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Practice good - perfecting mistakes, bad
The reality is that few of us spend as much time playing golf as we would like, and fewer still practice in any meaningful way.

And yet, because our practice sessions are likely to be few and far between, it therefore becomes even more important to use them wisely. In short, don't beat balls but practice with a purpose. So here are a few tips to help you get the most from your sessions on the range.

First, spend at least two-thirds of your session on the short game - that's what happens on the course so it should be reflected at the range.

Second, unless you are working on a specific swing change, don't just hit balls in one way, use the opportunity to experiment. You know, for example, the theory of hitting a fade - open stance, clubface pointing at target and swing along the line of your feet and shoulders - but have you ever practised the shot? Or a draw, or a punched low runner? Now's the time.

Third, be realistic. If you hit a couple of scrappy drives and then four superb ones you might be tempted to walk away feeling pleased. But on the course your first, scrappy drive is the one you would have to play, so after hitting a shot like that, assess what club you might realistically need for your second, and hit that next. Play a mental round on a course with which you're familiar and you'll have a much more realistic idea of how well you're doing.

Fourth, test yourself by setting small challenges, such as aiming for specific targets and being realistic about whether or not you realised your goal.

Fifth, don't hit a shot, pull another ball towards you and hit another. Go through your pre-shot routine every time, and that way you'll both ingrain it into your psyche and perhaps, reduce the amount of time you spend setting up to the ball once you're back out on the course.

Sixth, take regular breaks. On the course you could spend five or 10 minutes between shots so continually whaling away until the bucket of balls has gone is unrealistic and unhelpful.

Seventh, and perhaps most important of all, know what it is you're trying to achieve. Are you just looking to find a bit of timing; trying to reinforce your most recent golf lesson, attempting to eradicate a particular problem shot; wanting to sharpen your pitching; learn how to hit a draw or whatever. Let's face it, if you don't know what you're trying to achieve, you won't have much chance of success.

©    15 - OCTOBER 2003

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