June 25, 2007

Always hit to a target

Take a tip from Tom Lehman: Practice with a purpose

__BULL'S EYE:__Hitting to a target on the practice range will help you link your range game to your real game.

__BULL'S EYE:__Hitting to a target on the practice range will help you link your range game to your real game.

I've had the pleasure of coaching 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman, this year's U.S. Ryder Cup captain, since the early '90s. One of the most important lessons Tom has reinforced with me is to always pick a target when you practice, even if you're working on a swing change.

It's easy to get caught up in so many mechanical thoughts when you practice that you forget how to put the swing you're working on into play. Yes, the range is the place to work out the kinks in your swing, but it is also the place to practice hitting golf shots. Then when you get on the course, you're merely making those shots you've practiced a part of your game.

Having a target is important for three reasons: (1) You can check your alignment; (2) it keeps practice interesting, so it doesn't just become aimless ball-beating; and (3) it replicates the intensity and pressure you feel when you're playing golf, when off-line shots often find trouble. If you want to be as good on the course as you are on the range, hit to a target when you practice.

Jim Flick, ranked in the top 10 by his peers among Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers, is based at the TaylorMade Golf Center in Carlsbad, Calif.