Let’s Define Practice

By: Bob Madsen, PGA

Repetition and Drill

One type of practice is repetition and drill. Successfully doing the same thing over and over again is practically the definition of practice. It’s a consistency-building essential. Successful repetitions, done in sufficient quantity, are a surefire way to build skill. Have the courage to stand up to this “awful” truth and prescribe accordingly. Advise hard work, time, and effort. Resist shortcuts.

If your students get bored and complain about the horrors of monotony, you may be on exactly the right track. Don’t shy away from this. Dozens of reps won’t get it. Hundreds are more like it. When appropriate, consider recommending reps be done in large quantities. For students aspiring to the highest levels, it’s thousands. Consistency is on the other side of the boredom.


Imagination is powerful. If pretend practice shots are important, their practice will be more likely to carry over under pressure on the course.

Range practice might include pretend fairways/alleyways and greens, wrong places to miss, make-believe trees, wind, and doglegs. Have students play a troublesome shot over and over. Have students pretend it’s the critical shot to break 80. Pretend it’s the shot to win their club championship and their buddies are watching. It’s the round of their life. It might even be the U.S. Open or The Masters. Have them pretend to play particular holes. Have them picture the drive and their second shot. Have them give themselves a score on the “hole.” Encourage pretending. The imagination is a wonderful tool.


Put games in play and let the games be the teacher. For me, growing up it was all about games. Have students see who can get closest to the hole with the lag putt. Closest to the hole gets a point. See who can hit their 7 iron the lowest. Keep score. See who can sink the most in a row from three feet. See who can go around a nine-hole putting “course” in the fewest strokes.

Have stakes. $5 chip-ins? It’ll get their attention. The trick is to have the stakes be just right. You don’t want to have the loser get upset.  We certainly don’t want anyone to lose a friend. Betting should be for a friendly amount. Not enough to be devastating. If a buck is too much, have them play for a quarter. Putt in the house. See who can hit a mug on the carpet the most times in a row from 20 feet. Any doable contest or game that’s fun and gets their attention is beneficial.


Help students be creative in practice. For example: Have them learn to play three different heights of shots with a 7 iron. First ball played from back in their stance. The next ball played from the middle. The third ball played from the front. Each should produce different heights of shots. Agreed? But you don’t have to tell them that right away (teaching). Let them discover on their own (coaching). More advanced learners would also explore clubface adjustments.

Take students on the course and give them situations. Have the situations be the teacher. Don’t just try to put “zeros” up on a launch monitor. Let’s continue the age-old tradition of making golfers who are creative thinkers and artists; not just mechanical engineers.


Experimenting isn’t necessarily practice. It’s finding out what works.  For example, experimenting to find out what driver fit is best. This can be a moneymaker. Caution your students though, as trying to buy lower scores can be a never-ending goose chase. They might be better off experimenting with their shag bag and short game clubs for hours around a chipping green.

Special Note

Aspects of your client’s games can become broken and need fixing. So, there is a time and place for a speedy tune-up. This is only an option when you know the person’s background, peculiarities, and tendencies. You can offer “a fix” because you know what’s worked in the past.

Sadly, lessons that should have emphasized experience and discovery gained through practice have been filled with quick-fixes, tips, and pointers. Please seek to avoid this.  If your player needs experience and practice in order to improve, please recognize this and don’t try to fix them. It can’t be broken if it never worked.

In Conclusion, as coaches we must demand productive practice. If your students practice productively, everybody wins.


Bob Madsen, PGA | Director of Instruction  Singing Hills Golf Resort at Sycuan

  • Golf Digest Best Teachers in State
  • GRAA Top 50 Growth of the Game Teaching Professional
  • California Golf Teachers Hall of Fame
  • Southern California PGA Teacher of the Year
  • San Diego Chapter PGA Golf Professional of the Year
  • 2019 San Diego Chapter PGA Horton Smith Award (Education)
  • SCPGA Teaching Committee Member
  • Author: Easy Bogey    How To Break 90 With No Swing Changes