Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Golf practice: Learning how to score

The winter months are always a time for the amateur golfer to lay out grand plans for the season ahead. A common resolution is to practice more and to practice better.

Opinions vary about the best way to practice. A good practice session to many is to stand on a range and spank umpteen buckets of balls each week, while for others it means picking a spot at the side of a practice green and chipping balls until the cows meander home. Truth is, there's no right or wrong and different methods will suit different players.

I recall a conversation several years ago between Padraig Harrington and a young up-and-coming Irish amateur. The two were discussing how the amateur in question could best prepare for a possible future move into the professional ranks. The youngster informed Harrington that he had been playing weekly competitions over the European Club - a testing links at the best of times, let alone during the chilly and dreary Irish winter.

The amateur's thinking was that if he could consistently shoot a decent number around one of the hardest courses in Ireland, he would be able to score anywhere. Successive rounds of in and around level par had been achieved, but Harrington wasn't buying into the plan. Instead, his advice was that the young lad should go back to his home club (an average-length parkland in Dublin) and start playing rounds from the women's tees.

The young lad looked bewildered, but Harrington's reasoning was simple: getting used to shooting level par, or even one or two under par, is no use when it comes to the pro ranks. Most weeks on tour, a level par total after two rounds would simply result in a missed cut, no pay cheque and a blow to confidence levels. "Go and get comfortable making birdies and eagles," said Harrington. "Get used to shooting 61s and 62s. Get used to shooting in the 60s all the time and thinking nothing of it."

That would stand him in good stead, Harrington reasoned, as for ever seriously tough track on tour there were nine that were straightforward tracks that required a player to score.

I'm not sure whether the young lad in question ever took heed of Harrington's advice. Regardless, it would appear not to have worked as I heard recently that the player in question had signed his pro forms and is well on the way to becoming a teaching pro.

What do you think of Harrington's advice? Let me know in the comments box below.