Playing Golf vs Practicing Golf

As a Coach and Instructor, I have to get my students to make changes to their swings to get better results. Sometimes this process can get a little challenging when trying to take a “new” or “changed” golf swing to the course. This is where having a better understanding of “playing golf” vs “practicing golf” comes into play.

I love to give students swing thoughts, drills and practice routines to work on during their lessons and practice sessions. This is where it is okay to become “mechanical” and really think about your swing. It’s okay to make a conscious effort to create swing change during lessons and practice sessions. Sometimes this results in a slower clubhead speed or some disruption in the timing of the swing, but that is a short-term issue that disappears with a little practice. The goal of lessons and practice sessions is to understand what change needs to be made and make enough repetitions of the correct movement so that the swing change feels repeatable and easy to reproduce with little effort. This is why it is essential to practice multiple times after your lessons before you go straight to the golf course.

Realize that once you have practiced enough and you do go play golf, it is time to play golf.  This means you should have a totally different mindset than you did in your lesson and practice sessions. You do not want to be consciously trying to make a swing change while you are playing a round of golf. You want to warm up on the driving range, feel your swing and loosen up, and then trust your swing once you step on the first tee box. On the golf course, I tell all of my students to try and build a routine that follows the “see it, feel it, trust it” mantra that is promoted by many sports psychologists. You need to visualize your shot, feel the swing during a practice swing, and then step up to the ball and trust your swing with minimal to no swing thoughts. This mentality is completely different from the mentality a student is in 95% of the time during a lesson or practice session.

So, it is crucial to understand that you will need to develop a consistent mental and physical routine for playing golf, that will be different from how you practice and think during a lesson. I call this the practice mindset and the playing mindset. Developing these two mindsets and being able to separate them when you do play golf is a skill that takes a little bit of time to develop. So, after your next lesson, don’t go straight to the course until you have practiced enough to allow yourself to “trust” your new swing on the golf course with minimal to no swing thoughts.

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