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answer You dont use your on-course routine while practicing

“I was hitting it great on the range… Then I got on the course and my swing went to heck in a hand basket.”

Its one of the golfers most common laments. And unlike a slice or shank, the root problem can be difficult to pinpoint.

If you struggle to transfer good warm-up sessions to your rounds, the first step is to compare and contrast your approach to each endeavor. To ensure consistency from range to course, they should be very similar. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you use a standard pre-shot routine for each and every shot during practice and play?
  • Do you align each warm-up shot with a specific target, just like you do on the course?
  • When practicing, do you visualize and execute shots you expect to face during the round? (For instance, a faded drive on a dogleg-right hole.)
  • After a good warm-up, do you carry those positive feelings to the first tee?

Chances are, you answered “no” to at least two of the questions. Few amateurs practice with the focus and discipline they apply on the golf course. Not many bother honing specific shots theyll surely need, either.

In fact, legions of golfers lack anything resembling a pre-shot routine. They locate a general target, aim at it haphazardly and swing. Sometimes the result is great. Usually, its not.

So, the first step toward successfully transferring practice to the course is to develop a simple, easily repeated process that identifies a target and prepares you for each shot. Use this video as your guide: Basic Golf Pre-Shot Routine

Next, learn to treat warm-ups as a quality-over-quantity exercise. After stretching the golf muscles, hit a few simple wedge shots to get a feel for the swing. Then begin your practice session in earnest.

Choose four or five clubs, maximum, that you expect to use most often during the round – pitching wedge, 7-iron, hybrid and driver, for instance – and start with the shortest one. Choose a specific target (flag, distant tree) for each shot, and go through your pre-shot routine every time. Hit no more than five balls with any club. Youll be plenty loose, but not worn out, by the end.

Your range shots should emulate, as closely as possible, those youll see on the course. If its windy, practice hitting knock-downs. If the course features firm greens, hit some high wedges.

Always, always, always – as in always – leave time to practice putting and, if possible, chipping and pitching. Again, follow your routine for every putt and practice from a variety of distances.

Warm-up complete, youre ready for the real thing. Youre loose and well-prepared, having hit some nice shots on the range and holed a few putts. The swing and stroke are exactly the same on the golf course -- now go get em!

Its no secret that the mind plays an enormous role in golf. Weve got an entire section devoted to the topic – Learn the Mental Side of Golf – including tips like these:

How to Warm Up Your Mind for a Round of Golf

Beating Golfs Pressure-Packed Situations

How to Practice a “Process vs. Outcome” Mentality

Sorry Try Again! - See Explanation Below

Thats the easy excuse when your awesome range swing deserts you on the links. Its a fallacy, of course. Theres no limit to the number of good shots a golfer can produce in a given day, week, month, year or lifetime. Prepare properly and youll have plenty left over when it counts.

Sorry Try Again! - See Explanation Below

In fact, most golfers breeze thoughtlessly through their warm-ups, then get tense on the course. Level things out by increasing your practice focus, then simply maintaining it once you reach the first tee.

Sorry Try Again! - See Explanation Below

If that were true, thered be no need to bother practicing before playing. How many pros skip the range (besides those with bad backs)? None. True, a good warm-up wont always translate to good play no matter how solid your process. But develop a consistent routine and, more often than not, your play will reflect your preparation.