Practice is a key to success in any sport. Even at the professional level you’ll find athletes -- football players, for example -- who spend many more hours on the practice field than they do in actual competition. For the young, developing athlete, practice is even more important. When Tiger Woods was very young he had “a beautiful, fundamentally sound golf swing,” his father, Earl Woods, wrote in the foreword to Woods’ book, “How I Play Golf.” Young Tiger, however, still spent countless hours practicing. Despite his inherent athletic skills, a grown-up Tiger says there is only one way to reach his golf goals: “Practice and more practice.”
Let the Coaches Coach
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how frequently a junior golfer should practice. Jeff Troesch, longtime director of mental training for David Leadbetter’s golf academies, advises parents to allow a golfer’s coach to set up a practice schedule suitable for the junior player. Troesch further advises that it’s vitally important that the coach, player and the player’s family all agree to the schedule. With everyone on the same page there is less chance of anyone forming a resentment to the schedule that may hamper the young golfer’s progress.
Quantity Vs. Quality
Quantity of practice is often less significant than the quality of a golfer’s practice time. While many aspects of a younger golfer's game require improvement, that doesn’t mean he must work on each area every day. Varying workouts can add interest and enjoyment. Woods advises golfers of all ages against judging the quality of their workouts by the time they spend practicing or the number of balls they hit. “Some of my most productive practice sessions have lasted all of 20 minutes,” he says.
Focus on Weaker Areas
The Junior Golf Scoreboard website advises junior golfers to analyze their playing results to help determine how much practice time to devote to specific areas of their games. The site notes the best college players typically invest about two-thirds of their practice time on their short games. A quick check of your scorecards will reveal how many putts you used on each hole, which can help you judge how much time to spend on putting practice. By keeping more detailed notes on each competitive shot you can determine how successful your other shots have been. You can then allot the appropriate amount of time to each activity.
As a general rule, the Junior Golf Scoreboard site recommends that young players practice short putts every day, with the goal of sinking 50 or more 3-foot putts in a row. Juniors should use one or two practice sessions per week to work on drills, with the remaining sessions focusing on shotmaking skills. When practicing real-life shots, players may work on areas such as the short game, hitting fades and draws, bunker play or developing the proper trajectories to keep a variety of approach shots on the green.