One of the most common and deadly mistakes I see with amateur players is they try to learn and improve while playing on the course. This is a mistake, and I can tell you right now: it’s not going to work. When you get out there to play, that’s the time to relax and enjoy yourself, but also try to score. It’s not the time to practice or perfect your skills. The time to do that is during what I call “bridge time. ” This is the critical learning period between lesson and putting green/driving range practice time (when you are absorbing feedback and instruction) and when you actually go out to play a round. Many players neglect to incorporate bridge time into their golf routine, but it’s a crucial part of the learning process.
The ideal learning progession is this: first, you take a lesson; second, you spend a fair amount of time developing what you learned in the practice areas; third, you play a practice round by yourself, without the pressure of a round played with others, and then finally, you take whatever swing you have and use it when you play a real round. (At that point, the time for practicing and thinking through the fundamentals or remembering what your coach said during your last lesson is over). So what exactly is bridge time, you ask? Bridge time is when you play a practice round by yourself. Unlike a real round, the pressure is off; however, when you have the luxury of redoing and practicing shots that are giving you particular trouble, but in realistic course conditions – i. e. , real conditions you are likely to encounter during a round. While you’re out there, take a couple of extra drives, as well as approaches, chips, pitches and putts over the course of nine holes. During this time, you are rehearsing your game in a practice round setting before taking it out into live action play. This practice round is thus the link, or bridge, between learning time (the lesson) and application time (live play, when it’s time to score). Bridge time is an essential part of the overall learning process.
If you set yourself apart from most amateur players by using this knowledge to your advantage, you’ll see a vast improvement in your playing skills on the course, when it matters most: during a live round. You’ll not only improve your score, you’ll enjoy each round more by allowing yourself to simply go out, have fun, and appreciate golf as the relaxing, enjoyable game that it is.
Tom Patri is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher and author of The Six-Spoke Approach to Golf (2005, The Lyons Press; foreword by Fred Couples; available at http://www.amazon.com ). Tom currently heads his golf instructional school, TP Golf Schools, based in Naples, Florida. Prior to that, Tom served eleven years as the Director of Golf Instruction at the Westchester Country Club (home of the Barclay, formerly the Buick Classic PGA Tour event) in Rye, New York and four years as the Director of Golf Instruction at Naples Grande Golf Resort in Naples, Florida. In 2003, Tom was chosen as Southwest Florida PGA's Teacher of the Year. For more information about Tom and his unique teaching approach, please visit his website, http://www.tompatri.com