Drive, Chip & Putt
By Erika Larkin on 2/26/14
Last year was the first year of the national Drive Chip & Putt contest for junior golfers. If you don't already know about it, junior golfers competed all over the country to qualify in a skills challenge for a chance to win the final championships for their age groups on the 18th hole of Augusta National during Masters Week, April 10-13, 2014. It's pretty cool; be watching for that.

The skills challenge includes the following:


Hit three drives to a 30-yard-wide fairway — and you must hit the fairway to get points. The longer the drive, the more points (mininum four points for 100 yards or less, maximum 25 points for a 300-yard drive).


Hit three shots on a 10-15 yards chip, medium difficulty. The closer you hit it, the more points you get. (Minimum one point for a 8-10 feet from the hole, maximum 25 points for a hole in one.)


Hit one putt from six feet, one from 15 feet, and one from 30 feet. (The degree of difficulty / break of putt depends on the age group.) The closer to the hole the ball finishes, the more points earned. (Minimum one point for finishing 4-5 feet from the hole, maximum 25 points for a hole in one.)

So why am I bringing this up?

It matters not if you're an adult or a junior — if you treat your practice sessions like you were preparing for this kind of skills challenge, I guarantee your game would improve and your scores would drop. This contest rewards accuracy over power and tests your ability to perform under pressure with such a limited amount of attempts.

I am a big advocate of practicing with a purpose and having the end in mind of getting your personal best on your own personal skills challenge. Use this format, or make up your own version! It will help you focus, help you measure improvement, and give you something to work on. Do not be afraid to set up tees on the practice greens to mark distances and create a practice station. On the range, visualize a 30-yard-wide fairway every swing and make your goal to hit it as often as possible.

Even though every round of golf is different (conditions, lies, pin placements, etc.) we can identify key shots that we are likely going to face and rehearse them. In school, if you had the questions to a test in advance, the test would seem easy when you get rehearse the answers in advance. Treat golf the same way and practice those test shots.

Preparing in this way will make your next rounds of golf seem so much easier!

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine — and she's oobgolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, e-mail her at Enjoy!

[ comments ]
DougE says:
Totally agree. Making challenging games out of practice sessions makes practice a whole lot more fun. My whole practice plan is based around various challenges, whether they be putting, chipping, pitching or full swing shots. Adding pressure can only make you better. Putting, chipping, pitching or full swinging at balls aimlessly, with no purpose other than to hit balls, is nearly pointless. Certainly there are times when focusing on the technical elements and mechanics through various boring drills is a necessity and should be a part of any practice plan, but challenging yourself or others on different aspects of the game is a lot more fun, and consequently more likely to get yourself to practice more.
DaRupp13 says:
Such a great point - practicing with a purpose. I'll play my own games all the time. At home when I practice putting, I'll set up two quarters about 20' apart and putt back and forth. 2 putts = par, 18 holes, MUST hit the coin and no gimmes. The goal is even par.

I find similar games with chipping/hitting balls at the range but I'll spare everyone the explanation. The point is this is fantastic advice.
jasonfish11 says:
If you have time to type out the explanation to your chipping game add it to the forums. That is the part of my game I need the most work on and also the part I find most boring on the range (I cant figure out a good game).
DougE says:
jfish: Not that you asked me, but I challenge myself by taking 6 balls and chipping from the fringe to a hole on the practice green. My goal is to make 5 of 6 up and downs before I can move on to the next hole. I usually make myself accomplish this on three different holes from three different fringe locations, one up, one down and one slider. Each usually at least 10 to 15 yards away. I like to use a 52*. Then I do the same drill from the greenside rough using both a 52 and a 60 wedge, depending on how close the pin is that I choose. From the rough, I go easier on myself. I must only make 4 of 6 u&d before moving to the next location. This all challenges your chipping game and your putting. If my chip is within 18 inches of the hole, I consider that made. However, outside that length, I must putt. Sometime you are having to putt from 6 or 8 ft to make that 5th of 6 up and downs and that can add a lot of pressure. If you miss, you start over. This has helped my short game tremendously over the past few years.
joe jones says:
In both my putting and chipping drills I concentrate on distance control. Not that line is not a problem but most problems around the green are caused by leaving shots short or too long.In putting I pick out a imaginary target at the edge of the green and try to putt 3 balls so that they just barely reach that edge.I am trying to die the ball to that edge. In chipping I use one club ( of your choice) and try to hit to any pin using 3 ball flights. Low run up,medium height with bite and a high pitch over and imaginary object. I use different ball position and by shutting down or opening the face of the club.Again, once I have determined a line I trust my judgement and work on distance control.I want to make the next shot as easy as I can. It works for me.
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