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How to Practice Golf
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Published: February 16, 2014
HOW TO PRACTICE GOLF
Practicing your golf swing swing can either be a very fulfilling or very frustrating experience. If you want to build a consistent, powerful golf swing, you need a complete golf swing learning system that has proven it can deliver results, whether you practice at home in your backyard or at the driving range.
The RST Learning System I have developed has helped tens of thousands of golfers dramatically improve their golf swings because of the way it is laid out and the mechanically and fundamentally sound information you receive. But more important than the golf swing fundamentals in the learning system built around how to practice golf at home and at the driving range.
Over the years, I continue to hear one question about RST over and over:
"How do I practice golf?"
Specifically, these students are asking a very important question to learn how to take their new golf swings from the mirror to the driving range, from slow speed to full speed.
To answer this question, let's take a step back from golf and talk about something that might paint a clearer picture.
An analogy I often use is learning how to play a song on any musical instrument. As a guitarist, I will use this as an example as it directly relates to practing golf.
When I start learning a new song, it is always very slow at the beginning.
I'm simply trying to learn the notes that I will be playing and the mechanics of the finger positioning. This takes a while at first, as there are a lot of new notes that are in a different sequence than what I have ever played before.
Getting the sequence of the notes and the mechanics of how to play those notes is the exact same thing you go through when learning a new movement in the golf swing. You are first learning the movement itself and the feelings associated with moving throughout those new positions.
This process, depending on how complicated it is, can take weeks depending on how often I practice. The golf swing is no different.
If you practice RST more, you will improve your golf swing faster. And just like learning how to play a song, it is completely unreasonable for you to expect to do something once in front of a mirror at slow speed and think you've got it down and are ready to take it to the driving range and then the golf course.
You couldn't do this when playing a song on the guitar or performing any other motor movement pattern.
Once you realize this is a process and it takes time, you will be much more understanding of the next few steps and more patient with yourself and have a better understanding of how to practice golf at the driving range and at home indoors..
So, we have now learned the basic movement and can do it accurately at slow speed. Obviously, we need to be able to do it both faster and in rhythm.
How fast do you think this is going to happen?
How to Practice Golf - Adding Speed
You have just learned a completely new song (movement pattern) and now need to play it at a much faster tempo and on beat.
If you think of trying to learn something that is very fast by a very skilled guitarist—let's use Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin—you can imagine this is going to take a while.
In the golf swing, you are trying to practice and learn a new movement pattern that isn't just using the muscles in your hands and forearms, but nearly EVERY muscle in your body!
Clearly, this simple fact by itself means this process is going to take longer even than learning a very complex musical piece where you are simply training your fingers to move a certain way.
Let's now complicate this matter further. Let's assume you have already practiced hard and learned a song that is somewhat similar to the one you are learning now.
You have played this old song thousands and thousands of times and know it well.
What inevitably happens is that while you are playing the new song, you mess up and play a few notes from the old song because the movements are similar. Your brain falls back into the old habits because you have reinforced that behavior thousands of times through practice and repetition.
In golf, this is much more obvious because when we are working on a swing change, we often keep repeating the same swing fault over and over. It takes lots of practice time to overcome these bad habits.
The brain is a very efficient machine and will use existing movement patterns (neural pathways) whenever it can. Knowing how to practice golf is the key to overcoming this hurdle in your golf swing.
This is usually great for us, i.e. we don't have to relearn how to walk every morning when we get out of bed! But, when you are trying to change your golf swing, this can be very frustrating.
This is simply the way our brains work, and the only way around it is repetition of the new movement pattern through hours of practice.
Once this new pathway in the brain has been created, you can start calling on it more often and slowly be able to perform the movement faster and faster as you continue to reinforce it. But, again, this takes time and more diligent practice.
How to Practice Golf - Repetition
So, we have learned the basic golf swing movements, we are slowly learning to play it in time with continued practice, and it is slowly starting to sound like the song. The process to this point has taken weeks for most of us who have a day job and a family and can't just sit in front of the amp and play guitar all day.
We still tend to mess up the song, both the notes themselves as we play the wrong ones and the tempo because we can't play it at full speed yet. As we speed up, we tend to mess it up more. Again, all part of how the brain learns.
So, we do more slow motion work on the more challenging parts, and then play it faster until we mess it up. This is the point where many golf students go wrong.
They either start trying to play it at full speed all the time, repeatedly messing up the notes, rhythm, etc., and get stuck as they don't really improve.
Or, they continue to only play it in slow motion and never challenge their brains to play it at normal tempo. The notes are probably correct, but it doesn't sound like the song because it is not played at the correct speed.
The key at this phase in the learning process is that you need to:
- keep practicing some slow motion reps to continue to reinforce doing the movement correctly, and
- begin to challenge your brain to do it at speed.
Yes, you will mess it up at speed, but it is critical to start ramping it up once you can perform it perfectly in slow motion.
That doesn't mean go from slow motion to full speed!
Why would anyone think they could do that?
That's like learning how to drive a stick shift on a back country road or empty parking lot and then the next day taking on the Indy 500!
There are intermediate steps to becoming proficient at anything, and golf is obviously no different. But most golfers don't know how to practice golf that way.
Now you know better!
With my students, here is the progression I make them go through:
- We learn how to do the movement with no club and no arms (assuming it is a body centric movement we are working on).
- We add the arms to the movement, then a club, then a ball.
- With the ball, we start out hitting a chip shot that may only go 10 feet. That is PLENTY at first.
- Then we may hit it 50 yards, then 100 and so on.
This process may be done in a day for some and a week for others.
But if they follow this process, they DO make MASSIVE fundamental, quantifiable, visible changes in their golf swings that LAST!
Not a "change" that is here one day and gone the next like the typical tips you read in a golf magazine or hear on TV. Those don't work because that is NOT how your brain learns a new movement pattern! Teaching the golf student to practice correctly is one of the MOST IMPORTANT fundamentals of RotarySwing golf instruction online learning system!
So, when you're working on your swing changes, you must go through this progression and mix both slow AND faster reps, but you can NOT just jump to warp speed.
Your brain is not ready for that, and you need to be patient and realize that this process takes time, just like any other movement you have learned in your life.
If you look back at how you've worked through swing changes in the past, you can likely now see the flaw in your process and understand why you haven't made the progress you should have given how hard you have worked.
If you follow the simple principles I have laid out today, you WILL make progress on your swing and you WILL get better!
So get to work...but now you can practice your golf swing smarter, not harder. Practice correctly at home and at the driving range and you will acheive amazing results!
If you REALLY want to know to properly practice your golf swing at the range, you MUST WATCH my video below on "How to Practice Golf Productively" where I walk you through the details of how to make AMAZING swing changes the quickest way possible!
Checkpoints for Practice
- Practicing in slow motion at first allows your brain to learn new movement patterns correctly
- Once a movement is mastered in slow motion, try it at faster speeds to see where it begins to break down - then work on that speed
- New movements are learned sequentially - don't skip around!
- Practice somewhere quiet with minimal distractions
Related RST/RS1 Articles & Videos:
Video Transcription: How to Practice Golf and be Productive
One of the most common things that we hear when people are working through RST is, "I can do it perfectly in my drills in slow motion, but when I get to practicing at the driving range I can't do it."
While, to us, it seems common sensical, the way that you would think about why that doesn't work, to a lot of people it's not very clear. This is one of the things that, in the clinics, I spend a tremendous amount of time on - the science of how to practice golf.
A lot of people wonder, "Why do you spend so much time in the classroom on the first day of the clinics? If I just watch all the videos on the website, don't I know everything you're going to cover?" Absolutely not. I go 10 times more in depth on that first day of the clinic than anything that you'd ever see on the website.
In fact, I think I spend over an hour in the morning, just discussing how the brain learns, which is just touched on, on the website. Clearly, that's something that a lot of people don't understand fully, and that's why I've recommended books like "The Talent Code" and others that help give you a picture of that.
Like I said, I spend a tremendous amount of time going in depth on that, and I want to touch on it a little bit now, so that you get a more clear picture of what you're really trying to do in your swing.
Any time we're doing things in slow motion, there's a purpose to that. That is so that you can start to learn and communicate to your brain what you want your muscles to do, and how you want them to move your bones, the joints, and so on and so forth, and you have to do that slow at first.
That's just so that you can perform the movement correctly. You clearly can't do it fast yet. That's why everything you see on the website is a progressive, step-by-step process, so that we start without a golf club, without even our arms.
If we're just learning a body movement, we take our arms out of the picture and we learn how to move our body correctly, then we slowly introduce the arms, then we introduce the club, then we introduce the ball. The same thing is true for you, obviously, when you practice the golf swing at home or at the driving range, that you've got to go through that process.
You can't just skip from Point A to Point B. I try to explain that a lot, again, in the clinics, that it's like driving up a hill in your car in first gear, and it's a very steep hill. You're like, "All right. I've got it, I'm going, I'm cruising up the hill. All right, let's just skip on to fifth gear," and you skip everything in between.
Clearly, you're not going to make it up the hill, and that's now how you practice the golf swing. When you go from just doing slow motion stuff to going full speed at the range, why would you ever expect that that's going to accomplish anything? You've skipped second, third, and fourth gear, and there's a reason that those gears are there. You need them to help you get up to fifth gear, and the same is true when practicing the golf swing.
When I have my students work on things, we spend a lot of time once we've gone through the basic slow-motion stuff where they get the movement and they can kind of perform it, then we break it down and we hit 5-yard pitch shots. Then 15-yard pitch shots, then 50-yard, and slowly work up to getting closer to full swings.
But in a one-hour lesson or two-hour golf lesson, that's very, very difficult to accomplish, going up to full speed. Maybe, if we work really, really hard and I have a student who's doing well, we might get up to 60 percent, 70 percent speed by the end of that golf lesson.
But more importantly, when they go home they need to how to practice golf and that means going back to the beginning and make sure that they're doing their slow motion stuff at first, to keep making sure that the movement is correct. Then they slowly add speed and add speed.
By that same token, a lot of guys spend all of their time just doing slow motion drills practicing your golf swing at home, and that's not in the context of the golf swing. You're not moving at this speed as you're working on your golf swing at the driving range or on the course. You're learning a movement pattern at first that you need to move at that speed because that's as fast as you can go and perform the movement correctly.
However, you need to challenge yourself to slowly start ramping back up to what the context of the swing speed is. If you're working on your takeaway, and you're just going - let me slow that down a little bit - going at this speed, well that's great because you're just focusing on your movement.
Your real takeaway is going to be this fast. It's going to be very, very quick. You have to challenge yourself to move at that speed until it breaks down. Don't be afraid to throw it into second gear and give it a little bit more speed, and check yourself and say, "OK, when I start adding speed I start to go back to the inside," or "I roll my wrist," because at speed things will change.
Your brain's going to want to fall back into its old movement patterns that it knows how to do, so you've got to recognize that. If you just go from first gear to fifth gear, you're never going to see that. You've got to go to second gear and see what happens, and see where your old tendencies start to fall back in.
Then you'll know, "OK, now I realize at slow motion I got it perfect. When I go to second gear I start to roll it in a little bit, then I go to third gear and I really dump it a lot, so I've got to really key in on keeping this right wrist straight," or whatever it is that you're working on, at speed, that's going to tell you where things are going to fall off when you go to your real swing.
You're not going to know that, again, if you go from slow motion to full speed in the range. It doesn't work that way. You're not going to get anywhere like that. You're just going to go immediately back to your old movement patterns.
How NOT to Practice Golf
The biggest fault that I see people making, again, is going slow motion and then full speed on the driving range. If you're trying to change a movement pattern in your golf swing, or anything that you're doing, on the driving range you need to start out and just make little tiny swings, and see if you can perform the movement correctly.
If you can do it at that speed, then you can slowly add speed, and you need to. Like I just mentioned, you need to challenge yourself until you screw it up, as I say. Go a little bit faster until it breaks down, then you go back and drill closer to that speed, until you can do it correctly at that speed. Then you add on and add on and add on, and so on down the road.
Hopefully that helps you understand a little bit more. Like I said, in the clinics we go really, really in depth on this, but it takes over an hour just to get through that stuff, so it's a little too broad of a scope for a video like this.
But you've got to go from first gear to second gear to third gear to fourth gear to fifth gear, is the simplest way I could explain it. Think of anything else that you've ever done, and it will help you make more sense of this.
When you learned how to drive a car - since I'm stuck on the car theme - when you learned how to drive a stick; a lot of us learned how to drive a stick, we started out in a parking lot or a back country road somewhere, no distractions, no traffic. You didn't start out on the 405 in LA.
You start in someplace quiet, with minimal distractions, until you can get the feeling of how to let the clutch out and push the gas, and how to put it in gear and shift gears. Then, the next day, you didn't go and try to enter the Indy 500.
That's what people are doing when they're going from slow motion, no distractions, quiet parking lot in their golf swing, to full speed on the range or on the course. Then they wonder, "Why did it break down?"
Nothing that you've ever done in your life you learn that way. You have to go through slow, and it's kind of clumsy and cumbersome, and you're really thinking your way through it consciously, so it's really chunky and it's not very smooth. That's normal learning.
When you're learning like that, you've got to go really slow, and slowly build up, and you've got to really consciously override things until it becomes more common.
But at the same point, like I mentioned earlier, at some point you've got to trust it a little bit and see what happens when you add speed to it, and objectively look at it and say, "What broke down?" Then you're able to add a little bit more speed or go back and drill it and keep going.
But eventually you've got to transfer that into your subconscious and stop thinking about it so much. You've got to let it start to flow a little bit. That's when your subconscious mind is starting to help you out a little bit and take over, but you can't just start there. You have to force your body to do something new at first, until it becomes ingrained.
That's what all the reps and drills are for, but you need to go through this progression, so don't just get stuck in first gear the whole time, and then don't think you can go from first gear to fifth gear. You need all the steps in between, and that's why the website videos are set up the way that they are, very progressive, very specific in how I add pieces to the swing to make it a little bit more complicated, a little bit more challenging each time, until you make it like a normal golf swing.
But you can't do it with a golf club right away. It doesn't work that way. Just take your time working through the drills on the website. Challenge yourself, add a little bit of speed at a time until you become proficient at it.
It will take time. That's just the way it is. It's the way our brains are geared to work, but if you do that, you will make dramatic improvements once you understand how to practice golf.