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Do Home Golf Studios Work? Learn From Tiger!
When Tiger was just six months old, Earl Woods would sit him in a highchair and make him watch as he hit golf balls into a practice net, suspended from the living room ceiling. Four months later, Tiger hit his first golf balls, left-handed, before deciding just a couple of weeks later that he preferred playing right-handed instead.
I have always recommended a golf net, whether in your basement, garage or backyard. Many low handicappers and pros, like Fred Couples, credit their early development to having a ‘home studio’. It’s a safe haven for mastering the essentials - your set up and swing motion - while really focusing on sensation. And you can, of course, add technology like launch monitors to give you instant feedback - the shot’s trajectory and spin, and club variables like speed, path, attack angle, etc.
Nets & mats are your studio’s basic building blocks and they are not all created equal. Some are wonderfully mobile so you can work inside in winter, and move them outside when spring arrives. You will practice in the comfort of your home, burn off calories, reduce stress, be productive and continue improving even during pandemics!
On busy days or when weather dictates, a home studio will supplement your driving range sessions.
Watch ‘home studio drills’ for building more awareness of the sensations of your optimal swings:
Like Tiger, I had an early start with homegrown solutions. My father did not approve of golf, but my Uncle Jim did - withstanding the ceaseless complaints of my aunt and mother, who watched helplessly as the lawn was ravaged by my relentless swing sessions.
My uncle left out only a couple of clubs, one was a wedge, and the other, an old steel-shafted, persimmon driver, waterlogged from the outdoors and twice as heavy. That extra weight required that this little fella use his bigger muscles and swing the club ‘on plane’.
While my best sports were running and skiing, I broke 80 at the age of twelve. I did not have the natural golf talent of the cavalry of pure swinging Irish brothers - the O’Haras, Dunns, Quinns and Sullivans - who propelled our high school to more than a decade of state championships...but I did have that net!
I practiced twice daily, early morning and just before dinner. Not seeing where the ball flew was beneficial, directing my focus to contact and ‘swing sensations’. Once all the wooden tees were broken, I’d pick up that mammoth driver and hit off the completely denuded surface, a challenge requiring every bit of precision.
Ideas for Home Practice Sessions
What key sensations will benefit you?
Grip pressure. On a scale of 1 to 10-3 is a good starting point. Like in most sports, always aim for the ‘lightest pressure/tension required for the physical task.’ A good pro-tip: Hail Irwin always tried to feel the same points of contact, both at address and the top of the swing, to insure more stability and clubface control.
Posture & Ball Position. Aim to make every swing from your best posture; long and extended through your spine, while ‘tension-free’ from your hands all the way to your shoulders. To find your optimal ball position, experiment moving the ball a half turn forward, a half turn back for a variety of shots.
Engagement. Tune in on the biomechanics creating and delivering maximal energy. Feel the different levels of ‘tone’ in your body that combine for the most integrated, kinesthetically flowing swing motion. It’s trial and error. Training aids like the Orange Whip and Smartbody’s Symmetry Ball will expedite your discovery and development.
Your studio is the best place to make ‘Swing Changes’. It works like a charm, creating a ‘judgment-free’ zone, unlike potentially counterproductive driving range sessions if you are spraying shots everywhere. I watched this in action fifteen years ago visiting top instructor Jim McClean’s Academy at Doral (now based at the beautiful, historic Biltmore Hotel & Golf Course) I watched intently as Jim ‘lowered the net’ on a tour player. In the net where there is less concern about errors, the player was free to experiment and focus inwardly. And the desired change/‘transformation’ is made quickly and efficiently.
Sharing my secrets. When asked for my ‘coaching secrets’ I always share credit with the ‘net’. Twenty years ago, in my first NYC winter teaching season, I had three beginners break 80 by summertime. Even when players struggle on the course, I’d have them rebound by envisioning their next shot into the net. It was amazing to experience. And you can too!
The quality and design of ‘home studio’ products have improved, but they are not all created equal. The Net Return is my favorite - a premium quality design where the balls actually come back to you! Underfoot, I like the Real Feel Mats offering the purest, most realistic iron-striking experience, with a hitting surface so dense, you can use a traditional tee.
So, find some inspiration during this challenging period to improve your game. Save your sanity and your lawn! And build your golf sensations like Tiger.