- Posted by Will Stubbs
- On October 14, 2019
Geek Rating – 2/5
Read Time – 10 Mins
Winter golf is dreadful unless you live in a sunny part of the world. Unlock your winter practise potential with some simply gamification. Design your sessions to represent the course and you’ll supercharge your game.
…”I’m a summer sportsman.”
Tuesday night and you’ve managed to sneak an hour at the range after dinner. Grab your clubs, hand over your cash and smash the lot down the field somewhere. Walk away feeling more stressed and less comfortable with your swing than you did before. Sounds familiar?
I think every golfer is guilty of this at some point in their life, so don’t worry. Just time to make a change. As winter is just around the corner the thought of another bucket of balls in the cold, at the same mundane targets and standardised distance markers ain’t going to float your boat no more. What happens? Clubs get a good covering of dust in the garage and you forget what a golf course looks like until The Masters rolls around next spring.
This process repeats until you become frustrated you’re not improving, end up with a few tips from your pals or splash out on a lesson or two. Filling your head with all sorts of swing thoughts and with them anxiety over certain shots, putts or chips. It’s a problem and it’s time you took control to make some major gains in your game.
So let’s look at our practise options… Driving range is boring, the course is too wet, hitting into a net is more boring (and majorly pointless) or if you’re lucky an indoor simulator? Looks like it’s the range for the majority of us!
Pfft the range… Yeah maybe for a pint?
Why does the range kill creativity to the point you end up smashing 180 balls in 25mins or grabbing a pint to accompany the football that’s on in the bar?
When you start to think why, it gets pretty simple. Let’s look at the game and figure out why we’re addicted to golf, but not the range.
- We have a score
- Different lies and hazards
- One ball (hopefully)
- Different length holes
- Uphill, downhill and across slopes
- Different shaped holes
- Use the putter around half the time
- Different distance shots
- Unlimited balls (if you have the time, patience and cash)
- Lots of holes / targets (if you’re lucky)
- Distance markers (By the way who decided 100yr, 150yr and 200yrd were key distances?)
- Flat mats
- Perfect lie every time (if you’ve got decent mats)
Yeah, there’s one pretty simple reason why we’re addicted to golf and not the range. It’s variety. Every time you step onto the course its different: the weather, the lies you get, the distances you end up with and as such the shots you hit. We’re constantly engaging with a new problem on every shot. So when we step onto the range looking out at the same flags, same markers, hitting balls off the same mat, we end up doing the same thing we always do. What did that old Greek guy say?
“You are what you repeatedly do…”
If we do the same shots with the same clubs at the same standardised distance markers, there’s no wonder why we get bored and don’t improve much. For us to grow, just like in the gym or when learning something new like a language we need challenge. This stretches us to adapt and that’s where learning occurs. In golf we need variety and accountability to shape that change.
Context is King
If you’ve read some of our other blogs in the series you’ll notice a key tenant in our philosophy lives in recreating the game of golf as best we can. Bringing some context to our learning. This is called an ecological approach and is underpinned by the great work of people like James Gibson and Keith Davids. When it comes to golf, think of the word ecological more like playing for ‘real’, so let’s look at why it’s important to play real and how it super powers our practise.
Gibson started this movement of thinking in 1979 and we regard his work in Ecological Psychology as fundamental to understanding learning and performance in sport. He noted that understanding the athlete-environment relationship takes precedence over focussing only the personal qualities. This means we need to understand the game from the hole back to the golfer rather than the other way around. To be truly expert in golf, you need to master how you use key information from your environment. So for us to practise well we need to recreate the course and experiences we have there the best we can. In the literature this is called representative design, we’re designing a learning landscape that represents the one we compete in. Practise this way and you’ll fire your game up!
A perfect example of this is the old boys who’ve been members of your golf club for years. They never formally practice, just play, play and play. They know every slope, lump, hollow and ridge. They’re the masters of the ‘members bounce’. An ecological approach basically states that everyone is different, we all have our own history of experiences, our own individual physical attributes and as such see everything in our own way. We are constantly adapting to the changing environment and that want to adapt is where our love for Golf lies. It’s always different on the course and that’s not true for the range. There’s no wonder we don’t learn much when we tip up onto that baron wasteland of learning.
Change your Mind, Change your Game
Time to take a different approach. The key message is let’s recreate the course out here on the range. So looking at our list, what key things can we bring out onto the range to enrich our experience? What does each create?
- One ball – Accountability, every shot we hit on the course we have to deal with what’s next.
- Different lies – Variety, challenge and decision making.
- Score – Benchmark our learning.
- Different shaped holes – Encourages us to think our way around the course. Shape shots in all directions and have an intention where you want to go.
Take these four aspects on to the range and I promise you’ll be hitting the ground running when The Masters comes around.
Every time I head to the range with my brother we play a round of golf. Pick a course of your choice, your own track or a favourite you’ve played. Starting on the first hole, go play the course as you would on competition day. Matchplay, Stableford, or Stroke Play. Here’s an example of my last trip to the range with the bro.
- Define and agree the course layout: out of bounds, fairway sizes, how shot out the rough or bunker will be played
- State the shot prior to hitting: start line, target and distance
- Hit it inside 10ft is one a putt, outside is two
Abbeydale Golf Club
Hole 1: 386yrds, dogleg left, with a mighty tree on the left side of the fairway.
Risk reward, cut the corner and leave yourself a little wedge in or play to the right and be left with a blind downhill shot?
Age before beauty, so I’m up. I’ve gone for the slight draw with the rescue over the corner… my go to shot. Blocked it right into the rough. Classic.
The bro has spiced the driver over the tree leaving him a flick with the wedge from the fairway.
As I’m in the rough, we put a towel down on the mat. I’ve got to play the ball off the towel to recreate the sensation of the club head going through some longer grass. I come up shy and leave it in the bunker front right.
He’s got around 60yrds left, so he’s playing to the central blue flag on the range. Little knocked in lob wedge leaves a 15ft putt. Two putt par.
From the bunker, I go past the pin and outside of 10ft, which means it’s a two putt bogey for me.
Junior is 1up!
We’ll stop there to save this post being 3000 words, but you get the idea.
We’re recreating the game out there on the range. Some key things we’re bringing in:
Every shot has a consequence. It has an intention and ensures we commit to the shot. This makes sure we have something to reflect against and stops the machine gun trigger going where you hit a bad shot and then you’ve already hit the next ball before the first one has hit the ground. Ain’t no learning happening here, just added stress.
I’m in the rough on my second shot, we add challenge by making me hit off a towel. You can ruffle the towel up more to add challenge or even create a mount around it to replicate a plugged shot in the bunker. We’re really trying to represent the game and the variety of shots it brings.
Every shot has to be defined. We’re bringing our cognitive and emotional skills into it. Painting a true picture of the course out on the range. This brings a greater sense of awareness, competition and reflection. We like to add the classic commentary from Tiger Woods on the Playstation for extra effect and to get into each others heads.
This is key! If practise becomes monotonous then you’ll commit less time to doing it.
To super power your practise it’s essential to sample key sources of information from where you compete. The more it represents it the better and variety is the spice of life, it keeps us learning. All these elements together mean our practise is more effective. We’re constantly challenging each other, we’re accountable for our decisions and as such constantly reflecting on our performances. We’re practising with the focus of quality over quantity, so we need less balls which means there’s spare cash for a beer as well. Winning!
So you ask, “Well I can’t hit a draw with my driver.” or “My wedge play is rubbish, I need to focus on that.” These questions we’ll cover in part two. Use this one to uncover parts of your game that need the extra enrichment, so we can structure some meaningful practise next time. Focus on becoming accountable with your practise schedule then we can refine your game when we actually know where you’re going to make some major gains.
Leave a comment to let us know how you got on and how you’d add to it further. Maybe a power play golf style? Two flags or types of shot, one easy and one hard? Bonus scores for pulling off the hard one? It’s all about enriching that learning environment. Nothing left for you to do than just head there and #ZenYourGame. Go enjoy practise by bringing it to life.
Thanks for reading.