Differential Practice for Golf – Bitesize Motor Learning

Differential Practice for Golf – Bitesize Motor Learning

In this article, We explore why Rory McIlroy topped this drive. The answer may surprise you, and there’s a lot to learn from it.

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What Is Differential Practice for Golf?

Differential practice is where you practice techniques/impacts that you wouldn’t normally use for optimal performance. This could be pushing movements outside of their normal boundaries, or practicing completely different techniques altogether. Some examples are;

  • Intentionally hitting the toe/heel
  • Intentionally hitting a hook/slice
  • Intentionally topping the ball
  • Hitting shots off your knees
  • Using different grips
  • Using different club shafts which may not necessarily fit you
  • Exaggerating movement patterns into ridiculous extremes
  • Playing a round of golf with one club.


Differential practice is vastly under-used and can be a very powerful tool. It can help to open up new neural pathways, and can create the breakthrough moments that allow change to take place. So, if you are struggling to make a change, use differential practice

Take a change you want to make, and make it so extreme that finding a middle ground is comparatively easy

Differential practice also improves your ability to edit your swing and make better conscious corrections (which will become automatic as you progress in your learning). This is achieved by making the player more comfortable/receptive to making movement adaptations.

 McIlroy demonstrating topping the ball intentionally. This is incredibly difficult to do – I remember messing around as a kid and learning it. In order to successfully to it, you have to have supreme control of the height and position of the lowest point of your swing. for more info, see my article on low point HERE


Differential practice also improves the amount of ‘good variability’, even despite the paradox of essentially practicing ‘bad variability’. However, despite all of the positive benefits, differential practice should be initially kept to off-season work, until the player has more experience with it.

This form of practice can also help improve your ability to recognize/identify certain information which will allow you to better correct yourself through improved. self-awareness. For example, a player which knows the difference between the feeling/sound/flight of a toe vs heel shot has a better chance at correcting.


Learn More

To learn more about differential practice, along with specific drills, how to implement it and when to implement it, click the image below to learn more about ‘The Practice manual – the ultimate guide for golfers’ (available on amazon)

One Comment

  • Tony

    This is a very interesting concept. I think it encourages the golfer’s ability to express themselves through their clubs, and to have fun, instead of getting caught up in technicalities and beating themselves up over a bad shot.

    I noticed especially how you mentioned playing a round with 1 club. When I was a junior golfer in the 1970s our club used to have 2-club or 3-club competitions on certain occasions in the wintertime. They were good fun and we had to think a lot about which clubs we chose – there was a lot of strategy in it. And we had to invent all kinds of shots and use our imagination. It was the polar opposite of playing by the numbers!

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