You should practice wisely, just like the expression "working smart."
After you've warmed up, you should approach your practice session in the same manner you would a round of golf. You want to hit practice shots the same way you would hit shots on the course. You need to train yourself on the range to do what you expect on the golf course. Use the same routine to hit shots on the range that you would when playing.
You're trying to achieve a conditioned response on the range, so you don't have to think about it on the course. Some people may refer to this as muscle memory; I call it conditioned response.
Practice the way you want to play, if you're serious about playing well. Use your time well and you will enjoy the game much more. Determine what kind of preshot routine fits you best and do it while practicing. Work on your mechanics and technique on the range so you don't have to think about it on the course.
The range is for work and course is for play. Develop a program for success on the range and let the program run on the course. Don't interfere with it. It's called "getting out of your own way" while you play. You're not out there to play golf mechanics; you're playing golf. Practice with intent. Go out with a goal and try to accomplish it. Don't just beat balls. If that's what you're doing, you might just as well find a gym and pump some iron. Work smart and use your time wisely. Who knows, you just might start to like practicing and your golf game will definitely improve.
Now that we are practicing wisely, let's make sure we focus.
When you are working on swing mechanics or tempo or technique or awareness, remember to work on one thing per one swing. Don't try to do too much with one swing.
Let's say you've chosen three areas to work on during a particular session. Hit five shots working on No. 1 only, then five working on No. 2 only, then five working on No. 3 only. Then go back to one and so on. This is called circular learning and it will be much more productive and you will pay closer attention to what you're doing.
Sometimes practicing can get boring and you will get distracted. This will help you keep your focus.
Start changing your targets and switching clubs After you've accomplished your goals for that session and you're satisfied with the motion, start changing your targets and switching clubs. Practice hitting shots to targets that bother you on the golf course, like a back left pin position or a far right position. If you can hit the shot on the range, you can hit it on the course. Also get used to switching clubs when you practice. Hit a driver, then hit a 7-iron, hit a driver, then a 3-wood etc., just like on the course. This will help you maintain tempo from club to club.
Don't just practice with one club. Very seldom do you hit 30 or 40 5-irons in a row on the course. The time to practice is when you are striking the ball well, because that is what you are trying to condition. When you are hitting it poorly is the time to seek professional advice.
You want to make your practice sessions as enjoyable as possible, so do what you can to make it fun. After all, you are working very hard to play a game better, so enjoy.
Tim Peightal is a PGA Pro, general manager and director of golf at Pelican Bay Country Club - north and south courses in Daytona Beach. He also owns Summit Driving Range in Port Orange. Mr. Peightal can be reached at (386) 304-4774 or by sending an e-mail to GypsyPro12@ aol.com.