February 1, 2012

Charlie King: Practice Competitive Golf on the Range

Charlie King, the 2011 Georgia PGA Teacher of the Year, is the PGA director of instruction at Reynolds Golf Academy in Greensboro, Ga.

Charlie King on the importance of practicing competitive golf on the range:
I believe there are two different types of practice: technique and competitive. When a person is developing their game, nearly 100 percent of their practice will be technique. This is the typical skill-building practice of hitting stacks of balls over and over from a perfect lie to build habit. But this is not how golf is played. You don’t get to hit 20 9-irons in a row from a perfect lie when you’re on the course. This is where competitive practice becomes beneficial, which involves using your imagination to essentially play a round of golf on the range. When I’m with a student for a competitive practice and they step up to “hole one,” I outline what the shot will look like. For example, I’ll tell them the yardage from the tee to the hole, that there’s water on the left and out of bounds on the right. Once they make that shot, we’ll change clubs, bump the next ball so that they aren’t playing from a perfect lie, and visualize the next shot, whether it’s a pond to the left or a bunker behind the green. This creates accountability for their shots in practice. If their next shot is from an uneven lie, we have mounds built besides the practice tees so the students can work on uphill and downhill lies. We can even play from a practice bunker if necessary. By the time my students are about a 15 handicap, that’s when I will make 80 percent of practices about technique and 20 percent competitive. If golfers don’t transition to competitive practice, they’ll wonder why they are good range players but can’t transition to the course.

Charlie King on the business impact of practicing competitive golf on the range:
Golf instructors need to be ready for students who ascend through skill-building and are ready to take the next step as golfers. Introducing students to this type of competitive practice gives me a lot of credibility as an instructor. Many of my students haven’t heard of this before, and it shows that I understand the problems that can arise in golf, which builds loyalty. Also, once they’re able to see their weaknesses during competitive practice, they will return to me for more lessons to work on these areas of their game.