Category Archives: practice

Winter Practice by Golf Digest

Golf Digest just published an article on three things you should be doing this winter to maintain your game and improve it. Read the article, it’s short, then come back here for my commentary.

1. Absolutely. Standing over a three-foot but, knowing that you are going to sink it, does wonders for your score and that confidence spills over to every other part of your game.

Make your target, instead of a fake hole, a 28-oz. tomato can. Hit the can dead center. See Better Recreational Golf, pp. 54-55 to find out why.

2. Stats. Fairways hit, greens in regulation, number of putts–not worth that much. Instead, keep number of full swings, number of short shots, length of each putt, hole by hole.

3. Get a lesson that deals with correcting why you aren’t hitting the ball straight on command. Take notes during the lesson. Then at home, work on those things every day. Go to the range once a week to put your practice to the test and find out which things are now working and which things need extra attention.

150 Yards and In

Harvey Penick has a short bit in his Little Red Book titled “Long and Short.” The point he makes is that you should spend most of your practice time on your 150-yard shot, using whatever club that is.

This is best advice I have ever seen for the strength of your overall game.


Penick says, “There’s no reason why the average golfer should take more than three to get down from 150 yards.”

That’s exactly right. You should expect to hit the ball onto or beside the green and get down in two from there or closer.

To be able to expect that, not only does your swing need to produce accurate shots, you have to be able to chip and approach putt quite well, too.

I should mention the driver. If you are money with an iron from 150 yards, that same swing will put your tee ball in the fairway reliably, too.

That’s how being good from 150 yards affects the overall strength of your game.

How important is the 150-yard strategy?

By adopting it as the basis of my game I became a single-digit golfer.

How To Not Fool Yourself at the Driving Range

Real quick.

If you go to the driving range and an idea comes into your head to try something new and you try it and it starts working so well, ball after ball, that you can’t believe it and you think you have found The Secret To Golf that will solve the game forever, here’s what to do.

Sit down. Watch other people hit the ball. Chill.

After a few minutes, step onto your mat and start doing that same thing again.

If it works, you’re onto something. If you can’t seem get it to work anymore, though, give it up.

You got into a groove, you had some fun, but odds are that trying to recover that magic will make things worse, not better.

How to Practice Impact

Golf is hard. You have to swing a club back behind your head, then around in front of you again so that the clubface has perfect geometry when it meets the ball while travelling at at least 80 mph. For some you, 100 mph or more.

Since the only part of the swing that really counts is when the clubface meets the ball, you get good at that by practicing just that. Here’s how I do it.

With a 7-iron in my hand, I’ll take the club not even halfway back. The shaft is still short of being parallel to the ground.

The important thing is for the sole of the clubhead, as you turn your head to look at it, to be pointing a bit up and to the left (not straight up and down!). This is the sign that the clubface is still square to the clubpath.

Now swing the club gently forward and through the ball, making sure of two key points. The hands lead the clubhead by just a bit. Don’t overdo it.

And, the sole of the clubhead strikes the ground for the first time about an inch in front of, that is, to the target side, of the ball. Look at that spot before you take away the club, and keep looking at it throughout the swing.

And this swing is slow. No rushing, no trying to “hit” the ball. Just swing the club with good rhythm and hit the ground in front of the ball.

I think once you have this figured out you will be very pleased with the way the ball launches off the clubface and into the air, and flies straight away from you.

Do this again, and again. You are practicing the feel of how the club moves through the impact zone. Note: not “how you move the club,” but “how the club moves.” That’s a big distinction.

After a couple dozen successful shots, try a longer swing, at the same speed, with that same rhythm, taking the club back the same way, and aiming for the ground one inch in front of the ball, hands ahead of the clubhead.

Good shot? Good! Now do the drill a couple dozen more times before you take another full swing. Etc.

What and How Recreational Golfers Should Practice

What to practice:

Learn to make contact on the center of the clubface consistently.

Learn how to get on the green in one shot from under full-swing distances.

Learn how to hit chips/approach putts to one-putt range.

Get good at sinking 4-7 foot putts. These are the ones that good putters sink and poor putters don’t.

How to practice:

Measure the attention given to each one by balls hit, not by time spent. For example if your full swing practice is built around skill-building, it might take a half hour, at least, to hit 30 balls. You can hit thirty 4-7 foot putts in well under 10 minutes.

This professional practice plan shows you how this practice concept works in full.

Practice the Parts, Not the Whole

A few years ago I posted a video lesson titled, How to Get Good at Golf. This is probably the most important post I have ever made.

The point I made is that a golf stroke is the sum of its parts. To learn the swing, you have to learn its parts and how they fit together.

Practicing swing after swing as a whole does you no good.

In my video essay, Six Fundamentals of the Recreational Golf Swing, I described in detail six features of a functioning recreational golf swing.

At the range, and in my back yard, I practice them, and a few other movements that are specific to me. I practice each one by itself, to reinforce each one in my unconscious mind’s concept of golf swing movement.

I also practice them individually because several of them are not my natural inclination. I get lazy and my swing starts failing because one or the other gets left out.

But because I practice them so much and am so familiar with them all, it’s easy for me to notice which one is missing, so just a few reminder swings makes my swing whole again.

So, again: your task is to figure out the movements that make your swing work, what your fundamentals are, and practice each one, by itself, over, and over, and over.

That’s how you get good. And stay good.

Acquire Positive Habits at the Range

There’s a lot to think about when you’re playing golf. The less you have to think about, the better it will be for you.

That means making as much as you can automatic. I know that every so often you play less than your best because you forgot to do something important in hitting your shot.

The way out of that lapse is to practice shotmaking habits when you go to the range. This is what I mean.

There’s a ball in front of you. Before you swing at it, check your grip, aim yourself and check your aim, check your ball position, check your posture. EVERY TIME. It takes only a few seconds to do this, and by going through this procedure before every range ball, you take one step closer to not forgetting to do it when you play.

If you have a practice swing technique you rely on, do that, too.

By doing this sixty times before you hit sixty balls, the same way every time, you build habit. You’ll eventually do it right without even thinking about it. That’s your goal.

Or when you putt on the practice green, do the same thing. Before you hit any putt, line it up. Get a feel for the distance, however you do that.* Check your grip. Check how far away from the ball you stand. Check the width of your stance. Check your posture. Check your aim. Check the alignment of the putter’s face. There might be some more things for you. There are for me, but they are personal, so I won’t go into them.

The point is to go through the whole procedure before any shot to build up the habit. All of it is automatic so all you have to think about is hitting the ball into the fairway/green/hole.

I’m not forgetting the short game, but you should be able to fill in that blank on your own.

Another way of looking at this is that automatic features of your game keep you from straying from what works. We get lazy, we forget. Then you aren’t playing well and you can’t figure out what went wrong.

Every time you go the range practice your shotmaking procedures constantly. The little things. You will never get to the point where you can stop doing this.

*Read my distance finding method called Triangulated Approach Putting.

My Day At the Range

I went to the range a few days ago and hit a medium bucket of balls. I got a lot of things done.

Then I went to the practice green. There must have been about fifteen other guys on the range, but I walked onto the practice green alone.

And I stayed there alone until I went home about 45 minutes later.

Happens all the time. Like it’s my private practice green. I just don’t get it.

A Day at the Range – One More Thing

In 1965, I was watching the U.S. Open on television. I remember watching Gary Player, who won the championship that year, hit a 6-iron from the fairway. What came across so clearly, to a 14 year-old kid, was that he was putting every bit of golf knowledge he had ever acquired, every practice ball had ever hit, every 6-iron he had ever hit, all that had been done so he could hit this one shot.

That is grinding. That’s how you play the game.

How do you learn to do that?

By taking every practice shot seriously. From the practice tee, to chipping, to putting, make very practice shot count. Visualize what you want to have happen, then do everything you can to make it happen.

Never touch club to ball without having that intention in mind.

This how you create a positive habit that comes out when you play.

A Day at the Range

…well, not an entire day, more like 90 minutes, but you know what I mean.

1. Swing practice. Practice hitting the ball straight. I say that because that is really all you can practice. Unless you are under the guidance of an instructor, it is very hard to practice hitting the ball farther. Most likely your attempts will take you in the opposite direction.

Missing the green to the right or left is what you want to take out of your game. If you’re always too short, solve that problem by using more club or move up a set of tees.

Start out hitting some decent 9-irons. Now use that swing with the rest of the clubs you hit to hit the ball straight. The longer shaft and lower loft will send the ball farther.

2. Practice the things that make your swing work. Practice the parts. Put them together and hit a ball. Repeat many times.

3. Save about 20 balls and practice hitting long chips/short pitches, whatever you want to call them, of 15-40 yards. This is the shot pros are insanely good at and that we are insanely bad at. And it’s not that hard to get good at it if you practice. Down in two from that distance is an attainable goal you should have for yourself.

4. Green reading. I read putts from about 30-40 feet behind the ball. That way, you can see the overall tilt of the green very easily. You can sees slopes in ground that up close looks flat. I even look at two-footers this way. You can miss two-footers if you think they all go straight in.

5. Green reading. I start by imagining where the putt would go if I hit it straight at the hole. I follow it across the green in my mind and notice how far to the left or right I think it will pass by the hole. My aim point then is that distance on the other side of the holeā€”if my mind’s eye sees it miss three inches to the left, I start the putt three inches to the right.

6. Watch this Phil Mickelson putting video. Was he says to do WORKS.