Practice is often treated as a dirty word. You should be very careful when mentioning it in mixed company. Be careful where and when you use it and never, ever use it when you’re unsure of the opinions of everyone in the room. Only use it when you know you’re in a group of true believers;
Scene: Bargoed G.C., first tee, 8.03 a.m. Saturday morning, Autumn;
A gaggle of golfers shivering, moaning, talking general nonsense and catching up
Garin: Haven’t swung a club for 3 weeks.
Alun: Really. Thought I saw you up here last week.
Garin: That wasn’t me
Dev: I think it was I saw your car
Garin: Oh right – but I was only here for 10 minutes practising.
All stop their conversations and look at Garin. Huddle and announcement
Dev: We’ve decided to cut you 2 shots.
Much anger, discussion, rebuttal, denial, an appeal, witnesses called, more discussion and decision upheld.
The moral of the story – ‘Careless talk costs shots’.
So, under cover of darkness, on your own private golf course, or at a different golf course in a different country where no-one knows you, you should practice. It’s better if you can practice on your own – no witnesses. This is easier for some golfers than others. Some golfers can’t take a …. putt by themselves let alone play a whole round of golf. Others love it. However, at some stage in their lives, everyone needs to practice sometimes. Now there is practice and there is practice. Proper practice should be meaningful and designed to help you. It’s not much use wandering around the golf course hitting balls from positions you’d never be in with clubs you never realised you had in your bag. “If I hit my drive to here I’d need to draw a 2 iron over the pond” is never going to happen so save yourself some time and grief and golf balls and lay up.
You need to understand why you’re practising. If you’re not practising but having fun then by all means hit a driver from the fairway and try to bend a three wood around a forest of trees. However if you’re practising to play better it needs to be ‘context specific’. This nifty little phrase says that the way we behave totally depends on the context. If someone is running down the street you have no idea why they are doing it until you have more information. Are they robbing a bank or late for work? Similarly, the ugly duckling is only ugly in the context of the other animals around him. If he were brought up with ducks he would possibly be a good looking duck. OK dodgy analogy but you know what I mean.
In golfing terms if you are practising to improve your new grip then use it all the time. The practice round should be as close to a real round as possible. If you count all the shots in a real round (which I hope you do) you need to count all shots from a practice round. You need to play every ball from where it lands. You need to focus on every shot. You need to finish off every putt. If you use expensive Callaway Hex Tour golf balls in a real competition then you can’t use the old battered Precept Laddie you found at the bottom of the garden after the dog chewed it for the practice round.