Commentators wonder why, with all this new equipment, the average handicap of recreational golfers hasn’t budged over the past decades. Well, it’s the singer, not the song. The best equipment still has be used by someone who knows how to use it.
If you are in the middle of your working career, you probably don’t have the time to get to the range more than once a week. That’s not enough practice to become the best golfer you could be, but if you practice the right things, you can still play a creditable game.
Here’s how to spend two hours on Saturday morning profitably.
Get about 60 golf balls. Depending on the range that’s one bucket or maybe two. Half of those balls will be used on your swing. The other half will be used to hit pitches from 40-100 yards.
You don’t have to hit every club when you practice your full swing. Hit a short iron, a mid-iron, a hybrid, and your driver. The next time you go out, you can pick a different club out of these categories, but still only four.
Have something in mind when you swing the club. It could be tempo. It could be the transition into the downswing. Let there be something specific that you want to practice.
Take lots of practice swings before you hit a ball. The ball is a test, an indicator of whether you can do what you’re practicing when there is a ball in front of you.
IMPORTANT. If you hit a bad shot, do not give up the thing you were practicing so that you might hit a better shot. Clinkers happen. Don’t change a thing. This takes a lot of mental discipline, and that’s good training, too.
When you get to the driver, do these two thing: hit only five balls, and never more than two in a row. I know this is an important club, but it will seduce you to pulling yourself out of what you have been practicing, in your desire for maximum distance.
Actually, do a third thing. Before you hit your driver, hit three short irons. Then replicate that swing. Do not try to hit the ball a long way. Put your normal swing on the ball and let the club deliver the distance. That’s what it’s designed to do.
With the remaining 30 balls, hit pitches. Pick a target at a known distance and find a combination of club and swing length that gets the ball near that distance.
You can cut this as fine as you want to, but you should strive, over a series of sessions at the range, to at least find combinations that hits the ball to 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100 yards. That’s seven shots that none of the other members of your group have.
Next, go to the green. Practice short putts, from five feet and in. Start with two feet and make a bunch of those. Then go to three feet and make a bunch of those. Work out to four feet and five feet, and make a bunch of those. If at any time you miss two in a row, get back down a shorter distance so you can start making putts again.
Now find a flat part of the green about 40 feet long. Drop four balls at equal intervals between 20 feet and 35 feet. Practice until you get them all within two feet of the hole. Then drop them at equal intervals from 25 feet to 40 feet, and do the same.
Move on to greenside chips. Assuming you have calibrated your chipping clubs, pick three different distances and practice with one ball, chipping to that distance and walking up to putt out.
You must learn to think of a chip as a two-shot event. Your chip is only as good as your putt.
Try making up some putting and chipping games as you go, to keep up your interest.
As far as time goes, you can spend about 40 minutes hitting balls on the range, and the rest of the time around the green.
If you do something like this every week, you’ll be able to maintain basic skills.
If you still have some time, go get another 30 balls and work on curving the ball right or left. High or low. Practice hitting from uneven lies if you can. Greenside bunkers. Fairway bunkers. Learn some specialty shots.
Like I say, you won’t get great, but you will develop a solid game by following a practice plan of this kind.
See also One hour at the range.
My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.