Darren Clarke In The Bag
Driver: TaylorMade R15 430, Project X shaft
3-wood: TaylorMade R15 14˚
Hybrid: TaylorMade R15 19˚
Irons 3-PW: TaylorMade RSi TP, KBS Tour 130 shaft
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4 53˚ and TVD 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura X5, 34.5in
Ball: TaylorMade Tour Preferred x
In this exclusive interview, Golf Monthly spoke to Darren Clarke about his practice regime and what he’s learnt over the years to help you get the most from yours.
The desire is still there
People often say to me, “how can you still be so dedicated to practice after so many years out on tour?” The simple truth is that I still want to get better. We can always improve. I love the game and the challenge that it poses, and it’s just that if you don’t put the work in you can never expect to get the results out. Nobody ever gets out what they put in anyway in this game, but you give yourself a much better chance if you put the work in.
Knowing when to stop
I still want to spend as many hours as I possibly can on the range and that has probably been to my detriment over the years. In the past I’ve stood on the range when I’ve been hitting it great until such time as I start hitting it poorly because I’m tinkering with this and tinkering with that! You have to know when enough is enough in this game, so now I try to make my practice more constructive, more targeted in terms of getting myself ready for tournaments. So as opposed to just standing there hitting balls forever, I’ll do that for a shorter time and then go into a more competitive environment for the last few balls. I’ll hit four or five balls to different targets, see how far they go, hit draws, hit fades rather than just standing there working on technique.
What to focus on
Do you spend more time honing what you’re already good at, or working on areas that you are perhaps not quite so good at? That’s a very good question that you could ask all professionals, because the game is so complex with so many different facets to it. The thinking has always been that it’s short game, short game, short game, and while that is important at the top level, your shots from 200 yards to 260 yards are equally as important because the courses we’re playing are getting longer and longer. The par 3s are getting longer and longer, and some of the par 4s too. In years gone by maybe we wouldn’t have had as many long holes as we’re faced with today, so your accuracy from that sort of distance has to improve as well.
It’s not all about the short game
Just to expand on this a little, I would qualify that by saying that I think for the average amateur it is definitely all about the short game if they want to see big improvements. Don’t get me wrong – it’s massively important to us as well and not something that we overlook. But with the advent of more and more stats coming out and more and more information being given to us, I think this has only served to highlight certain areas which may not have been important before that also require lots of attention and practice
Tournament vs non-tournament weeks
In terms of practice and preparation, it’s very difficult to make swing changes or modifications to what you need to do during tournament weeks. When you come to a tournament you’ve really got to work with what you’ve got, whereas when you’re away from tournaments that’s the time to put in the hard work. I’m not saying you can’t ‘find it’ during tournament weeks, but it’s much easier to work with Trackman and the camera at home than it is to really get into the technique side of things when you’re away playing tournaments.
My pre-round routine
I like to get to the course maybe an hour, to an hour and 20 minutes before play. I’ll probably go to the putting green first and hit a couple of putts, then go and do a bit of short game work before I get into hitting balls on the range. On the range I always like to finish with the shot I’ll be needing on the 1st hole, whether that’s driver, 3-wood or long iron, before heading on up to the tee.
Putt blind to improve feel
I’ve used so many putting drills over the years that it would be difficult to pick just one. With putting in particular it’s very easy to get drawn into technique, but there have been so many great putters using so many different ways of putting over the years that there just isn’t one consistent method. So probably one of the best putting drills is to hit putts within say three to 10 feet with your eyes closed. That takes the technique side away and gets you a little bit more into feel.
When you’re in a hurry…
We all know that most club golfers turn up too close to their tee-time to give them any chance to really prepare properly. If that’s you, then the best thing you can do in the limited time available is to chip and putt. You’ll often see amateurs go straight to the range or net, pull the driver out hit a couple of balls and go to the tee. During the course of a round they might hit 10 to 14 drives, but they’re going to have to chip and putt an awful lot more than they’re going to have to hit driver. So it would seriously benefit them to spend what little time they have chipping and putting.