Top LPGA Tour Professionals share their practice strategies and habits
BY: TONY L. STARKS
If you watched 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: What are Lydia’s practice habits and styles?
David Leadbetter: She tends to mix it up on a periodization basis. When she came back from her winter break, we met in Orlando at ChampionsGate and set about a plan and process for the first two weeks that was very much just getting back to the basics and re-firing up her fitness level. As she got closer to tournament time, we revamped her practice time to be more focused on short game and on course stuff. We like to change it up because practice should also stimulate the mind, as opposed to going through the same old routine. So we sort of redesign her practice time based on need – and it’s often very different when she’s away from a tournament site compared to being at an event. Onsite, our major focus is on conserving energy. Other times, I would say she spends 30 percent of her time on full swing, 40 percent on short game and putting and the other 30 percent is on course situations. She’ll play a few different balls, and drop them in different locations and different lies and so on. It’s a combination of all those things really. She also loves doing drills and exercises.
GRM: Speaking of drills, are there any specific ones you two are working on right now?
Leadbetter: She has two that she works on frequently using teaching aids. One she uses a palates ring, which she actually stands inside of in order solidify the leg action in the golf swing. That’s a nifty drill, she feels the pressure on her legs and it really gives her a sense of balance. The other drill she uses a lot is what we call the boomerang. She places a headcover-like item under her right arm – it actually has a magnet in it so if it comes out she can just pick it up with her club – to help her shorten her arms a bit and stay more compact during the back swing. There are a few others like having her right foot pulled back at address so her feet are closed but nothing else. That gives her the feeling that she can move into her left side and then rotate correctly. She’ll also hit a lot of shots with the club starting about halfway back. So she’ll start with club in that position, then complete the backswing and hits it. One thing I’ve always felt is important for players is getting a good start to the swing and having the club in the ideal position at about halfway back, and from there on the body can do its thing and takeover. From time to time we sneak in another drill just to change up the flow. As coaches, we have to make sure our students don’t get bored with practice. We have to change things up to keep their mind engaged.
GRM: When she’s at a tournament, does she have a club transgression she goes through when she starts hitting on the range?
Leadbetter: We developed a few dynamic exercises that take about five minutes that she goes through before hitting. It’s just a way of waking the body up and giving it feel. It requires a little bit of resistance, so her caddie assists her with those. Then she’ll start off hitting a few wedges and go through the bag the way most tour players do. She’ll always take time at the end to play out the first two or three holes on the range. What I mean by that is she’ll visualize each of those holes and try to hit the specific clubs and the specific shots she’ll need on first few holes. She always wants to get off to a good start, so if you’ve already rehearsed those holes it makes it a little easier when you’re on the tee. After she leaves the range, she always hits a handful of putts before teeing off.
GRM: Being part of the Millennial age group, does Lydia like to listen to music while practicing on the range or on course?
Leadbetter: She uses her headphones, not so much when she’s warming up for a round, but she enjoys it while she’s practicing. I think it shuts her off from everything else around her and lets her focus in on what she’s doing. She’s a very rhythmical person, so it ties in quite nicely to the fact that she swings to music.