WHO: Scott Stallings
WHAT: A 9-iron to seven feet
WHERE: 168-yard par-3 18th hole
WHEN: First hole of a sudden-death playoff at the Greenbrier Classic
Stallings didn’t fluke into making the two best swing of his life — the identical nine-irons to seven feet at 18 on his 72nd hole of the week and then again in the playoff — while experiencing the most pressure he’d ever felt. Tour players like Stallings do what we teachers call “transfer practice.” That is, practice where you recreate specific shots to mimic situations you’ll encounter during competition. Doing that allows you to groove not only a swing that will work, but also a positive mindset that you can draw on to achieve success. Amateurs rarely do transfer practice, while pros often do it.
THE DRILL: A tournament or match comes down to one shot, and you either pull off the shot and win or hit a poor shot and lose. The best way to do transfer practice to recreate pressure through games at practice. The games should begin at a fairly low difficulty level, so you can achieve success, and then you can ramp up the difficulty as you progress.
To recreate a do-or-die approach-shot situation, try this game: Take five balls and hit them to a practice green. At the first level, the goal should be to get each ball onto the green. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Next, create a parameter in which three of the five balls must stop within 30 feet of the flagstick. Finally, try to hit two balls within 10 feet of the flagstick.
You can play games like this from anywhere — with a tee shot, from a bunker and even on a recovery shot out of the trees. Experiment and have fun.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Eric Alpenfels is the director of instruction at the Pinehurst (N.C.) Golf Academy.