week. I also recommend that part of the plan be supervised practice sessions, where the professional keeps a watchful eye on your habits and tendencies. He or she may even be able to get on the course with you to see how you handle its challenges. By watching you play or practice, an instructor can point out when you begin to aim too far right, hunch over, or get too quick in real time — before it becomes a major issue.

Remember, the key to improvement is a plan of action, checkpoints to audit, and working smarter, not harder. Does this describe you? Leave your instruction questions below in the comments section, and I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can.

By Guest Contributor Tom Stickney II