By: Ben Bryant, WGCA contributing writer
“Hey Coach, what are we doing today?”
That’s a question that should never have to be asked at a high school golf practice. By the second or third practice of your season, your players should know what to expect out of a typical golf team practice. How you organize and run your golf team practices says a lot about you as a coach, and will have a great effect on the ability of your players. Putting out a couple of buckets for your players to hit while you sit in the pro shop, or peruse the Internet on your phone is fine, but it won’t do much to help your players compete, and it certainly won’t do much to help earn you their respect. Creating a successful golf team program requires careful planning and consideration of your players’ abilities, your own ability to teach the competitive game, and how successful you want your program to be.
The Warmup (5-10 minutes)
The first part of any successful practice begins with the warmup. Before any balls are hit, you may find it useful to perform some team stretching exercises. Have your players stand in a circle and run through a set of stretches. Choose one of your team captains to lead the stretching. You can use the time to talk to each player one by one, but it should last no longer than 5-10 minutes. You can choose to participate yourself or not. This ritual is useful not only to avoid injury for those players who want to rip some drives first thing in the afternoon, but it also serves as a signal that practice has started. It’s important to flip that mental switch to let your players know that it’s time to work. Additionally, it will help build a team atmosphere as all players – both team veterans and new players – go through the same routine every day.
The Range (15-20 minutes)
Time on the range can be structured or unstructured, based on your team needs and your ability as a golf instructor. In a structured range session, you may have all of your players hitting balls with certain restrictions in place, such as all players using the same club, hitting for the same flag, etc. This might be useful in some circumstances, but most players will lose interest very quickly. It could be useful for a team full of brand new players and therefore you need to keep their attention on you. More commonly, time on the range is unstructured, meaning they are free to warm up as they see fit. As the coach, your job is to move from player to player as needed and offer assistance if asked, or if a player is particularly struggling. Lastly, it is important to emphasize range safety at all time.
Drill Baby, Drill (10 minutes)
Drills aren’t fun. So despite being a necessary evil, they should be kept short. Drills might be something you organize for the whole team or for an individual player if you notice a glaring need. For example, if during a golf match, you notice several players struggling to hit good bunker shots. During the next practice, make that an area of need for the team and conduct a brief 10-minute bunker drill after range time.
Get On The Course (As Long As You’ve Got!)
Ultimately, there is little practice better than actually playing the game on a golf course. Hopefully, you will have access to one for your practices. The majority of practice time should be spent on the golf course. Players should be divided up into groups based on ability. However, there’s nothing to stop you from creating heterogeneous groups if you have a compelling reason, such as giving a player an opportunity to learn from his more talented and experienced teammates. As the coach, your job will be to move between groups, giving assistance where needed and requested. If you are a coach who is not well-versed in the golf swing or adept at giving teaching advice, there is still the opportunity to remind players of things like etiquette, speed of play, etc. The vast majority of your daily practice time should be spent on the golf course.
Putt It Out (5-10 minutes)
All practices should end on the putting green. You can choose one on the course, or make it the practice green near the pro shop to ensure that all players have returned from the course. It’s a good idea at the end to have some reflection time about what your players should be focusing on that day or week or month. A fun way to end practices is with a friendly putting competition between your players. Not only is it good practice, but it once again serves to build the bonds of your team.
A well-run practice does not happen by accident. It is going to require a great deal of planning and preparation, especially early in the season. You’ll find, though, that by sticking to a well-regulated schedule such as the one above, your practices will begin to run themselves. Ideally, you want to be able to focus on the more important things like ensuring your players are learning and enjoying themselves on the golf course.