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Quality of Practice

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iacas

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Far too many people judge the quality of their practice by the quality of the shots they hit when they practice. I choose to judge the quality of my practice by how much I succeeded at learning and improving.

I've had great range sessions where I didn't hit a single ball terribly solidly. I've had great range sessions where I didn't hit a ball, with a 6-iron, over 50 yards. I've had great range sessions where I know I'm going to hit a bunch of shanks, and when I do, take that as proof that I'm changing the thing I'm trying to change.

There's no scorecard on the range, and nobody hands out a trophy for a great range session. But if there was a trophy, it should say "Most Improved."

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How do you stay encouraged when you're not hitting it well on the range?

One thing I have been working on is rotating my hips and it is helping me keep from hooking the ball, but my instructor says "great shot" or "solid contact" when I block it right. I guess avoiding the left side of the range is the goal, but how do you feel confident during the times when you know you're changing, but its not "good" yet. 

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For me there are two types of range sessions.

First, ones dedicated to changing your swing. 
Second, ones uses to warm up before a round. 

The first is where I don't care about contact. I just use video a lot to make sure I am doing what I need to do. In the end it's trying to get meaningful reps in developing the swing movements I want. I hit outright shanks before and looked at the video and was very happy with the results. 

I also use hitting a few balls at full speed as a reward for doing my practice stuff right. If I do 4 good practice movements right then I will give myself two swings at full speed. First this breaks up the practice session. It can get tiring to try to do slow practice movements. Also it allows me to kinda wash away all the technical stuff and just get back to finding good contact. 

As for the warm up before a round. I don't really want to say I am practicing for contact. I am trying to find a swing that works for the day. That might be just getting the feel for what produces a consistent strike. 

 

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1 hour ago, kpaulhus said:

How do you stay encouraged when you're not hitting it well on the range?

One thing I have been working on is rotating my hips and it is helping me keep from hooking the ball, but my instructor says "great shot" or "solid contact" when I block it right. I guess avoiding the left side of the range is the goal, but how do you feel confident during the times when you know you're changing, but its not "good" yet. 

Camera. For example, you have a piece you're working on, say shallowing the club. You know from your lesson and old swing vids the shaft points inside the ball on the way down, it's too steep. So you try and shallow it, you hit it fat, you might not like the shot, but then you look at the video and see the shaft is pointing more towards the ball or even outside it on the way down. You changed the picture. You're doing something different. You've associated the feel of that swing, how different it is, with the more shallow plane on the way down. That's progress. It's better than hitting a good shot with your old swing. That's more of the same. So now, you want to keep the shallow, but get rid of the fat. You progress from there. That's digging it out of the dirt, or astroturf if you're using a mat.

Now the guy next to you will see you're fatting/thinning/shanking shot after shot and will try and give you a lesson. That, I'll leave at your discretion how to handle.

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5 hours ago, kpaulhus said:

How do you stay encouraged when you're not hitting it well on the range?

I don't care. My goal is not to "hit it well on the range" when I'm practicing. My goal is to improve, to change the picture, to learn what something feels like. Sometimes my range sessions consist of me hitting big huge over-draws. Or shanks, like I said above.

5 hours ago, kpaulhus said:

One thing I have been working on is rotating my hips and it is helping me keep from hooking the ball, but my instructor says "great shot" or "solid contact" when I block it right. I guess avoiding the left side of the range is the goal, but how do you feel confident during the times when you know you're changing, but its not "good" yet. 

Practicing isn't playing golf. When I play, my goal is not to "practice" properly, it's still to shoot a good number, so I just play golf. Yeah, sometimes that's with a swing thought (well, always, but it may not always be exactly what I was working on during practice).

4 hours ago, saevel25 said:

First, ones dedicated to changing your swing. 

Yes. That's what this post is about. This post is not about warming up.

4 hours ago, nevets88 said:

Now the guy next to you will see you're fatting/thinning/shanking shot after shot and will try and give you a lesson. That, I'll leave at your discretion how to handle.

That's the only downside. Plus, as instructors, sometimes it's good advice to do these range sessions around students who already know you, or alone… as - right or wrong - a student who sees an instructor hitting shanks is probably not keen on taking a lesson with that instructor. :-)

4 hours ago, Phil McGleno said:

Could not have said it much better myself.

Thanks.

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Yeah good post. Amazing how many people you see out there just aimlessly beating balls and getting mad if they hit a bad shot. Such a waste of time.

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Was reading Motor Learning and Performance, which is more of an academic text - not something you'll find in the golf section of a book store and thought this was very relevant:

Quote

Learning Versus Performance During Practice

Perhaps it is obvious that when learners acquire a new skill, they do so by doing somethingdifferent than they had done earlier. The processes leading to learning require that the learner change something in the movement patterning, hopefully so the performance becomes more effective. Yet, when assisting learners during practice, many instructors encourage learners to “do your best” on each practice attempt. This generates two conflicting practice goals: performing as well as possible in practice versus learning as much as possible in practice by attempting to change movement patterning.

The learner who attempts to perform as well as possible in practice tends to be inhibited from modifying (“experimenting with”) movements from attempt to attempt, which detracts from learning. The approach for maximizing performance, repeating the most effective pattern discovered so far, is not effective for learning in part because it discourages such experimentation. One way to separate these conflicting practice goals is to provide two fundamentally different activities during practice—practice sessions and test sessions.

First, provide practice sessions in which you instruct the learners simply to avoid repeating what they did earlier. Tell the learner to try different styles of movement control to discover some more effective pattern of action. You can guide the learning by suggesting specific ways to alter the movement, helping the learner eliminate inappropriate patterns. The learner should know that performance quality is not critical during this practice period, and that the only goal is to discover some new way to execute the skill that will be more effective in the long term.

This page or two so useful and imho, required reading for every golfer who wants to get better. 

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Ok... So I've read this post a few times over and know that I am guilty of just looking for the perfect shot at the range. Now I know (through reading here) how to make the change. However, let's say that I am working on an element (for me. It's the right elbow issue).... How do I get from the point of.... "I got my swing right on camera" to the point where I DO make solid contact. I was thinking that solid contact with the ball was the measure of doing everything right. But I guess I was wrong on that. 

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4 hours ago, Dave325 said:

How do I get from the point of.... "I got my swing right on camera" to the point where I DO make solid contact.

It just takes some time. Keep hammering away at it.

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6 hours ago, mvmac said:

It just takes some time. Keep hammering away at it.

Yes definitely a lot of patience. Plus doing your pieces at a slower tempo mixed in w/full speed. And count hitting "less crappy" shots as improvement. Also, you made 2/10 relatively solid shots 2 weeks ago, now you're making 4/10. That's progress. 

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For me, I am trying to figure out quality (right form) and quantity (make it mine, be able to do it with eyes closed).   I often fail at both ends.   With video lessons & mirror work, I am improving on quality side.  I don't have time or patience to put in the quantity.   In my retirement starting in 4 days, I hope to improve on quantity as well.   Escape from Bogey Golf is going to be my mantra for 2016.  HI 16 or less!

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I was looking around the site and ran across this one and it is really timely for me.  It's almost something I need to remind myself before every practice session.  I want so badly to score better, my ultimate goal, that I always tend to start worrying about how my shots are feeling in practice when I'm making changes, instead of just purely focusing on the change I'm making.  I'll be doing fine for a while, but then shank a couple or just not hit them squarely and worry that "I've lost it, I need to hit some good ones".  One of my goals for practice this year is to trust that it will transfer to the course and ultimately lower my score, if I'm putting in the work the right way. 

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13 minutes ago, Wanzo said:

I'll be doing fine for a while, but then shank a couple or just not hit them squarely and worry that "I've lost it, I need to hit some good ones".

I typically do one of two things when that sort of thing happens in practice. Sorry, one of three things:

  1. I don't worry about it at all. Maybe in swinging a little left I tend to toe the ball, so I take a shank here and there as a good sign that I'm working on the proper thing and it's changing the picture.
  2. I take a break. Sometimes it's a loss of focus, or a little tiredness, or whatever. To stop from overthinking it or getting more frustrated, I take a short break.
  3. I hit a few balls just trying to hit them solidly. I don't work on my "piece" - I push the reset button and flush the system of those shanks.

Right now in my own swing I get a little steep with my forearm rotation and trial shoulder/elbow action, so I'm working on what my arms/hands do in transition. It requires a lot of attention and focus, and so sometimes when I swing down to hit the ball at even 60% speed, I'm focusing so much on what that part of my body is doing that my lower body doesn't do much - it's kind of "still" and doesn't do its usual slide/pivot. So sometimes I hit the ball like crap (relatively speaking) for a bit. If it's really bad, I'll hit some shots trying to do the A3-A5 stuff a little while mostly getting my lower body back into action, and that cleans things up, and "reminds" my lower body to do more than just my torso off the ground.

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7 hours ago, iacas said:

I typically do one of two things when that sort of thing happens in practice. Sorry, one of three things:

  1. I don't worry about it at all. Maybe in swinging a little left I tend to toe the ball, so I take a shank here and there as a good sign that I'm working on the proper thing and it's changing the picture.
  2. I take a break. Sometimes it's a loss of focus, or a little tiredness, or whatever. To stop from overthinking it or getting more frustrated, I take a short break.
  3. I hit a few balls just trying to hit them solidly. I don't work on my "piece" - I push the reset button and flush the system of those shanks.

Thanks for the ideas. I need to do better at taking a break. I think I've been continuing on when I'm getting tired/frustrated and it's prob not constructive. I just hate to quit on a bad shot. And I'll try to hit the reset with some swings periodically. 

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What a great thread.  Right now, I'm taking lessons and trying to change my swing, and I have had some very discouraging range sessions and a few very encouraging ones.  Here's what I have learned so far:  

Video.  I think I'm making a certain move.  Video shows I'm not.  Very eye-opening.  Video is a must.  It's so easy to do with a cell phone. 

Slow down.  I have a tendency after a disastrous shot on the range to immediately hit another one to sort of erase the previous one.  That doesn't do any good.  I need to stop, take a step back, rehearse the new move slowly, think about what just happened and why. 

Focus.  One thing at a time.  I have a tendency to try this, try that.  Maybe it's my grip, maybe it's my backswing, maybe I'm not setting my wrists correctly, and on and on.  That's just hacking around to no end. 

Give myself some encouragement.  I don't like going to the range and having no success at all, that's too discouraging.  If I can't hit my 7-iron, I tee one up and hit a 5-wood.  The feeling is "boy, that felt good.  I'm okay.  Everything is going to be okay.  Now go back to the 7-iron and work on that one thing your instructor gave you."

Fighting a sense of embarrassment.  I hit a bad shot, and I'm embarrassed if there is someone else out there who might have seen it.  I hit a great shot, and I hope everyone else saw it.  Why am I trying so hard to impress everyone else out here?  I look around, and most of them suck, too.   Why do I care what total strangers think of me?   It's just the way I am, I guess.  

Off topic, I was at the range the other day and there was a young woman, 20-something years old probably, and she hit 3 buckets of balls.  She was terrible, but she went back for bucket after bucket and kept pounding away.  But I admired her for it.  She was out there by herself, and she was determined.  I was thinking, now there's an interesting person.  Of course, I am old enough to be her grandfather.  And I'm married already.   Sorry, back to topic. 

Above all, video.  I know what I'm trying to do, but I can't know if I'm actually doing it unless I get outside my body and observe myself trying to do it.  And also, it has to be fun.  It can't be all work.   

 

 

 

 

Edited by Marty2019

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33 minutes ago, Marty2019 said:

And also, it has to be fun.  It can't be all work.

I thought this was key in what you wrote. At first, I thought that hitting fewer balls wasn't "fun." It felt too disciplined. Over time, I've flipped on that. It's a cliche, but I'm enjoying the process. When at the range, I'm there to change something, I'm not convince myself I'm hitting good shots. The fun is when you CHANGE something- and the joy of hitting a good shot is short-lived. Just give me a few more shots, and that good one has faded from memory. But if I've truly changed something, I should enjoy the benefits of better contact for a long while.

Like the young woman you saw, pounding balls can be relaxing in a way- just swing freely and see what happens. I've definitely done that when I needed a break from the discipline. But I've found that changes don't happen when hitting balls rapid fire- even when you try to stay conscious of what you're doing. Not major changes, anyway.

The changes I'm working on are deeply ingrained from years of being unaware of proper fundamentals, so it'll be fun to fix that- using all the tools you mentioned: video, slow swings, focus, etc.

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I think learning to get some good work done at home is important. We've been snowed in where I live on/off the last few weeks and I was forced to practice in front of a little convex mirror (without clubs). I've grown to enjoy this and I really see the value in it. But it's not something I would have done at the range. I look like I am rehearsing a folk dance from Eastern Europe.

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