Professional golfers seem to have it all. They get to travel the world, play top golf courses, and they get paid to play golf. Imagine a life where the golf course is your office and you are your own boss.
While it can be tempting to glorify the lifestyle of a professional golfer, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to help them keep performing at an elite level.
For example, the majority of their days will be spent practicing their game.
How Many Hours a Day Does a Pro Golfer Practice?
The number of hours per day a pro golfer will practice depends on which stage of the season they’re in, whether or not it’s a tournament week, and if they have any problems they need to work out in their swing.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how often pro golfers practice in certain situations.
How Often Pros Practice During a Tournament Week
The number of hours pro golfers practice during a tournament week depends on the individual player. For example, some players like to stay away from the range after the round. They believe that hitting more golf balls will do nothing but tire them out.
Others feel that they need the repetition to stamp out any of the bad swings they had on the course during the round.
In emergencies where something has gone wrong with their swing, or if they’re still getting used to new equipment, the only limit to how long they’ll practice is hours of daylight available.
An example of this was when Xander Shauffele was breaking in a new putter at the 2019 U.S Open. Shortly before the tournament, he made the switch from the Odyssey Stroke Lab R-Ball to the Stroke Lab Tuttle Mallet.
I was fortunate enough to be on the grounds at this event. At the end of one of the days, I was walking past the putting green towards the exit as the sun was setting.
I figured all the players had turned in for the day. But, a subtle movement out of the corner of my eye made me stop and turn around.
It was nearly dark, but there was still one person grinding away on the putting green – Xander Shauffele.
Safe to say, his hard work paid off as he was able to notch a T-3 finish and was ranked seventh in strokes gained putting for the week.
This just goes to show that the amount each golfer will practice depends on their personal preference and the individual circumstances they’re dealing with at the time.
How Often Pros Practice During an “Off” Week
Let me clarify – by off week, I don’t mean offseason. Here, we’re talking about the weeks between competitions (we’ll get to the offseason later).
But just because they’re not playing in a tournament doesn’t mean they’re not grinding away working on their game.
In fact, for most tour pros, their weeks away from tournaments are where the real work begins.
This is their chance to tune up their swing and get back in shape.
During an off week, it’s not uncommon for pros to hit balls and work on their short game for five, six, even seven hours a day. However, they also do a lot of their training off the course. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Twenty years ago, you could get away with being a little soft around the edges and still keep up with the field.
Fast forward to today, and the bar is set so high that working out is almost a pre-requisite for being a professional golfer.
Don’t believe me?
Just look at Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory Mcilroy, and other top players on tour. These guys all incorporate some form of strength training into their daily routine.
In fact, in an interview with Men’s Journal, Dustin Johnson says he works out as many as six times per week!
These workouts usually consist of a combination of powerlifting, Olympic lifts, stability work, and speed exercises.
Strength is important for golf. But even more so, is flexibility.
It doesn’t matter how much you can lift, a lack of flexibility on the golf course can significantly hinder your performance. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) explored this very topic.
The study took samples of golfers across three different proficiency levels:
- <0 Handicap
- 1-9 Handicap
- 10-20 Handicap
Then, they ran through a series of tests to determine the unique physical characteristics of each golfer.
When all was said and done, the experts concluded that better golfers possess more of these unique physical characteristics (flexibility, mobility, etc…).
But what if you’re not very flexible?
Well, don’t worry – they also emphasize that these characteristics can be improved by following a golf-specific training program.
Also, regular flexibility work can decrease your chances of getting injured.
Have you ever felt stiffness in your calf only to experience pain in your knee the next day? Our bodies are always compensating for sore or tight muscles, often causing the pain to be experienced away from the source.
That’s why – in addition to range sessions and strength training – many pro golfers work on their flexibility for up to one hour per day, several times a week.
How Pros Practice During the Offseason
Surprise, surprise… the answer varies here again. Not all pro golfers play every day of the year. Some tour pros put the clubs away for a number of weeks and focus on spending time with their families.
Others will still play a few leisurely rounds of golf, but they won’t practice.
And finally, many pro golfers continue to practice by spending their time on the range and putting green throughout the entire offseason.
It really depends on who they are, their goals for the upcoming season, and the stage of their career that they’re in.
How Much Practice Does it Take to Become a Pro Golfer?
This intriguing question is one that’s shared by many amateur golfers.
Best selling author Malcolm Gladwell is famous for his book, Outliers, where he explains something called the 10,000-hour rule.
Basically, this rule challenges the idea that leaders in their respective fields (including golf) have some sort of innate talent that propels them above the average person.
Instead, he explains that to achieve a certain level of mastery, one needs to reach a certain threshold of practice – 10,000 hours.
According to Gladwell, one of the foundational observations behind the 10,000-hour rule is that:
“The closer Psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role of innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”
But does this hold true for golf? Will 10,000 hours of practice be enough to make you a professional?
One man put this question to the test.
Dan McLaughlin was a photographer from Georgia. He had saved up $100,000 for a trip, however, in a last-minute decision, he decided to use this money to support himself as he tried his hand at becoming a professional golfer.
His plan (which he dubbed The Dan Plan) was to put in 10,000 hours of practice with an end goal of becoming one of the top 250 players on the PGA Tour.
So, was Dan successful?
Well, yes and no.
His relentless efforts allowed him to cut his handicap down to a 2.6. According to the USGA, this is a feat accomplished by just 1.6% of golfers in all of America. Pretty good for someone who didn’t really play golf until the age of 30!
However, unfortunately, his practice was cut short at a total of just over 6,000 hours due to back problems.
So, in the end, Dan didn’t reach his goal of becoming a professional golfer, but he also didn’t end up putting in the full 10,000 hours recommended by Gladwell in his book.
If he was able to shave his handicap down to a 2.6 in the first 6,000 hours, who knows what he could have achieved in the remaining 4,000?
Here’s what we can learn from Dan’s story – to become a professional golfer, you’ll likely need to put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. Those with greater natural talent may need to practice less than that, and those with less aptitude for the game might need to practice more.
However, sometimes it’s not simply a matter of putting in the work – your body also needs to be up for the task!
The amount of time pro golfers spend practicing depends on a nearly endless list of factors. That said, they didn’t make it on tour by being lazy.
Most pros will follow a practice schedule that involves on-course sessions, as well as strength and flexibility training off the course.
Their routine can change dramatically depending on whether it’s a tournament week, an off week, or the offseason.
For those wondering how much practice it takes to actually become a pro golfer, the answer is unclear. However, it’s safe to say it will likely take a minimum of 10,000 hours of focused practice.