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How to Practice Golf at the Driving Range
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Published: February 16, 2014
This may be the most important golf instruction article you'll ever read on how to practice golf at the driving range.
Choose to ignore this lesson at your own risk.
You are finally going to learn how to practice golf at the driving range if you want to enjoy lasting improvements, and it's all based on the latest research on the biology of your brain.
Those who understand and accept that you can't fight your biology will enjoy long term success. Those who don't will take much longer to achieve their goals, if they ever do.
Before going further, I want to strongly urge you to read The Talent Code by Dan Coyle. The following recommendations are influenced by the principles laid out in that book and are much more thoroughly explained in it, especially the actual scientific research, which we'll mostly gloss over here.
There are eight points we'll briefly cover that will give you the basics you need to finally build the swing of your dreams:
The first thing you need to do is find a way to get quality feedback during your practice.
If your significant other knows what to look for and enjoys watching you do the same thing over and over and over, that's one option.
For the rest of you, you need a mirror at least (there are a couple of awesome portable mirrors in our training aids store), and we highly recommend adding a high speed camera as well (the Casio EX-FC150 is a favorite of ours).
When you begin using your feedback device, here's a method that has been shown to improve learning (see research paper):
- Perform your movement repetition,
- Guess at how well you accomplished your goal, and
- Use the feedback device to find out how you actually did.
Ideally, this would all be done within about 10 seconds, but if all you have is a camera, do the best you can.
How to Practice Golf at the Driving Range - Focus
Second, you have to be in the moment when you are practicing golf swing movements. If you can't totally focus on the task at hand, you might as well be doing something else.
Even 10 minutes of laser-like focus is better than an hour of distracted, half-hearted repetitions. Unless you want to spend even more time practicing, get in the right frame of mind before your session.
How to Practice Golf at the Driving Range - Chunking
Third, you need to chunk your full swing into smaller, more manageable pieces. This is a critical key when it comes to learning how to practice golf swing mechanics at home or at the driving range.
Even though most instructors tell you to beat balls at the range, you need to know that taking a bunch of full swings at the driving range is counterproductive. There is just too much going on for the brain to properly focus on learning one specific movement.
We suggest breaking it up basically the way we've got the videos sequenced on the site: setup, weight shift, rotation, takeaway, to the top, transition, downswing, impact, and follow through.
And speaking of our videos—you MUST go through them in order because each preceding part of the swing affects the next part. The setup impacts the takeaway, which impacts the backswing, which impacts the transition, etc., etc.
Skipping ahead ignores the fact that many problems are caused by earlier issues in your golf swing!
How to Practice Golf at the Driving Range - Isolation
The next point, Isolation, means that you need to get rid of distractions until you can solely focus on the specific movement at hand. This is another common mistake many make when learning how to practice golf swing movements.
That generally means that you start practicing without a ball, and even without a club. You'll be amazed at how differently you perform a movement based on whether or not you have a club in your hand.
Video: 2 Minute Lesson Demonstrating Isolation
(Note: Click anywhere on the video below to play it)
How to Practice Golf at the Driving Range - Speed
The fifth point is speed. Your brain doesn't learn best at 100mph. In part, this is because you can't monitor your movement enough to feel if you are doing it properly.
One of the most common themes we hear in our Golf Forum on how to practice golf at home or at the driving range is "I can perform my takeaway (or backswing, transition, etc., etc.) just fine in slow motion, but as soon as I make a full swing, I go back to my old habits. What else can you tell me?"
The answer's usually very simple: Stop doing it at full speed!
You obviously aren't ready for that yet. You likely don't have it ingrained in slow motion, and you need to continue doing repetitions at a speed that allows you to monitor your movement while you do it and slowly ramp up your speed as your mastery progresses.
Plus, there are more than just the two speeds of slow motion and full speed. You MUST start in slow motion and slowly build up to full speed, only increasing your speed by a little bit when you're ready to progress, which brings us to our next point.
You can progress—whether that means increasing your speed, adding a club, adding a ball, or moving on to the next piece of the swing—whenever you can do most of the repetitions perfectly.
It is crucial that you understand that when you add a club to many of your movements, you will have to consciously fight the momentum of the club head. In fact, I often recommend turning the club upside down when you first add it to the mix because it will provide much less momentum that way.
When progressing, you need to push yourself enough that you start regularly making mistakes again. Once practice gets too easy, your learning slows.
And by the way, you need to start loving your mistakes. Seriously. Identifying and correcting mistakes are among the best learning experiences you can have.
When you can do two consecutive pieces of the swing correctly most of the time while performing them individually, it's time for point 7, Stacking.
How to Practice Golf at the Driving Range - Stacking
Put the two moves together and understand that you may have to go all the way back to the beginning here, throwing the club down and doing the two moves together in super slow motion.
How to Practice Golf at the Driving Range - Repetition
Last, there are two key numbers you need to memorize when it comes to repetitions.
The first is 100. Any time you practice, you need to get in at least 100 reps.
This is crucial because your brain doesn't even notice you are trying to learn something until you get in the range of 100 reps. You are essentially wasting your time if you do, say, 20 takeaway reps.
The second number is actually a range: 3000 to 5000. That's approximately the range of perfect repetitions you need to ingrain a new movement, like a swing change.
Those numbers are based on scientific research; so, anyone who tells you that you can make lasting changes to your swing in a couple of buckets of balls, or even a couple of days is just selling you hype.
In fact, much of the learning that takes place in your brain happens after you've finished practicing, especially while you are sleeping.
You can certainly see some improvements quickly in your swing, as many of our students do when they finally learn how to move correctly, but these changes will require conscious thoughts and be less consistently repeatable than when you've put in 3000 -5000 perfect reps to ingrain the motion.
OK. So that was a ton of info. Be sure to re-read it if you need to because the importance of this golf lesson and the fundamentals of how to practice the golf swing cannot be overstated.
To help simplify the approach you need to take, I tell my students it's like learning to play the piano or another musical instrument. You don't just sit down and play Beethoven (or even "Mary Had a Little Lamb!"). You have to learn how to read music first, then learn where each key is, then learn chords, etc., etc.
In the end, golf's really no different.
Unfortunately, I don't know a single person who learned the swing this way. We all just picked up a club and started whacking at the ball, ingraining bad movements from our very first "whiff!"
Then you start scouring golf magazines, DVDs, TV shows and the internet for that one quick tip you need that will fix everything.
Unfortunately, many of you are still looking for that silver bullet that simply doesn't exist.
But now that you fully understand how to practice golf at the driving range and how to learn, you should buy into that old cliché "Perfect practice makes perfect," even if lasting improvement may not come as quickly as you'd like it to.
The good news is that you've found golf instruction that's already built to minimize the time it takes you to ingrain the swing of your dreams.
The learning techniques covered in this article, as applicable, are already included in the "5 Minutes per Day" series of videos available with our Premium Membership:
- 5 Minutes to the Perfect Golf Swing Setup
- 5 Minutes to the Perfect Setup Plus Golf Swing Weight Shift
- 5 Minutes to Master Golf Swing Rotation
- 5 Minutes to the Perfect Golf Swing Takeaway
- 5 Minutes to the Perfect Golf Backswing
- 5 Minutes to the Perfect Golf Downswing
- 5 Minutes to the Perfect Golf Release
So, if you have a Free Membership, once you've learned the basics of "how to move" in the RST with your free videos, consider signing up for a Premium Membership to learn even faster because I've already laid out—in a step-by-step fashion—how to practice each piece of the swing.
Checkpoints for Practice
- Anyone can improve their golf swing - no matter your flexibility, no matter your age
- Start at the beginning and proceed step by step, in sequence
- Don't add new movements until you've mastered the first ones
- Watching and reading isn't doing - get up and do the drills if you want to see improvement
Video Transcription: Learning How to Learn
All right, we're going to do a little different video for this next video. I'm going to take a student of mine that I just had yesterday, and show you what is really going on with the website, what you're trying to do. Understanding everything, let's put all the pieces of the puzzle together here to see the true magic of how we teach you how to practice the golf swing.
My student here, a golfer in his late 70s, not a very good golfer, about a 27 handicap. Obviously you can see right away, as you've learned, there are probably some postural issues here, lots of little things going on. Once we dive into the golf swing you're going to see a lot of things.
The purpose of this video is not to just diagnose this golfer's swing and show you things that you might have in common and how to fix them. We do a lot of that stuff with all the other videos; cause and effect relationships, and detecting problems in the golf swing.
This is going to show you how to actually improve your golf swing - how to practice golf. This is showing you what I do every single day to produce the dramatic results and changes that you see on the website all the time, with all these students.
It's not that I'm a miracle worker, as I've mentioned before. I wish I was, but I'm not. What I'm doing is following the system that's laid out on the website, that I took a lot of time to create based on how the brain learns new movement patterns.
I'm going to walk you through that so that you understand not only how to improve your golf swing, but how to get the most out of the website and how to practice golf at home.
Let's first take a quick breakdown of my golfer's swing here. We're not going to spend a lot of time on this, but you're going to see a lot of pretty basic problems here. This was his first golf swing with a 7 iron that I recorded. He's just warmed up and we're just getting a couple on video to see what we're going to work on.
He wouldn't hit the ball unless it was teed up about an inch or an inch and a half off the ground, because...well, you're going to see why. That obviously is pretty tough, to play golf once you get off the tee.
Let's start the club going back, here. As the club goes back, during the takeaway at the point the club's about parallel to the ground here. It's getting a little bit inside. Now we're getting a little bit more inside. Now we're in trouble. We're going to have problems here.
You can see that right arm is really bent back early in the swing. The right wrist is hinged, and the club is very, very, very deep behind him. Now you're going to start to understand why he wanted to tee the ball up all the time, because he never took a divot or, as he put it, "never took a divot on purpose."
As he takes the golf club back, we see a couple other little things. We can draw some lines here, but we could be here doing this all day. Obviously, he's going to stand up out of the shot a little bit. His left arm is basically horizontal to the ground at the top.
This is the top of his backswing. He's done, so obviously not the best position to be in, to strike the ball solidly. Then, as he comes down, you're going to notice this right shoulder kind of heave over to try and push from the right. This is that pushing motion that we talk about. He's trying to get the club and arms and everything back out in front of him.
Not, obviously, doing it correctly, so that's why you see that right shoulder start to dive in there, and then the club is just wide open. The club face is wide open here. We have no lag. The right wrist is almost fully flexed back out. We have no hinge in there, no lag.
Then, of course, here comes the dreaded result, the dreaded top. That's why he wanted to tee the ball up, of course, so the ball didn't go very far. You can see that, obviously, he hit it pretty much near the top of the ball. The ball hits the ground just in front of the tee, the tee doesn't come out of the ground, and it's no good.
You can't play golf like that. I wouldn't play golf like that. I would quit golf and start fishing, and I hate fishing. I know that's terrible for a lot of you guys who love fishing out there, but if I had to play golf like this, which I know so many of you do, I would definitely quit golf because this is not fun.
Now let's see, in an hour long golf lesson, what's realistic.
Here's the swing near the end of the lesson. He actually got a couple better shots in, where he pured a couple balls right out of the center of the face. I didn't get those on video as we were working on stuff, but we made some postural changes.
This is a one-hour golf lesson.
A little bit of postural changes. Let's take the club back, let's take a look at the takeaway. Yeah, that's a little different. Let's take it back where he was earlier...about there; it's about level with the hands. The camera angle is a little off here, but you get the basic idea.
In an hour golf lesson, we've moved the club about three feet. That's pretty dramatic. The club's out in front of him, his right arm is straight, the right wrist is a good position. Huge differences here so far. He's turning, everything's a big difference.
Now, the club's starting to go up, almost right through his forearm. This one's through his belt. There's definitely a difference here in these club positions. He stops turning here a little bit. Nothing's perfect yet; this is an hour golf lesson, mind you. But there's the top of the swing now.
Now, a lot of you golfers out there say, "Oh, I'm not flexible enough to get into the right positions," or "I'm too old to learn something new." I don't ever want to hear you say it again.
That's a terrible excuse; I'm proving it here with somebody who's almost 80 years old, that you can get in a dramatically better position in one hour, and you can do it without having to fly to Florida or Colorado to work with me, if you start to understand how to use the website correctly and how to practice golf, and how I teach. That's what this video's all about.
A little different position here at the top, to say the least. The club face is in a slightly different position, compared to where it was extremely shut here.
Now obviously he's still got some bad habits in here, but he doesn't have the big right shoulder hunch from the top here. Obviously, in an hour I can't fix everything.
He starts to come down, still losing a lot of lag, but here's a different thing. He actually took a divot on purpose, hit down on the ball, and look what happens to the ball. The ball's up in the air! We can play golf from there. You're not going to be able to go out and shoot 65, but trust me it's a lot more fun than doing this.
How did we get Tiger Woods working over here? It starts like this. After these first couple videos I walked him through and said, "Look. Here's what's going on. We've got to diagnose the problem. Here's how we fix it. We've got to fix your takeaway first, and your setup, obviously."
We did those two things, and for about 10 minutes this is all he did. For 10 minutes, we sat here and worked on the takeaway, without a golf club, without a golf ball, without any distractions. I just made him do this over and over again, and I constantly provided correction. "Get your hands here. Do this with your arms, this with your wrists."
All this takeaway stuff is in detail on the website, so you have all the information that I gave him. I just sat there and watched him do it, made him do it correctly, made him do it over and over again, and do it perfect every single time.
Once I felt that he had the takeaway pretty well mastered without doing anything else, without a golf club, then the next step was to stack that another 10-15 minutes with trying to finish going to the top. Again, no golf club, no ball. Lots of reps, lots of focus, making him really pay attention to what he's doing here, to feel the right things, but more importantly it's stacking things.
We started here first. Nothing but the takeaway. This is it. This is the end of the video. That's as far as he could go. He got to turn around, look back, make sure his hands are in the right position, his arms are in the right position, his body's turned, and so on and so forth.
Then we stack it and we say, "OK, now I'm going to see if you can juggle two things. Let's try to go all the way to the top," and he could. That's where we stopped, and we did that for about 15 minutes.
Then came back - no golf ball - and said, "OK, you're doing great there..." Threw a little club down here as a guide for him on the takeaway. Wow, that's dramatically different. That's dramatically different, and that's dramatically different. That's how you practice golf and actually make improvements.
Is it absolutely perfect? No, but this guy's been swinging like this and is obviously a very high handicap for a very long time. It's a dramatic improvement.
Then we did this for about 10 or 15 minutes. By now, in this hour-long lesson, I've spent probably 45 minutes without him hitting a single golf ball, apart from the couple that he hit just to get some diagnostic stuff.
Then we went and we started hitting golf balls. At first, every swing wasn't perfect. This is somewhere in the middle here. We were making adjustments. Had to get the takeaway dialed in a little bit better, but certainly it's better than this guy. Then we had to work on the top of the swing, and so on and so forth.
The point to this is anybody, no matter your flexibility, no matter your age, no matter what you've done or how long you've done it, can make radically different changes in less than an hour in your golf swing.
All the information that I gave him, that he paid me $200 an hour to sit out and sweat to death in the Florida heat on the range with him, is the exact same stuff that's on the website. The difference is I forced him to do it in the right sequence and go back from Step One.
Let's get the setup right. Once the setup's right, let's make sure the grip's right. Then let's make sure the takeaway's right, so on and so forth. Once we stacked all these things, we were able to get these types of results, take a divot on purpose, hit down on the ball, get the ball up in the air, we can play some golf.
That's what you guys have to do on the website. You have to understand that everything on there is on there, in sequence, for a reason. When you log into the website, when you start watching those videos in order, don't just go through them and watch them all. That doesn't do you any good.
If you go out there and watch all 200 videos on the website, you've done absolutely nothing. You've not gotten your $15 worth. There's tons of information in there, and that's certainly worth a lot, but as far as changing your golf swing, that's not where change happens, by you sitting there watching a bunch of videos.
This is where change happens. Don't go through Phase One videos and just say, "Oh, OK, I got it. Now let's go on to Phase Two... Oh, I got it. OK, Phase Three." It doesn't work that way. That's not how your brain learns.
Your brain learns through repetition and doing things correctly, continuing to repeat it and get the process oriented in the right direction so that you're making real change as you're learning a new movement pattern, which is what the golf swing is.
It's not about hitting balls or putting the club in positions. You've got to learn to move differently. Learn a new movement pattern, go through those videos step by step. If your setup's good, start working on rotation. If your rotation's good, start working on the takeaway videos, and so on and so forth, until you can get to this point.
Then you can see, in an hour, if you're doing the stuff correctly, you can make dramatic changes.
The question that I pose to you is, are you going through the videos and just watching them to absorb a bunch of intellectual information, or are you going through the videos and working through them step by step, over time?
I have a lot of guys who come up, and in the first week they watch all the videos and say, "OK, I got it. Now what do I do?"
I'm like, "What are you talking about? You couldn't have possibly worked through those videos because this is..."
For him to own this and get all of this stuff dialed in and get it perfect, which he can do, is going to take months, which means Phase One alone, just getting the setup right, is going to take a couple weeks for most people to own it, to where you can sit here and do it and tell me what you had for breakfast, and still do it right, and not be distracted by it.
That's when you own a movement pattern. But if you just go through and watch all the videos, it's not going to do us any good.
What I want to do is make sure that all of you, if you have questions about how to go through the videos, let us know. We'll try and continue to organize it and refine it more so that you can make golf swing improvements like this, but if you're just going through and machine-gunning the videos and just watching them all right away and saying, "OK, I got the Rotary Swing Tour down, this is a piece of cake," trust me, you don't. Once you understand how to practice golf, you'll soon realize that's impossible.
Go through the sequence, step by step. Learn the takeaway, then stack the rest of it on there, and so on and so forth. If you've had a chance to see what Bill is doing on the online learning groups, you'll see how disciplined he's making each student be on there, to work through everything piece by piece.
He doesn't let you move on until you've got this piece worked out, just like I didn't let my student move on until he could get his arms perfectly where they needed to be, exactly as it's laid out in the takeaway video, because that is how you produce real-world results like this, where you're actually hitting a golf ball.
If you have any questions, let us know, but you need to make sure that you go through those videos in the right sequence, in the right order, then you can make real-world changes to your golf swing.