Thursday, March 8, 2012

Not at Home On The Range w/Fran Pirozzolo

Here's a recent Wall Street Journal article on practice and golf that I found very interesting:

Wall Street Journal - NOT AT HOME ON THE RANGE

Here are some quotes I found interesting:

One technique that clearly doesn't work is "massing"—that irresistible urge most golfers have to hit interminable balls at the range until, maybe, they get it right for a short spell. "Massing can be useful for introducing new skills because you have to create a basis. But fairly quickly, if you want to progress and retain what you've learned, you need more advanced techniques," Pirozzolo said.

"Interleaving" is one example. That's neuroscience-speak for constantly alternating clubs, drills and targets. In one experiment that Levitt and Pirozzolo conducted, the goal was to increase proficiency on 110-yard wedge shots. One group of participants hit 90 shots to targets exactly that far away. A second group hit 30 shots to 70-yard targets, 30 shots to 110-yard targets and 30 shots to 120-yard targets. In the end, the second group substantially outperformed the first group in hitting to 110-yard targets, even though they had hit only a third as many shots to that distance

In general, I liked the article.

One of the things I've stated repeatedly is that many golfers come to me and say 'I hit it great on the range, but on the golf course it's a different story.'

And my solution is to have them hit a bunch of balls, but switch the club and the target after each shot. So, you may hit one ball with the 7-iron at the blue flag pole on the range and then the next shot, hit a 3-iron to the red flag pole on the range. By using different clubs and hitting at different targets with different angles, it translates to what you have to do on the course.

Part of the problem with the way most people practice is that they are essentially making themselves comfortable with a particular shot. So, if you're hitting a 7-iron repeatedly on the range, you're more or less making yourself comfortable with a 7-iron on a range to a particular target on the range. When you really are on with your mechanics, it's when you can hit a variety of different shots with precision.

The other part I found interesting was something I mentioned in 2011 Pro Golf golfers should visualize and practice certain shots on the range before they go out and play golf. Ben Hogan stated that he did the same thing in one of his interviews with Golf Digest. Essentially, I agree with Hogan...determine what particular shots on the course are going to be the most difficult and visualize and practice those shots on the range before the round. That way you're not going into those shots 'cold' when playing the round.

For example, the tee shot at #3 at North Shore is a particularly difficult one.

So on the practice range I will visualize the hole and imagine me aiming at the bunker (127 yard marker) and hitting the shot.

The only thing I don't quite agree with is how the author, John Paul Newport, sort of contradicted the point of the article. Newport says that massing (hitting shot after shot) 'clearly doesn't work.' But, Pirozzolo then says that massing 'can be useful for introducing new skills.'

I agree with Pirozzolo based on my own personal experience. It's one of the things that my swing instructor, George Hunt ( go over quite a bit. How to practice. How to more effectively practice so you can change the mechanics in the swing more quickly. And I've found that George is right, when I practice the way he prescribes, the improvement happens quicker and I can hit less golf balls. Whereas 'massing' often means more time on the range with less improvement.

However, I am going to take in Pirozzolo's idea of using constantly different clubs and different shots while working on mechanics and see how that goes.



John said...

and what is this practice secret? ;)

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