Two bits of information have come to my attention this week which I think many amateurs could gain some valuable insight from. They concern the practice habits of both the current world number one, Jason day, and arguably the greatest golfer to have lived, Tiger Woods.
The below video (from The Golf Channel) shows an interview with Tiger.
He discusses the fact that he used to practice 10-12 hours a day when he was at his peak. For amateurs who may only practice this amount in a year, this is a bit of an eye opener as to the amount of dedication one may need to maintain peak golfing condition. So, if you are only practicing a fraction of this amount, don’t be so hard on yourself when your play isn’t as consistent as you would like.
Less Is More
Also, Tiger states that he is changing his practice – doing less, but improving the quality of it. I think that many players, professionals included, can take a lot from this. By doing less, we can
- reduce our amount of injury (repetitive strain/general wear and tear etc)
- improve recovery
- keep the sessions more focused
To me, this is vital for longevity in the game, and something I envision more and more top pros doing, as a longer career is obviously more lucrative.
However, if we are going to do less, the efficiency needs to be increased to make up for this.
So, how to we do this?
Here is a facebook post I recently saw;
Here we see a description of Jason Day’s practice. The things which stand out to me are
- incredible focus
- simulating tournament conditions mentally
- using routines
To me, this is the ideal situation – practice with incredible quality. I hate seeing players, especially good players, mindlessly raking and hitting thousands of balls in a row under the misguided belief that this is the best way to get better at something. This probably stems from the popularity of the debunked 10,000 hour rule.
Sure, hitting a million balls isn’t going to leave you worse as a golfer (unless you are working on the wrong things). But there becomes a point where the “rake and hit a million balls” philosophy hits a wall and stops improving you. It doesn’t work on all the mechanisms needed to be an elite golfer, such as
- the ability to select the right motor program
- the ability to change and adapt
- the ability to transfer that motion to the course
This is probably why you hit it well on the range and shitty on the course.
For the average golfer with little time, you may see even less benefit from the “rake and hit” style practice, because you are not hitting the sheer quantities of balls needed to make it work. Most amateurs would be better off using the little time they have to improve motor program selection – namely through
- random/broken practice
- game-simulated practice
- pressurized practice
- deliberate practice
A Time For Blocked
There is a time and a place for blocked style practice (mass repetition) – usually during the initial stages of learning a new movement.
However, I think this idea is still overstated, and feel that even players who are undergoing a swing change may be better off introducing a more random/broken style practice earlier on in that process.
Players usually stay in blocked practice mode too long during a swing change because of the misguided assumption that performance is learning. But, what we normally see with this is that practice performance is great, but the retention of the new technique is poor.
This is not to say I don’t use blocked forms of practice with players, but I am usually quicker to transfer a player into a more random/broken mode sooner than most other teachers.
Hopefully, gone are the days of believing that rake and hit is the most efficient way to go. Motor learning research has shown that mass repetition is only a small part of creating a repetitive motion which holds up under stress. While it can be a part of a practice regimen, there becomes a point where it no longer offers a practice ROI, and may even cause diminishing returns.
While blocked practice works (as evidenced by the pros), I see the future of golf practice being far more similar to how Jason Day is practicing.
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