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Don Bradman's secret to practice

“The goal is to make practice more difficult, physically and mentally, than anything your players will face during a game” – Bobby Knight**

Australian Don Bradman is widely considered to be the greatest batsman in cricket history, with some statisticians arguing that he is the most dominant athlete of all time. As a boy Bradman practiced alone, throwing a golf ball off of a thickly ribbed, cylindrical iron water tank then hitting the ball on it's return with a wicket, rather than a bat. (To see how remarkably tough this is, watch here)

There were many factors making this task so difficult. Not only was the golf ball much smaller than a cricket ball is, it would bounce randomly off of the water tank forcing Bradman to quickly track the ball and react to where it was heading. Furthermore, since he was bowling to himself, Bradman would have to quickly regrip the wicket after he bowled the ball, giving himself even less time to respond. And as if that wasn't enough, unlike a cricket bat's wide, flat hitting surface, the wicket was about 1/3rd the width of a bat and was perfectly round.

After mastering this task, hitting against even world class bowlers must have seemed easy. For Bradman, it apparently was.

Bradman, in 1938

Applying Bradman's Strategy for Golf

Golfers can follow Bradman's lead and make some parts of their practice harder than actual play. When done properly, this training can make the challenges faced on the golf course seem very manageable, and even easy. Some examples of how to practice this way are:

  • Practicing putting to a tee, rather than a hole

  • Creating an imaginary fairway on the driving range significantly smaller than an actual fairway

  • Playing a round of golf where you hit different shots than you are normally comfortable with (e.g. fading the ball if you are a draw player)

When training this way, make these tasks harder over time as you master them (e.g. hit to an even smaller fairway once you can hit 7/10 into the originally sized fairway). Also, keep track of what your typical misses are when you are training this way and also how you respond when you are under pressure to complete your goal. For example, note what your tendencies are when you have hit 6/9 shots into the imaginary fairway and need to hit the final shot well to complete the task. Note also what shot can you rely on to get the into play in this situation, and use that shot as a go-to shot you can rely on when you are under pressure on the course.

One drawback to doing this type of training is that if it is done too frequently or haphazardly, it can begin to undermine a golfer's confidence. The goal is to stretch yourself, not break yourself! As such, follow Performance Coach Karl Morris' advice and save this type of practice for once or twice a week, rather than training this way daily.

**As an aside, I disagree with many of the ways in which Bobby Knight ran his teams, however I do fully agree with this quote.


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