Golf Digest Middle East - - Life - by justin thomas

There’s a part of the game that you might not give much thought to, but if you did, I re­ally be­lieve you’d start shoot­ing lower scores. Best thing, you won’t have to wait years or months to see im­prove­ment. Any idea what I’m hint­ing at? Did the head­line give it away? Yup, I’m talk­ing about how to prac­tice. The way I do it helped me get to No. 1 in the World Golf Rank­ing ear­lier this year, and it can help you, too. My fa­ther, Mike, is a golf pro­fes­sional, and he likes to re­mind stu­dents that the long­est walk in this game of­ten is from the range to the first tee. Why? What many golfers do when they prac­tice re­ally doesn’t pre­pare them for what they’re go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence on the course. If your typ­i­cal range ses­sion is hit­ting ball af­ter ball while cy­cling through the clubs in your bag—and your scores aren’t get­ting any bet­ter—it’s time to try some­thing dif­fer­ent, don’t you think? Here, I’m go­ing to walk you through the ways I prac­tice and warm up. If you’re in­ter­ested in play­ing bet­ter, feel free to steal my plan and make it your own. —with ron kaspriske

how to prac­tice

a big rea­son for my re­cent suc­cesses comes from the way my dad and my short-game coach, Matt Killen, an­a­lyse my per­for­mance so we can op­ti­mise my prac­tice time. They pore over my stats and iden­tify the ones that mat­ter most. For ex­am­ple, re­cently my dad no­ticed I was hav­ing trou­ble with ap­proach shots from 50 to 75 yards and scram­bling in the 20-to-30yard zone. So we spent ex­tra time on those types of shots. Makes sense, right?

We pay at­ten­tion to my stronger stats, too. You can’t ig­nore your strengths, or they’ll even­tu­ally let you down. The point is, you have to be hon­est with your­self about your game. Whether you track stats or not, know­ing that you tend to pull your wedge shots and get up and down only oc­ca­sion­ally should tell you that in the lim­ited win­dow you have to prac­tice, whal­ing on a driver is prob­a­bly not the best use of your time. Hit a few to re­in­force your method (and have a lit­tle fun), but don’t fo­cus on the driver.

OK, so let’s as­sume you’ve as­sessed your game and have been work­ing to im­prove your weak­nesses and main­tain your strengths. Let me ask you a ques­tion: Are you ran­domis­ing your prac­tice? By that I mean, are you hit­ting the same shot over and over or switch­ing it up? I’m a big be­liever in the lat­ter. One way I do that is with my Track­Man launch mon­i­tor. I set it up to spit out ran­dom yardages, from 126 to 150 yards as an ex­am­ple, and I have to hit what­ever shot it re­quests. I re­alise most of you don’t have ac­cess to a $20,000 mon­i­tor, but you can give your­self a new tar­get or a new chal­lenge—or both—for ev­ery ball you hit. For ex­am­ple, hit one at the 150-yard marker with two dif­fer­ent irons or two dif­fer­ent shot shapes. What you’re do­ing is sim­u­lat­ing the golf-course ex­pe­ri­ence. Rarely do you have the same shot two swings in a row, so your task changes from shot to shot. You should prac­tice that way, too.

This method also will re­ally help your short game. And prac­tic­ing around the greens is where you should spend the bulk of your time. Un­less you’re work­ing on a par­tic­u­lar thing in your tech­nique and don’t want to move un­til you feel like you’ve got it, I wouldn’t stand in one spot around the green and hit the same shot over and over. Keep chang­ing your goal. One way I do that is to use three balls and pitch or chip them at three tra­jec­to­ries to the same tar­get. Then I move to an­other tar­get and do the same.

When it comes to putting, I’m prob­a­bly more drill ori­ented in my prac­tice than in any other as­pect of the game. For ex­am­ple, I start ev­ery ses­sion check­ing my eye line with an align­ment mir­ror. I want to make sure my left eye is just be­hind the ball, and more im­por­tant, my eyes are lined up with the putting line. It’s so easy to get your align­ment out of whack, and when that’s off, even a per­fect read and stroke can lead to a miss. So check­ing your align­ment fre­quently is a must for good putting.

An­other drill I do fo­cuses on rolling the ball on line. I’ll find a break­ing putt and an­chor two ends of a string about six inches above the ground on the start line. Then I’ll put two tees in the ground to the sides of that line about six inches in front of me. The goal is to roll the ball be­tween the tees along that start line. Get­ting back to what I said about prac­tic­ing the things you don’t do very well, I wasn’t very good at medi­um­range putts for a long stretch. So I spent a lot of time hit­ting putts be­tween 10 and 25 feet. Think about the types of putts you strug­gle with the most, and fo­cus your prac­tice on them. The mes­sage: You’ve got to get out of your com­fort zone when you prac­tice if you want to be­come a bet­ter player. That’s what we do on tour.

how to warm up

on the days I’m play­ing golf, my prac­tice time dif­fers from a reg­u­lar ses­sion. On the range I spend more time with my wedges. I’d say 30 to 40 per­cent of my warm-up is hit­ting dif­fer­ent short shots. I’ll put the Track­Man next to me to ver­ify my dis­tances and spin, try­ing to hit half shots, full shots, high shots, low shots, a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing.

Once I get into the longer irons, I’m re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion to shot shape. Sure, I’ll vary it from draws to fades, but when I’m hit­ting it my best, the ball flies pretty straight with a lit­tle fade at the end. So I want to make sure I can hit that shot be­fore head­ing to the course. What hap­pens if I can’t? Well, if I don’t have it, I just have to play with what I’ve got. My ad­vice is to re­ally pay at­ten­tion to your shot shape for that day. For­get that you were draw­ing ev­ery shot last week. If it’s not hap­pen­ing on the range, it’s not hap­pen­ing on the course.

I un­der­stand you’ll want to hit some full shots to get loose, but again, the short-game area is go­ing to help you score far bet­ter than the driv­ing range. Throw balls down around the prac­tice green and hit chips and pitches to var­i­ous tar­gets to ac­cli­mate your­self to the var­i­ous lies you’ll be fac­ing on the course. While you’re at it, hit some bunker shots, get­ting a feel for the firm­ness and how your ball will re­act once it lands on the green.

If you had time to do only one thing be­fore you play, get a feel for how big a putting stroke you need to get the ball to the hole from var­i­ous dis­tances. A lot of times, I feel like I’m read­ing greens great but not hit­ting putts at the right speed. If you leave the prac­tice green con­sis­tently rolling the ball a foot or so past the hole, you’ll be ready for bat­tle.

“ev­ery iron shot i hit on the range, i ’ m t ry­ing to achieve some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

ralph lau­ren u. s. team ry­der cup uni­forms fea­tur­ing rl am­bas­sador justin thomas in the sun­day look.shirt: rlx golf air­flow knit $98.50 pants: rlx golf cy­press $ 97.50pullover: rlx golf course camo $ 165

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