Make Sure They Know How to Practice
By Don Parsons, PGA – 2003 SCPGA Teacher of the Year
Diagnosing and deciding on a course of action for your players is the easy part. Helping your players understand how to practice to develop a skill and how to transfer the new skill to the golf course is a process that should not be overlooked.
Elaine’s goal is to break 60 when playing with the 9-hole league. She routinely 4 putts because she scuffs the ground behind the ball. During our lesson this week, I showed her how excessive body movement was causing the bulk of the problems.
Define the skill
What I wanted Elaine to learn was how to keep her body “still” and make a stroke that was equal back and through with a consistent tempo. I showed her a drill where she used three tees spaced one grip length apart. When she would set up the center tee I had her separate her knees and feel that her feet screwed into the ground and her glutes engaged. I called this “Creating her foundation”. When Elaine could feel her foundation, she was to use the torso to move the putter head back to her reference tee and through to the other reference tee or “make a pendulum”. She did this without a ball initially, with me cueing her to “create her foundation” and “make her pendulum”. I added the ball and we watched for her ability to maintain tempo and develop a consistent distance. I continued to cue her to “create her foundation” and “make her pendulum”. And she still had the tees to reference her ability to control the size of the stroke.
Develop the skill
When Elaine felt comfortable with her ability to “create her foundation” and “make her pendulum”, I had her move away from the tees with no target in mind I had her cue herself to “create her foundation” and “make her pendulum”. I asked her to observe whether she was maintaining the size and tempo of her stroke, the roll of the ball, and the consistency of the distance it travelled. As she became more confident with her routine, she was able to self-correct. She wasn’t perfect, but she was learning from her mistakes.
Use the skill
Elaine knew how to “create her foundation” and “make her pendulum” so I wanted to have her practice using the skill. I had her play 9 holes on the putting green with targets at varying distances and with a fresh read on every hole and we KEPT SCORE. Each hole she was to read the putt, commit to her plan, create a foundation, and make a pendulum.
During this phase her confidence dropped and she doubted her ability to read the green. I stressed to her that her responsibility was to “create her foundation” and “make her pendulum”. I didn’t help her with the reads or give her feedback about her foundation or pendulum. At the end we added up the score which was 21 for 9 holes (which was very good for her).
When defining a skill and developing skills feedback is a great tool to help players understand and feel the skill. In the performance stage I recommend that you limit feedback and help the player stay in performance mode.
Elaine was completely aware of the fact that she scuffed the ground when putting. She knew here speed control and direction weren’t up to snuff. She didn’t need me to confirm that. What she needed was a way to fix it! By teaching her a practice routine she now has the tool she needs to become a better putter and a process for taking it to the course.
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