The secret to breaking 80 may not be found only at the range.
Nor may it be found only in golf tips, golf books, or golf lessons.
The secret to breaking 80 may also be found in recent performance research.
This research doesn’t tell you how to drive a ball, sink a putt, or hit an iron. Nor does it tell you how to play a course.
Instead, it tells you how to learn a motor skill. Knowing how you learn a motor skill can help you squeeze the most out of practice. More important, it speeds learning.
And speeding up learning can boost your game to the next level quickly.
Below are 7 practice tips based on performance research. Build them into your practice routines and boost your game to new heights.
Tip 1: Set specific goals
Setting specific goals, like beating par or winning the club championship, speeds learning. It also increases skill retention.
For best results, choose moderately challenging and long-term goals. Coupling them with even low levels of practice can boost learning as much as 400 percent.
Tip 2: Choose the right swing thoughts
Swings thoughts are valuable tools. But you need to use the right thoughts. The key is to use external swing thoughts, not internal ones.
Savvy golfers, use swing thoughts that refer to the club, not the body-thoughts like “Lean the shaft forward at impact” and not “Get my hands ahead of the club at impact.”
Tip 3: Learn from a pro
When you learn from a pro, you play like one. So take golf lessons from a pro whenever you can. Highly effective, it’s the best way to learn and the best way to achieve consistency.
A pro can see your errors. You can. A pro also won’t let you ingrain errors. She’ll correct them and teach you how to do things right, speeding learning.
Tip 4: Practice like you play
If you leave your best swings at practice, it’s because you’re not practicing to transfer skills from the range to the course. Transfer practice encourages specificity of learning. The process is called practicing like you play.
In other words, instead of hitting 25 drivers in a row, hit driver, then 7-iron, then PW-just like you’d do during a round.
Or hit wedges from a grassy area, not off a mat. Try to create actual playing conditions when practicing.
Tip 5: Work on one change
When you practice working on several changes at the same time you short-circuit the brain-literally. Repeating a movement changes your brain, increasing its efficiency in processing information and controlling movement.
But that’s only if you’re working on one change at a time.
Also, use training aids. Why-because the brain can’t tell when you’re doing something right or wrong. Training aids teach you to perform the skill correctly, ingraining the fundamentals the right way.
Tip 6: Practice, practice, practice
There’s no escaping it. You have to practice to improve. Research shows it takes 10,000 hours of work to ingrain a motor skill. It also shows that you need to do something for 10 years to master it.
So it you’re serious about shrinking your golf handicap, practice. No one’s ever learned to play golf well without practice.
Tip 7: Buy Videos
Forget verbal training aids. Instead, use a video or a photo. We learn faster using our eyes, not our ears. So find a golfer that’s good at a skill, like chipping, and watch her perform it.
This process is called “modeling.” Modeling gives you a “blueprint” to guide your motions. So if you want to improve, buy videos.