How to improve your golf game using deliberate practice

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So you want to get better at golf, but you don’t have the time to practice? You’re working too much and not playing often enough? You worry you’ll never be able to get any better? Well let me introduce you to something that could change the way you play forever.

One of the things I most enjoy is finding ways to improve my golf game, and writing up that research, training and practice for you. Whether it’s great golf tips, pointers for improving your golf swing, or the basic golf swing mechanics – I’ve tried to cover a range of bases here on Birdieable.

But this is different. This is something you need in your life, if you want to improve your golf game. It’s called deliberate practice, and I’m going to break it down for you now.

improve your golf

It's not about how much you practice. It's about how well you practice.

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K. Anders Ericsson, a researcher at Florida State Universiry, who wrote an essay called, The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance, noted that scientists never really studied experts or superstars in their field because people assumed their talent was innate.

When Tiger Woods was dominating golf, did you ever stop to think about why he was so good from a psychological perspective? Or did you just think … wow, he’s naturally good?

I know when I saw him smash those long drives, or chip it expertly onto the green, or putt so precisely and naturally, I was quick to label it natural talent.

Well, Ericsson argues that this kind of expert performance is not innate. Tiger Woods was not created a golf god – he forged himself into one.

He said: “We argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

In other words, they practice deliberately, with specific purpose, and it’s through that practice that they become great.

Jason Day has just claimed the number one spot in the world rankings, but here’s a warming thought: you – yes, YOU – are just as talented as he is. He wasn’t born with the skills that have made him the best golfer in the world. He has attained them through putting in the practice.

You are just as talented as World No 1 Jason Day.

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So what exactly is this deliberate practice? Quite simply, it is a set of clearly structured activities with the sole purpose of improving your performance. How you practice is the biggest key to mastering this art: you have to challenge yourself in everything you do.

Don’t just swing mindlessly at the range for hours on end and hope it will improve your swing. Pick something specific to focus on – a weakness you’ve spotted – and design something that targets that weakness.

Here are some tips on how you can directly apply this theory to your golf, courtesy of Golf.com.

  • Visualisation
  • Chipping
  • Putting

On the practice course, visualise a golf course you know well and create a game with yourself where you play the course - challenging yourself to hit your imaginary targets with the clubs you would have to use in real life.

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