There are a few reasons for this:
* You will get tired. Some golfers take three or four practice swings before each shot. This can add up to be quite a number by the end of the day.
* You’ll be more likely to think about your technique. I have found that when I take practice swings I start thinking about my golf swing. This is not the end of the world, but over-thinking increases the chances of losing the flow and diminishing creativity. Ultimately this leads to nervousness, self-doubt and hesitation.
* You’ll play more slowly. Slow play is a huge problem. With rounds pushing five hours I think more should be done to speed up play. Practice swings aren’t the whole problem, but they are a good start. If each player could take 20-30 seconds less per shot, then this would make a difference. By not taking a practice swing you’ll easily save this time.
You may think that you require a practice swing to rehearse an upcoming shot. It seems like a good idea, but it won’t guarantee anything. Perfect practice swings lead to nothing if you’re not committed and perform the real swing instinctively. Focus your attention on playing automatically, forget about practice swings.
* Practice swings can be used to warm up and when you’re feeling tight and stiff. The goal here is to warm up and get your body loose. Leave swing changes for later and don’t focus too hard on your technique. Warm up and then play.
* You also may need a practice swing to learn about the environment. For example, you may need to test the rough near your ball to get an idea of what club to choose or to learn how far you can swing with a tree branch impeding your back swing. These are the exceptions to the rule and thankfully shouldn’t happen that often.
The same “practice swing free” rules should apply for the putting green. I have had great success by not rehearsing the stroke. Looking and reacting to the target not only allows for a free flowing putting stroke, it saves plenty of time, too.
If you do feel the need for a practice swing do it behind the ball – and don’t waste time. Do it quickly. If you’re feeling game, play a round or two and compare your scores. I’m sure you’ll see an improvement and I bet you’ll have more energy after your round. Give it a try and see if this works for you.
Steve Wozeniak is PGA Director of Instruction Bellevue/Lake Spanaway Golf Courses. He has taught more than 50 tour players and over 100 PGA and LPGA teaching professionals, including Jim Colbert, Rocco Mediate, Emily Klein, Jim Dent, Marco Dawson, Jim Mclean and Leonard Thompson. With his easy-to-understand, rid-yourself-of-the-nonsense approach to the golf swing, he is one of the top instructors in the country. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.bellevuepgc.com.