But tour pros are not just beating balls or blindly rolling putts. They make their practice productive by using props--shafts, yardsticks and other devices--to check their alignment, their ball position, their swing plane, their putting path. Sometimes it's with their teacher, most often with their caddie, so they have another set of eyes to check them. This is work. It's what they do for a living. And if done correctly, it pays dividends.
Want to practice like a pro? Here's what you do:
Make yourself a practice station on the range. Always put shafts or other clubs on the ground to check that your stance line is square to your target line. Jim Flick, who coaches Tom Lehman and Jack Nicklaus, likes to have players put the alignment shaft along their heels, not their toes, because if you like to flare out one foot, it will not alter your alignment. Then place another shaft perpendicular to your target line to indicate your ball position. Finally, put a shaft in the ground to the side of your body on the same angle as your clubshaft at address. This will help you determine if your swing is on plane. Note the photograph of Vijay Singh (above), who always practices with such a "plane check."
Now if you really want to practice like a pro, always place the ball you're about to hit directly behind the divot you just made (note the Singh photo again). Try to eliminate the smallest amount of turf from the range so the superintendent has the least amount of area to reseed. Also notice that tour pros take shallow divots. Only
Nick Faldo would often go even a step further, replicating entire rounds on the practice tee, never hitting the same club twice in succession. According to David Leadbetter in the December 2010 issue of Golf Digest, Faldo played a game with himself on the range at the 1996 Masters. "He was working on every shot he'd face on the course, complete with his caddie, Fanny Sunesson, saying things like 'The flag is 10 paces right, five from the back.' This routine made Nick work the ball instead of hitting it dead straight. It made the course more familiar when he got there."
Try some of these thoughts. You'll make your practice time more efficient and you'll become a better player. If you have any other tips to make your practice more productive, I'd like to know about them. And remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.
(Photo by Chris Condon/PGA Tour)