Going to the range might be a bridge too far in terms of commitment to the game and time taken from other activities, including domestic bliss. In addition, most would take playing a round of 18 holes rather than whack shots off the synthetic deck at the range.
Given that significant evidence exists to support the view that practice makes perfect, if you can’t get to the range, then here are six things you can do to practice during a round:
1. The driver
Get the driver out of your bag at least five minutes before your scheduled tee-time. In between chatting, make sure to have your driver in hand, checking your grip and undertaking visual checks of your take-off motion. You can do this while you socialize and swap cards.
Keep that driver in your hand and step away to the side to slowly rehearse your swing. Slow-motion is the key here. Key indicators to check: grip (hand location), grip intensity (don’t strangle the club), slow-motion three-quarter back-swings (check your feet, your knees, your elbow and arms). Don’t stand there and swing your driver at 200 m.p.h. trying to emulate Bubba’s finish so that you look great – make this a meaningful few minutes to feel comfortable with your take-off and swing tempo so that you can get that tee-shot onto the short stuff. Repeat this routine for every tee shot.
2. On the fairway
If you have time, take out the club that you intend to use for your next shot before arriving at your ball. If you are not the first shot then use the available time when your playing partner is setting up and practice your own shot. It may not be the club you finally settle on when you get to your ball and check the distance and conditions, but it does mean that you have practiced some hypothetical shots before arriving at your ball.
Assuming you are out of sightline, not disturbing your playing partners in any way and not holding up play, then take full advantage of any time available to swing a club and rehearse the anticipated shot ahead. I have seen great players swinging an imaginary club while they are waiting for others to play — it’s a chance to rehearse what lies ahead.
3. Recover the bad shot
Professionals like Jordan and Dustin will always re-play their bad swings on the course. Rather than throwing your club back in the bag, shaking your head and walking away, compose yourself and replay the shot right there. Get it right before you move away. We always want to replay those bad shots, so why not do it by way of practice swings before walking forward. This also helps to restore some mental composure at a time when throwing your club in the lake is an arguable alternative.
4. The practice swing
Too often we take practice swings without purpose or meaning. In the first instance, visualize the shot required as you approach your ball. After considering all the known conditions and making the appropriate club selection, then make sure your practice swing is a purposeful, visualized shot. Swinging 3/4 or 200 m.p.h. on the practice swing is absolutely pointless when the visualized shot is a full club, even tempo commitment.
5. In the rough
Watch the pros. They find an exact match to the ground conditions of their ball to play their practice shots. If your ball is caught behind some high-rise rye or worse, sitting on a rough patch of track, then make sure you move away and take your practice swings on similar ground to where your ball is located. Craft the shot in your mind. Then return to your ball and make the shot.
6. The green
No excuses here. There are so many ways you can practice your putting stroke while playing. Get your data collection antenna on alert as you approach the green.
Try to walk toward the green so that you can get a line between your ball and the hole. Begin visualizing the pace and establishing other conditions affecting the putt. Before getting to your ball, start rocking your shoulders to simulate the pace that is needed to get the putt to the zone around the hole. Stand behind your ball and keep moving those shoulders from side to side, and then mimic that with putter in hand.
By the time you turn to address your ball, you should have “made the putt” in your head a few times, rocked your shoulders, as well as rocked your putter to simulate the pace. Now turn and take the shot.
The overriding caution is that practice during a round should not affect your playing partners or the pace of play. However, opportunities do arise, so be savvy and ready to use them. Maximize those minutes between holes and shots to check and refine aspects of your game.
— N. Incoll