Matt is a young player at my club. He is keen, talented and desperate to improve his golf game. Like a lot of young kids he works part-time, so he can devote plenty of time to the improvement process.

But Matt hasn’t learned how to practise correctly. He is wasting time by getting what I call “mindless exercise”.

Here’s the story.

Matt is laid back. He strolls out to the practice area and starts pounding balls. He is strong but erratic. One ball sails over the back fence while the next two find the car park and the adjoining sports park respectively.

Matt wants to hit the ball with power. He is letting his ego get in the way of what should be his goal – get the ball in play.

One of my favourite sayings is “between the trees”. Instead of trying to hit the fairway (they’re too small) you need to get your ball somewhere on the course where your next shot can be progressed forwards. It usually doesn’t matter if this is the rough, sand or fairway. The “fairways hit” statistic is irrelevant. Learn to get the ball in play and you’ll do just fine. This is what I had in mind for Matt.

It is too difficult to hit the ball dead straight. Especially for someone as erratic as Matt. I wanted him to find a shot that he can rely on. In his case he is suited to a fade. I asked him to aim left and then fade the ball back towards the fairway. I gave him no instruction on how to do so. I knew a mixture of his natural swing and talent would work it out. And it did.

Shot after shot started left and then moved back to the right. I told Matt if the ball did this then it is a perfect shot. Instantly he had an objective – aim left and hit the fade.

No longer was he mindlessly blasting balls as far as he could or being distracted by other meaningless thoughts. His mindset was replaced with an objective that could help his score – get the ball in play.

  • He was swinging with more confidence because the fade swing suited his natural style. I’m willing to bet he’ll pick up a few extra metres too!
  • He can get more shots in play because he has the entire fairway to work with. It is unlikely he’ll hit too many hooks and if he over cooks the fade he has the entire fairway and right rough to play with.
  • Best of all he is practising with purpose. He has a mission (to fade the ball from left to right). He can then take this objective from the practice tee and out onto the golf course.

This is no quick fix. Matt will take some time to adjust this strategy. He is also fighting is own ego and his playing mates who put a huge emphasis on distance. After his 8th perfect drive in a row he got bored and wanted to hit a more powerful draw. I told him to stop asking dumb questions and to keep going.

When Matt learns that good golf comes not from the odd 300 metre drive but from consistently hitting the ball into play he’ll make some huge strides. And I’m talking about doing this week after week, month after month and year after year. He needs to master this faded drive before he can move on to other shots.

And it all starts from a basic objective. Ball bashing might be fun but you’ll only get exercise not improvement.

Over the next few days I’ll show you more of what I taught Matt. We covered chipping, putting, bunker play and course strategy. Keep your eyes peeled for more.