Most golfers realise that if you want to be a great golfer, you need to put in the time. There are many stories about the phenomenal amount of time and effort the greats of the game spent honing their skills in practice. 

For most people though spending this amount of time on their game isn’t an option, with work, family commitments etc, life gets in the way. A lot of people look at this as a reason to simply give up, but that doesn’t have to be you!

There are certain areas in the game of golf which deliver more “bang for your buck,” when it comes to reward for time spent in practice. By focusing your available practice time on these areas, it is possible to see some major improvements in a short space of time. So what are these areas?

 1: Putting. I like to see people break their putting practice into 3 areas. 
First is getting the line right. If you can’t consistently get your putts starting on the line you have chosen, you will have a very hard time holing any putts with any type of regularity.
Second is to get the speed of the putt right. There are a number of drills you can work on to help you improve your speed control, including ladder drills, and putting into a circle, just remember that for the majority of golfers, from more than 19 feet, you will 3 putt more than you 1 putt, so aim to get the ball inside a 3 foot circle around the hole from outside this distance.
Third is reading the green. This comes with experience and practice. The best way to work on this I have found is to get one ball and move around the putting green to different spots reading the green as you would as if you were playing for real. Just remember that getting sloppy with reading the green when you are practicing will lead to getting sloppy when you play. Sloppy habits breed sloppy results!

2: The short game. Interestingly in my experience most golfers’ short games are not as sharp as they think. To improve in this area it is important to ensure your technique is sound, ensure the right shot selection, and practice your distance control. 
To improve your technique, it is vital to make sure that the fundamentals are in place, think grip, aim, and set-up, or GAS. While a full rundown on technique is beyond the scope of this article, a quick lesson with your golf professional will get you headed in the right direction. 
Shot selection is something which will improve through experience and practice, but bear in mind that generally the quicker you can get the ball rolling along the ground the more margin for error there is and therefore the more consistent you will be. If however you find yourself putting through the rough a lot, it is time to work on your chipping!
Distance control will come through the correct type of practice. Make sure to practice from different distances and different lies. Mix it up a lot, as random practice has been proven to be much more effective than block type practice. Try to put some pressure on yourself when focusing on this, in order to replicate the same feeling as when you are on course.

3. Better thinking and course strategy:
 We’ve all been there, standing over a shot when we have a good round going, and thinking, “Don’t hit it in the bunker.”  Of course the result of this thought is either hitting the ball into the bunker, or hitting the ball so far away from the bunker that it would have been better off in the bunker. In short the best way to get around these types of thoughts is to focus our thoughts on what we do want to happen with that shot rather than what we don’t want to happen. If you find that despite trying to do this, you are still thinking about the hazard, generally your strategy needs to change. What is the point of hitting a shot that you are virtually certain will give a poor result. How many golfers have you head say “I hate that bunker, I always hit it in there and I can’t get out of it!” If the definition of madness is to keep repeating the same action expecting a different result, then there are a lot of madmen and women on the golf courses of the world! Why not try something different? Hit more club or less club in that situation, sometimes laying up can be the smarter play or if there is plenty of room past the bunker or hazard, take more club and get well past it. 

Of course there is more detail to be covered in all of these areas, so keep an eye out for our next posts, which will cover in more detail the areas we have identified here. For all of the participants in our “Biggest Loser” competition, these tips are a great way to get started! 

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Chris Britnell
Member of PGA of Australia