How to Practice Golf
Without doubt, the most common faults I see among amateurs are at address. They don’t pay enough attention to the stance, posture or alignment and this has a knock-on effect for the swing. Other than that, the main fault would be not knowing how far you hit the ball. These two are actually related because it is difficult to know how far you hit each club when you have inconsistencies at set up. I strike the ball fairly similar every time so I know, within two or three yards, how far a 7-iron is going to go for instance. But if you’re not consistent at set-up it’s going to be difficult. This is what you should work on in practice.
First of all when I set up on the range, I am working on my balance, feeling where it is in my feet at address. The majority of your weight should be down through your laces as you stand over the ball. The best way to set your posture and find the right balance is to stand straight upright with your feet a little less than shoulder width apart. Now place the shaft of your wedge across your hips. Then lean your upper body forward so your weight moves over your toes and then flex your knees. This brings your weight back over the balls of your feet. From there, let your arms hang under your shoulders and that’s the ideal set up with good balance. You should feel like a goalkeeper ready to save a penalty – the golf swing is such a fast movement, you need to be balanced and alive. As the golf club gets longer, I tend to make my stance a little bit wider but I wouldn’t try to hit the ball any harder.
Its important to aim in the right direction obviously but strangely, most people don’t! Generally I lay a club or alignment stick down on the ground. However, I do not put it on the ball-to-target line or on the line of my feet. Instead I put it parallel to those two lines half way between them. The alignment stick sits under my shoulders and then I can set my body and the clubface parallel to that. Remember it is everything – feet, hits, knees, elbows – that need to be parallel and that’s why it is important to check. If you have any kinks in your set up (your shoulders might be closed or your hips might be open), you’ll have to make compensations in the swing to strike ball. My hips can get slightly open every now and again and that’s why I need to check.
I try to make sure the clubhead is the first thing to move away from the ball in the takeaway, this is a simple move but it’s one that some people get wrong. It should start to get the club working on a good path. Then as I turn to the top of the backswing I resist that rotation with my legs. From the top of the backswing I’m looking to initiate the downswing with the left knee. This creates a whiplash effect with the club, creating lag on the way down. From there you should be looking to simply rotate through then into a smooth follow through with your right shoulder aiming at the target in the finish.
Coming up short or hitting the ball long, these are the things that really wreck your scoring. If you start missing greens, you’ve got to get it up and down. So it really is worth getting a real understanding for how far you hit the ball. When you get to a certain level where your ball striking is consistent, you should head to the range and hit 10 balls with your 7-iron. Measure the five middle ones and you’ll get an idea for how far you hit that club.
Driver set up
With a driver I widen my stance and move the ball forward because I’m trying to hit the ball on the up. That’s about all that changes really. I tee it up quite high for the driver and that’s because of the launch characteristics I’m looking for. It goes further when I launch it at about 10.5˚ – that creates the optimum for me with regards to carry and roll. My driver carries about 290 and rolls out to 315. The other thing I do is I try to keep moving at address. It’s a good idea not to stand there too long before starting the swing as this can create tension in your arms.