How do we take our game from the driving range to the golf course? This is the million dollar question, right? And In terms of Tiger Woods, this is a billion dollar question.
But for most of us, answering this question is not about the money (aside from maybe those bragging rights influenced by money matches) or the fame. It's not about playing at an elite level or hitting it perfectly the entire golf round.
We golfers know and respect the struggles of the game. We understand it's a thrilling roller coaster ride where great shots can end up in bad positions and missed shots occasionally turn out to be darn near perfect.
So what is it then? What is the need, the desire, the hope to get the answer to this question? Why does it matter so much?
Progress! It matters because of how it affects our progress.
That is a simplistic answer, but it is at the root of this issue. We all want to see and experience growth and progress with whatever we are doing and any sort of set back from this can turn our mind and body into a whirlwind of emotional turmoil.
When it comes to golf, specifically, there are two avenues to experience progress. The first is with the golf swing itself, which we initially, and quite often mainly experienced on the driving range. The second is our score when we play.
When we experience progress in one avenue our logical mind concludes or assumes we will then experience the same progress in the second avenue. The disconnect comes into play when this does not occur and as many of us have experienced, this is not what usually happens. Then the brain, body, emotion freak out session begins. This disconnect becomes illogical to us and sometimes incomprehensible; not to mention, it is extremely frustrating.
Luckily there is an easy solution to bridge this progress gap that we have laid out below.
First we need to recognize a few realizations and steps to help us wrap our brains around this illogical circumstance and eventually make a more seamless transition from the driving range to the golf course.
Let's start with the realizations...
1. The first realization is golf is one of the only sports where we don't practice where we play.
2. The second realization is the golf swing is not playing golf. There are a thousand other components associated with playing the game and playing it well, i.e. putting, chipping, focus, shot shapes, muscle tension, reading greens.
3. The third realization is progress on the driving range is separate from progress on the golf course. They should be treated as two separate entities that both require time, effort and dedication.
The point of identifying and understanding these realizations is to give ourselves a break. To relax as it is and not put so much pressure on one progress avenue or another. To understand the difference between playing and practicing, helping us let go of attachments to our results on the driving range and to open us up to see and humbly accept the amazing complexity of this game.
Once these realizations are imbedded into our thought process, we will become less harsh with our progress and be open to more possibilities on the golf course.
So let's talk about the steps. The steps for making the transition from the driving range to the golf course are very important because they create a specific, organized game plan that our brains can understand and easily implement.
Step # 1: Practice like you play. I am sure you have heard this many times before and that is frankly because it is crucial to making this transition. This means, after you warm up on the range or spend some time focusing on a swing change, use visualization to put yourself on the golf course. Pick a specific target for each shot, go through your pre-shot routine, aim and then go for it, just like you would on the golf course.
Play Your Best Golf Now is a stellar mental game golf book that institutes the growth mindset and teaches us; "The time and effort you invest in practice yields the best return when it is most like real golf. Make practice like golf...." (Nilsson and Marriot, p 10 2011).
Step #2: Let go of the results! This is helpful on the range as well, but it is necessary on the golf course to make that transition. When our swing results become the most important factor that is all we focus on, taking our attention away from all other, equally important aspects of the game.
We come to the golf course to play a game, not perfect a swing. Remain open to all possibilities while on the golf course and focus on connecting all parts of the golf game. It helps to remember the advice from one of greatest golf movies Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius 2004 where Walter Hagen told Jones "three bad shots and one good shot still make par." He goes on the remind us that "golf is the game of recovery". It's not a game of perfect golf swings.
Step #3: Forget! Often times what prevents us from taking our golf swing to the golf course is our attachment to the results. Either we are hitting it great on the range and are hopeful to do the same on the course or we are hitting it poorly on the range and we hope and pray that somehow changes as we walk up to the first tee. Hope is one thing but hope and attachment is a destructive combination.
a. Forget how you were hitting on the range and instead focus on consistently implementing your pre shot routine.
Step #4: Remember. Remember the swing is only a small part of the game.
a. The driving range is a practice facility meant for working on our swings, learn the body movements, practicing new techniques. It's a relatively safe space to learn through our mistakes; to get it wrong in order to figure out how to do it right.
b. The golf course, on the other hand, is the playing grounds to just play golf, whether good or bad. It is not a jury to judge your every shot nor is it a stage to showcase your swing. It's a place to play golf, which includes the swings, but also putts, chips, mental focus, confidence, overcoming fears, mental exhaustion, etc. And golf, at all levels, is a combination of good shots, missed shots, lucky shots, unlucky shots.
We go to the golf course to play a game, not perfect a swing. Remain open to all possibilities while on the golf course and focus on connecting all parts of the golf game. Learning to successfully make this transition will be the conduit to success on the golf course and in life as well.
Make learning, not the results of your golf swing, your top priority while on the golf course and you will be sure to leave the course smiling every time.
On a personal note, this was my greatest struggle with the game for many years. The driving range became my comfort zone and the golf course was an endless array of frustration and disappointment. I became a driving range golfer. That is where I spent my time and energy because that is where I would experience progress and improvement; that is also where I felt comfortable. The defeat of the golf course became less and less palatable overtime.
I figured out this process and these steps through trial and error over many years and countless attempted club throws. I can say now, with full sincerity, that my game has reached a new level after putting these steps into place. I am no longer concerned with my range practice after the fact or how I am hitting the ball on the course. I am only concerned with learning and growing through this amazing game. And the biggest bonus, my scores and enjoyment of the game have improved significantly.
Video Lesson: Learn how to get the most out of your time on the driving range.
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1. Nilsson, Pia and Lynn Marriott. Play Your Best Golf Now: Discover VISION54's 8 Essential Playing Skills. Gotham Books, 2011.
2. "Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius Quotes."Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 24 Feb. 2021. <https://www.quotes.net/mquote/980724>