Practice vs Playing Golf: Do This To Be A Better Golfer


I don’t know about you, but I always used to play more often than I practiced. I think most golfers do the same, but why is it that most people don’t get any better. I was curious what other golfers and coaches thought, so I went out and asked whether people should practice or play more to get better at golf.

According to most coaches, practicing more often than playing will lead to better golf scores. Practicing at the range will eliminate a lot of what goes through your mind and will let you focus on improving the fundamentals.

That being said, it’s not as simple as heading to your local range and whacking ball after ball. There is a lot more that goes into it if you actually want to improve your game. We’ll jump into that now.

Should You Practice Or Play More To Get Better At Golf?

We all want to get better at golf because let’s face it, the game is really hard! If you’re willing to do the work to lower that handicap and post better scores, you might begin to wonder what is better, practicing or playing golf?

The truth is that the answer is different for all of us, but the most important aspect toward improvement is practicing the right way, whether it be on the range at top golf or your favorite local muni.

RELATED: These Are The Clubs You Should Be Bringing To The Range.

If you are lucky enough to have access to practice facilities like a range or a practice green, it can be a source of real improvement. Where the harm comes into play is the constant repetition of bad habits over and over again.

Picture this, you put in your air pods and hit play on your favorite playlist, dump out a bucket onto the mat and swing away. If by chance, the balls dispense automatically, a simple range session turns into live-fire exercises.

Over and over again, we duck hook or slice shots and make simple adjustments that might work eventually. When is that realistic on the course?

What you’re probably thinking is, But then I should just head out there, grip it and rip it?

Sure, that might work, but again, we run into the same fundamental problem on the course as we do on the range. Bad habits and way too many swing thoughts.

Like a vicious cycle, we realize that without the confidence to repeat shots we can’t pull them off when presented on the course. But with bad fundamentals, the setting is inconsequential.

A lesson will help tremendously in all aspects of the golf game and then range sessions and course play start getting exciting!

If you don’t believe me, then take into account my first two rounds at Bethpage Black. You’ve heard of Bethpage, right? The course that Pat Perez said he didn’t believe that the average golfer could break 100 upon?

My first spin around this track was a disaster. I carded a 112 and left defeated. Funny how you can leave with a smile after getting your soul crushed there. 

My second turn was after starting lessons. I left with a 97 and felt like a trophy should have been placed next to the front desk for such an accomplishment. 

The truth is, it all stemmed from my instruction which bolstered my mechanics and prepared me for the beast that was Bethpage Black.

I can assure you wholeheartedly that if I can do it, you can too. Just don’t tell Pat Perez that I didn’t tee off from the tips!

How Much Should You Practice To Get Better At Golf?

For most golfers, practicing once per week at the range and then before each round is the ideal amount of practice. The most important part of practicing is that you’re developing good habits and practicing the right way.

Practice can lead to confidence, and there is no more important aspect to the game than maintaining your mental edge. Confidence is built through repetition but bad practice can ruin our mental game before the first breakfast ball. 

I was getting so frustrated that added range sessions did nothing to help. I compensated for a wicked slice by aiming so far left that golfers on adjacent tee boxes cowered in fear.

I realized that 25 years of repeating bad habits meant the one thing I was afraid of, taking a lesson. The lesson showed me how to practice more efficiently and meant that I could conserve my energy.

RELATED: Are Golf Lessons Really Worth The Cost?

For me, in peak season, once a week and before each round work just fine (total of 2 practice sessions). With newfound efficiency, you can zoom in on specific areas to improve upon once the basics are solid.

I was just curious about what other people thought, so I asked a number of different golfers how much they think people should practice and play if they wanted to get better. Here are the results:

PersonPractice Per WeekPlay Per Week
11-21
222
321-2
41-21
511
621
731
81-22
921
Most Common Answer21

How Much Should You Play To Get Better At Golf?

Most golf coaches recommend that you play at least once per week to get better at golf. The average player will see much better results if they spend more time on the range than they do on the course.

The reward comes when you take the practice to the course. There is no better feeling than walking up to a ball with confidence in the shot that lies in front of you.

If you’re practicing efficiently, your confidence sets up great moments on the course. 

To get better at golf, it’s important not to lose steam once you’ve made progress. If you can play at least once a week, it will reward in strokes lost and happiness gained. 

If you’re lucky enough to play two consecutive days, the improvements will be noticeable in no time.

Take your first day on the course to build up to the next day. Picture yourself like a tournament golfer and your second day on the course will be exciting more often than not!

Why You’re Getting Worse At Golf The More You Play

You’re getting worse because you’re not leaning on the fundamentals. I learned this from Phil. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Phil, but he’s got a pretty great resume in addition to posting instructional videos on youtube. This one really helped me out:

Studying this video gave me a drill and a strategy. Once on the green, the mission is to get the put inside the invisible hula hoop around the cup.

After the ball lies in that radius, the rest is cake. 

I can’t tell you how many times I mimicked that drill on the course. I’ve hit so many of those close puts without stressing it. If it worked for Phil at Baltusrol in 2005, it can work for you too.

RELATED: 3 Putting Aids That Could Fix Your Short Game.

Find an instructor that works for you, whether it be online or in-person and work on what you can. Getting smarter with your practice is so important.

Can You Practice Golf Too Much?

It is very possible to practice too much. The adage, practice makes perfect doesn’t apply when you’re practicing bad habits. Perhaps the perspective of true madness being incessant repeating while expecting different results. 

Everything revolves around practicing with sound fundamentals. If you haven’t embraced that, everything else will be more difficult. Once you get a solid foundation, then the sky’s the limit.

RELATED: How Many Balls You Should Be Hitting At The Range.

Find a balance that works for you. Get those range sessions in and crank that playlist!

Heck, aim for the cart collecting the range balls if you’re feeling up to the task! Roll a few putts before your next round to get a feel for the course and what you can expect.

Above all, have some fun.

Don’t forget to head out to the course with all your newfound confidence and an arsenal of new shots in the bag. That’s why you laid out the money for those lessons to begin with.

Once that happens, you’re on your way to figuring out the right proportion of coursework to practice.


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Jon Webber

Just an average golfer trying to take my game to the next level. Was shooting around 100 not that long ago but have now been in the 80s consistently. Best round to date was 12 over. Best 9 holes were 4 over.

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