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May 1, 2016

Practice Styes of the LPGA Tour Continued

Top LPGA Tour Professionals share their practice strategies and habits

BY: TONY L. STARKS

If coverage from the 2016 WGC Dell Match Play Championship you may have heard Johnny Miller commenting on Rory McIlroy’s golf swing, saying he has “the follow through of an LPGA Tour player.” Many golf bloggers slammed Miller for daring to compare one of the world’s best golfers to players on the LPGA. But, in fact, it was a compliment made with the utmost respect to both the LPGA Tour and McIlroy. If you walk the range at any given LPGA Tour event, you’ll find golf swings with perfect tempo, precise club positions, great flexibility, pristine balance and statuesque follow throughs. Swing traits that any golfer at any level would want to possess, even McIlroy. Achieving those swings doesn’t come easy. The women of the LPGA Tour spend countless hours practicing and honing their ability. In this month’s cover story, seven LPGA Tour professionals will detail some of the practice strategies and habits that have helped mold their golf games. This is great information to share with your students and the golfers who frequent your facility, regardless of age, ability or gender.

Golf Range Magazine: During your standard practice session, how much time is spent on the range vs. short game vs. on course?

Lexi Thompson: Most of my practice time is spent on course.

GRM: How many range balls do you hit during a standard range session?

Lexi: Not sure how many balls, but my regular warm up session is about 30 minutes. Not sure how many balls that translates to :o)

GRM: Do you have a specific progression of clubs when you’re on the range? (IE: start with PW, then 7, then 3WD, back to SW, etc.)

Lexi: Yup, it’s usually the same: 60 degree, PW, 8i, 6i, 4i and then driver.

GRM: Do you listen to music while practicing? If so, who’s on your Practice Playlist?

Lexi: Yes I do listen to music. I like The Weeknd, Chris Brown and a lot of rock music.

GRM: Describe your general approach/ philosophy on practicing.

Lexi: I just try to make each practice session as productive as possible. There definitely is a fine line between too much practice and too little. I try to practice just enough to make it count!

Golf Range Magazine: During your standard practice session, how much time is spent on the range vs. short game vs. on course?

Anna Nordqvist: I usually spend 75 percent of my practice time on putting and short game and then the rest on the range. I always start with my putting and short game, and then finish up with range work. When I am home, I might play two rounds a week at the most. I play so much on the road, when I’m home I’d rather spend the time working on specific shots on the practice range.

GRM: How many range balls do you hit during a standard practice session?

Nordqvist: Usually a pretty big shagbag, maybe 200 balls. I rarely hit for more than an hour and a half, but I like to be pretty efficient during that time.

GRM: Do you have a specific progression of clubs when you’re on the range? (IE: start with PW, then 7, then 3WD, back to SW, etc.)

Nordqvist: I usually hit most of my clubs, starting with the 58 degree and working my way up: 58, 54, 50, PW, 9i, 8i ,7i, 6i, hybrid, 3 wood and finish with a couple drives. I do most of my warming up and drills with 9i-7i, so those clubs always gets worn out the most.

GRM: Do you listen to music while practicing? If so, who’s on your Practice Playlist?

Nordqvist: I used to never listen to music while practicing cause it kept me from focusing. Now I love to turn the tunes up and listen to music while practicing, either on my speaker on my golf car or in headphones. A lot of the times listen to the No. 1 hits music station in Sweden or a mix of the latest songs. I like pretty much anything. Everything from Swedish House Mafia, to Avicci, to Pink and Taylor Swift.

GRM: Do you use alignment rods? If so, how?

Nordqvist: Yes, I love my alignment rods and I use them all the time. Mostly for alignment in putting, but when I’m on the range I stick the rods in the ground while practicing to help me find the correct positions in my swing.

GRM: Describe your general approach/philosophy on practicing.

Nordqvist:I like to spend many hours on the practice grounds, as I believe in repetition and stepping up to the first tee knowing I put in the grind and the hours to play my best. I spend a ton of time practicing short game, and over the years I’ve learned how to be more efficient with that time. I use a lot of drills, which my coach and I both know will help me improve and accomplish what I want in my game.

Golf Range Magazine: During a standard practice session for you, how much time is spent on the range vs. short game vs. on course?

Jessica Korda: It depends on whether it’s in season or offseason. In season, I play much more and practice less. But in the offseason, the first couple of weeks I spend on the practice grounds just to get my rhythm and fix any bad habits that may have crept in.

GRM: How many range balls do you hit during a standard practice session?

Korda: I’m not big on standing on a range. I just hit enough golf balls to get myself loose and head to the course.

GRM: Do you have a specific progression of clubs when you’re on the range? (IE: start with PW, then 7, then 3WD, back to SW, etc.)

Korda: When I’m warming up to play a tournament round I start with the 58 degree then move through PW, 8i, 5i, Rescue, 3 wood, driver, 9i and then back to the 58 degree. I usually stick to 9i,7i,6i when I’m at home practicing.

GRM: Do you listen to music while practicing? If so, who’s on your Practice Playlist?

Korda: Taylor Swift! I like that her whole album has a good beat and I like to use that to trigger some good tempo.

GRM: Is there a particular drill you’re using on the range at the moment? If you’re not working on something right now, what’s a favorite drill you’ve used in the past?

Korda: I’m not very big on drills. I just like to use my feel a lot, and if there’s something I’m working on you will see it in my pre shot routine. I do my pre shot routine on the range sometimes, too.

GRM: Describe your general approach/philosophy on practicing.

Korda: I don’t like to spend a huge amount of time on the practice range. If there’s something that needs to be fixed, yes, I’ll stand on the range with my coach David and try to fix it. But playing is where I build my confidence, so that’s where I like to spend most of my time. Plus it’s a lot of fun!

Golf Range Magazine: During a standard practice session for you, how much time is spent on the range vs. short game vs. on course?

Paula Creamer: On my practice days I spend about an hour on the range, two hours on my short game (including wedges) and then the rest of the time I play on the course.

GRM: How many range balls do you hit during a standard practice session?

Creamer: It varies, but I focus more on quality not how many.

GRM: Do you have a specific progression of clubs when you’re on the range? (IE: start with PW, then 7, then 3WD, back to SW, etc.)

Creamer: I start out with my 58 degree wedge and work on yardages – 50, 60 and 70 yards. Then I move to my 8i, 6i and 5i. Then about five balls each with 7-wood, 5-wood and 3-wood. I hit about six or eight drivers. The last thing I do is four full pre-shot routines with the 7i to a specific target and different types of shots.

GRM: Do you listen to music while practicing? If so, who’s on your Practice Playlist?

Creamer: I do not listen to music while I’m practicing. My coach, David Whelan, has never liked the ‘practice with music’ theory, although it works for some of his other students like my good friend Jessica Korda.

GRM: Do you use alignment rods? If so, how?

Creamer: I use one stick on the ground between my feet and the ball so I know I am always square to my target.

GRM: Is there a particular drill you’re using on the range at the moment? If you’re not working on something right now, what’s a favorite drill you’ve used in the past?

Creamer: I hit balls off a tee with my butt against my bag, so I can resist with my hips and I can keep my right hip low and on the bag during the downswing and throughout impact.

GRM: Describe your general approach/philosophy on practicing.

Creamer: Practice the way you play!

5 Golf Range Magazine: How much time do you spend on the range vs. short game vs. on course practicing?

Belen Mozo: It really varies. Sometimes your game is at a certain level and you need to spend more time on the golf course vs. being on the range and changing something in your swing. But lately I’ve been struggling a little bit with my swing, so I’ve been visiting the range and the practice facilities more than the golf course. I like to have 40 percent on the range and 60 percent on the short game area – that’s my normal breakdown.

GRM: What are your range sessions like?

Mozo: What I do with my coach is practice the swing with the changes we want to make without hitting the ball. We just mimic the move like 10 times, then we hit five balls. Then we’ll mimic the move for another five times and hit five more balls. We do that until we feel like I have it, and then we move into hitting targets. You have to go through a stage in your practice where you focus on the technique. Once you have that dialed up, you can move on to hitting specific targets.

GRM: How often is your coach with you during practice sessions? Does he travel to events with you?

Mozo: Yes he does. I spent a lot of years on tour without a coach and not having someone with me onsite. I think that was one of my biggest mistakes. Because the golf swing changes so much. You can play in windy conditions and your golf swing changes the next day. It’s amazing how much your swing changes. It’s good to have someone there checking with you. We as players know what’s going on by looking at ballflight, but it’s good to have someone there so you’re not over correcting yourself.

GRM: How often are you hitting on TrackMan? Some tour pros like to know all the numbers (spin, attack rate, ball speed, etc.), then others are more into feel and ballflight. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Mozo: I bought a TrackMan, but I don’t like to use it on my own. I like how my coach uses it, he barely tells me what’s going on. I found that when I pay attention to those numbers I get all freaked out. For me, it doesn’t help. I’m more old school, I’d rather look at the ballflight and find out what’s going on. But for the coaches, it’s really helpful because they know exactly what’s going on. They look at the numbers and know exactly what they want to fix.

GRM: You mentioned that you’re working on attack angle, why is that important for your game right now?

Mozo: I struggled this year a lot with my swing. I’ve been playing on tour for four years with pretty much no coach. I had someone I worked with, but we didn’t spend a lot of time on my swing. So I was just being a feel player. I was playing golf, but not to my full potential. When I started with my new coach we made some swing changes in the middle of the season and I never took a break between tournaments. It made it tough. It feels like Golf 101, we’re working on weight transition, the grip, how to take it back. We’re working on so many basic things because over the years of doing it all on my own, I developed some bad habits. I was hitting the ball straight, but under pressure when you don’t have the perfect rhythm those flaws get bigger. This is more of a transition year for me, I see it as more getting ready for next season. There are a bunch of things we’re working on like attack angle, weight transition and impact position. A lot of things to get my swing polished.

GRM: Are there any particular drills you’re working on right now?

Mozo: I’ve been using this training aid, it’s an inflatable ball that you hang around your neck and hold between your forearms, to improve my moment of impact. My coach wants me to impact the ball with my wrist ahead of the clubface. I can only do that if my forearms at impact are closer together, and this aid really helps with that. For the weight transition, we use technology that monitors exactly how your weight shifts throughout the swing – on the takeaway and the follow through. Another one I like is to put a band around my knees so I can feel the weight transition. I make sure the band is always fully extended to make sure I maintain the proper flex and extension throughout the swing.

GRM: What’s your general philosophy or strategy as it relates to practice?

Mozo: I take it in stages. Deep down you know when you need to practice more and when you can take a breather. When I need to practice, I just put in the hours and do it. But there are times when you’re feeling good and playing great, and you don’t need to burn yourself out. I don’t like to go out there and think everyday I must practice five hours. I don’t believe in that. I think you can have a great practice session in just two hours – sometimes you can go out with your friends and play then putt for an hour and that’s it. The most important thing for me is to go to bed each day feeling satisfied with what I’ve done. It’s having my mind 100 percent, and feeling great and like I’m ready for excellent play.

Golf Range Magazine: During a standard practice session for you, how much time is spent on the range vs. short game vs. on course?

Natalie Gulbis: Typically, I practice from 9 a.m. to noon, take a break, and then practice again from 1-4 p.m. One session can be playing nine holes where I’m hitting two balls. If I’m by myself, I’m trying to make as many birdies as I can. If I can find competition, that’s even better. For the other hour I focus on 100 yards and in. In the second session I like to spend an hour on the range working on fundamentals and alignment. I have a plan for practice every day. If I am with my coach Butch Harmon, I follow his lead. If I’m by myself, I write down my plan and stick with it.

GRM: How many range balls do you hit during a standard practice session?

Gulbis: I usually hit about a 100 golf balls, unless I am struggling. Then I hit balls until it’s either fixed or dark – whichever comes first.

GRM: Do you have a specific progression of clubs when you’re on the range? (IE: start with PW, then 7, then 3WD, back to SW, etc.)

Gulbis: I start with wedges and hit every other club. I always hit to a target and know the exact distance to a pin, rock or target when practicing. When I hit drivers, I go through my routine and pick out a very specific fairway.

GRM: Do you listen to music while practicing? If so, who’s on your Practice Playlist?

Gulbis: I listen to music, podcasts, and books on tape – especially while putting and working on my short game. I listen to biographies, business talks, self-improvement speeches, and other things like that. I also like to play music in the golf car with a mini speaker.

GRM: Is there a particular drill you’re using on the range at the moment? If you’re not working on something right now, what’s a favorite drill you’ve used in the past?

Gulbis: I always do a two part swing when I am struggling on the range. I set the club halfway back in a takeaway position, pause and then swing. With a driver I swing to the top, pause and then finish the swing. These drills help me with path and tempo.

GRM: Describe your general approach/philosophy on practicing.

Gulbis: Having a purpose. I also think it’s important to have competition with yourself or another person. When I chip, I try to make five shots with three different clubs. I won’t move on until I finish the drill.