Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Column June 2020

Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Columns
Ian Hardie Golfer Pacific NZ Columns


Why are my practice swings ‘perfect’ but my golf shots bad?


“If only I could hit all of my shots with my practice swing!”

Does that sound familiar to you?

That statement is one of the most common things I have heard golfers say to me over the years and it comes in a multitude of different forms:

“I practice swing great, but it all goes to #[email protected]! when I try to hit the ball!”

“Why is my swing so different when the ball has to be hit?”

“I practice swing perfectly without the golf ball there.”

“I could play the PGA Tour if it was based on practice swings only.”

OK, I will admit that I have only heard that last one once but all the others are fairly common and I’m sure that those are only a few of the many ways that this problem is described by golfers around the world.

But I’m guessing you aren’t really interested in knowing how the problem is described, what you really want to know is how to solve it and in the process transform your golf game because if you are like most golfers that have this problem you will have tried all sorts of different ways to eliminate it – with either little or no success in doing so.

Sure, some of the things you will have been told or tried will have helped a little bit, but they normally only do so for a short period of time before the problem returns.

Sadly though, most of the things that golfers are either told to solve the problem or try and work out for themselves – don’t help at all and in fact mostly they begin to remove any confidence that you had in your skills that you had for a start.

So, what’s the answer to this problem?

Well, before I get to that we need to look at exactly why it is that you do a practice swing or swings if you do more than one, what is going on in your head when you do your practice swing or swings, what your body is doing when you do those practice swings and what can possibly be different when it comes to hitting your golf shot.

I’m not going to dwell too much on why you should do a practice swing or as anyone that I coach generally finds out after their first couple of sessions, preferably – your two practice swings before hitting each shot.

If you don’t know why I’m suggesting that you can find out in the articles Why do a practice golf swing and Why do a practice golf swing – part two but the quick summary of them is that:

Basically, between golf shots our body and brain are being used for activities that are far removed from hitting a golf ball – walking, talking, eating, drinking, pushing your golf clubs or driving a golf cart. So, a practice swing is the signal to both your body and your brain that it’s time to switch on to ‘hitting a golf shot mode’.

It’s a physical signal to your body of what you are about to ask it to do.

Which is to use your body in an incredibly fast and accurate series of movements which will strike a golf ball towards your intended target. Doing a practice swing also gives you time to be confident with your shot decision – as the practice swing must come after the point where you have decided what shot you are going to play and what club you are using for it.

It is in essence also a physical plan of what you want your body to do.

That makes sense doesn’t it?

Well, it would if that’s how you approached practice swings – especially if you read the really important thing in Why do a practice golf swing – part two about your second practice swing and how it needs to be different than your first.

So, the first thing that you need to understand to sort out your problem of having ‘perfect’ practice swings but bad golf shots is that rather than just having a practice swing or two because you think that you should or because the other golfers all do them, is that practice swings have an actual physical and mental purpose in preparing your body for the shot you are about to hit.

However, even though it is you and your golf club that are doing them – practice swings are not golf shots as there is no ball to be hit, target to aim at or things to be set up like ball position and body posture.

You might want to read that bit again as it was an important point!

This means that in effect a golf practice swing is like shadowboxing.

“Shadowboxing is an exercise used in the training for combat sports, especially, as its name implies, in boxing. It is used mainly to prepare the muscles before the person training engages in stronger physical activity. In shadowboxing, only one person is required to participate; the participant throws punches at no one in particular”

That sums up a practice golf swing or two pretty well – doesn’t it?

Preparing and loosening up the muscles with nothing getting aimed at or hit.

So, just as success in boxing is judged on how well the fighter hits their opponent as opposed to how well they can shadowbox on their own – success in golf is judged on how well the golfer hits their golf ball – not how good their practice swing looks or feels.

Practice swings are just a small part of the pre-shot routine that contributes to the eventual hitting of the golf ball, thinking about in this way will have you realising that making a judgement as to how good (or bad) your practice swing is.

Isn’t of any interest to the golf ball that you are about to hit, it’s only influenced by the clubface at the point of impact – not how good ‘you think your practice swing was’.

This means that the first step in solving your problem is to stop judging your practice swings as they really aren’t that relevant to what’s going on while hitting a golf shot, there is no such thing as a perfect practice swing and even if it did exist.

What use would it be when it comes to hitting your golf shot?

I’m going to leave you to ponder that for a while but that of course isn’t the end of the question as to why your practice swings are ‘perfect’ but your golf shots are bad, so if you’d like to know more you can find out in Why are my practice swings ‘perfect’ but my golf shots bad – part two, Why are my practice swings ‘perfect’ but my golf shots bad – part three and Why are my practice swings ‘perfect’ but my golf shots bad – part four.

Play well.


Ian Hardie is Golfer Pacific’s Golf Professional contributor. He is Club Professional at Omanu Golf Club in Mount Maunganui. Ian’s time is split between the pro shop at the club and helping people to improve, while enjoying their golf more as a result of his golf coaching. Over the past few years, in an effort to help as many golfers as he can, Ian has been sharing his common sense golf advice with golfers around the world through his website golfhabits.com. With over 500 articles to read, it’s a great resource for any golfer looking to improve their golf game.

Location Omanu Golf Club, 98 Matapihi Road, Mount Maunganui Phone 0272222073 (txt is ok) or at Omanu Golf Club Pro Shop (07) 575 5957 E-mail ian@golfhabits.com Hours Coaching Times: Monday - All Day, Tuesday - All Day, Wednesday - Morning, Thursday - Afternoon, Friday - Sometimes, Saturday - Afternoon, Sunday - Rarely.
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