Five Creative Ways to Sharpen Your Game
Practice When & Where You Can

I realize a small percentage of golfers belong to a private club, or have access to a good practice facility at their favorite course. And that spending time with your golf game several times per week can get expensive. This topic was brought to my attention by Erik, who wrote about the difficulty and expense of getting enough practice and playing time in with his 10-year-old son. Here's a paraphrase of Erik’s thoughtful email:
“My 10 year old son and I picked up the game last year. We are having a great time playing. My question is about the cost of this game . . . it’s expensive . . . I can only afford for us to play once a week, maybe 6 times a month at best. When you don’t play that often it makes it hard to improve. The local driving range, where my son will take lessons, has a 3-hole loop of par 3 holes . . . a nice putting green and short game area. The cost for both of us . . . would allow us to play far more often. I would like to know your thoughts on this situation.”
Erik, I say go for it at the cost you related to me. There’s no substitute for practice, and the short game skills will translate to the rest of your game quickly and easily. Both you and your son would benefit from the time together practicing chipping, pitching and your short games, and each session could end with a bucket of range balls to work on your full swing skills.

One of my favorite golf instructional books is Tom Watson’s “Getting Up & Down”. In it, he shares how his father taught him the game from the hole backward, and he always . . . to this day . . . finds the last stroke on any hole to be the best – making it go in the hole is the entire objective, he says, so he finds it enjoyable. Not many of us have that approach, do we?

But even short of the ability to have a practice facility like you describe, there are many ways you can work on your golf game away from the links or range. Here are my five favorite ways to keep your game sharp and progressing, even when you don’t have time or available funds to go practice and/or play:
1. Read! There’s no substitute for learning, and I don’t mean just instructional books. Invest some evening time reading about the great players of golf’s history and your game will improve I’ll bet. And you and your son can enjoy this together.

2. Watch! There is a lot to be learned from TV golf, both live tournaments and the many shows on the Golf Channel, plus great videos . . . again, both of the instructional and entertainment variety. Besides, they are enjoyable.

3. Practice Your Putting. You don’t have to invest in a several hundred dollar putting device. Go to your Lowe’s or Home Depot and buy a sheet of plywood and a 4’ wide strip of smooth carpet – like a commercial grade. Glue the carpet down onto the sheet of plywood and you’ve got a good putting practice platform that can stand up against the garage wall when you are not using it. I like to putt at small targets when I practice short putts like this – quarters are good. It makes the hole look huge on the course when you are inside 10 feet or so.

4. Practice chipping. All you need is a practice mat and small net, which can be found online for less than $50. Use it in your garage or backyard, perfecting your technique to build consistent impact and trajectory.

5. Find your own “range”. In every neighborhood there are schoolyards, vacant fields, etc, that are mowed close enough for you to hit (and find) balls hit with full swings. If space is a factor, get some of the “Almost Golf” balls that only go a short distance. That mat might be necessary if you can’t find decent turf, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
If you put your imagination to it, you can find lots of economical ways to improve your game away from the course or range. These are five ideas that I’ll share, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that these readers will come up with a bunch more.

And Erik, congratulations on winning a new EIDOLON wedge. Because we love to support the introduction of the game to kids, we’re going to cut down a demo wedge for your son, too!!! I’ll contact you privately to get some feedback on his size and needs.

photo source
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[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
Reading and watching is what i tell people to do when they want to get better. It has worked for me.
mjaber says:
Wow... look at all the underlines :)

You can actually buy sheets of the same turf that's used at alot of mini-golf courses at Lowe's/Home Depot. I'm hoping to build a short game area in my backyard in the next couple of years. 6-10ft green, bunker, etc. I don't see the cost as being enormous.

Also, if you've got the space to do a chip/pitch swing inside somewhere, the "Almost Golf" balls are great for indoor practice.
birdieXris says:
I've got one that's not on your list. Tae Kwon Do. Actually, anything of the sort. I started taking it as recreation and a way to lose a little more weight (trying to fit into my old 34" waists) and i found that it strengthened my core so much more than the workouts i was already doing. It also improved my striking balance greatly and made it so it was much easier to swing the club in tempo and with more power than i ever could. The result was 15 more yards onto each of my clubs and my ball striking has improved dramatically. my shots are more solid, longer, and most importantly REPEATABLE. all because i did something completely unrelated to golf that requires the same things - balance, power, and conditioning.
kevinho says:
If you ever watch Golf Channel's "the Golf Fix" a bunch of people who have their swings reviewed on the show are hitting into a net in their garage. That's probably along the same lines as "if there's a will, there's a way"
c5agalb says:
Play a practice round at a cheap twilight rate as practice. It allows you to use every club in your bag and work on all aspects of the game. There is a course by me that lowered their walking rate to $10 twilight, which is about the same for a large bucket of balls at a range.
Optimus Prime says:
I enjoy going to a 9-hole golf course to work on my short game. I only take irons so I'm not tempted. I found that the course becomes more of a challenge when hitting iron only. I use most of my wedges too. Also, when I'm home, I like to putt to a quarter from 10-15 feet away.
flannery says:
The cost is why I joined a local club for my two boys and me. The cost is sunk so we are more likely to go out and play. The driving range and practice areas and rounds of golf are all included in the cost. Our local club did a membership drive with a ridiculous low initiation fee and reduced monthly fees. This is much cheaper than trying to get the three of us on a course every week.
legitimatebeef says:
I work on my grip, setup and waggle at home, in front of the mirror. It's not fun but doing it persistently has helped my swing improve even with my limited access to practice ranges.
legitimatebeef says:
Also, what Tom Watson says is brilliance. And you are right Wedgeguy, far too few golfers treat the game this way. It bums me out to see recreational golfers hack their ball some 4-500 yards all the way from the tee, somehow get it to within a few feet of hole....only to pick up the damn thing without holing it. Even worse is when you hit a chip or putt close only to have it swatted back to you by some numb nuts you just met on the first tee.
eventHorizon says:
I agree with flannery. If you are playing 2-3 times a week at a public course you will easily make it worthwhile to join a club. Almost all courses right now are hurting and need members. Monthly dues are down (especially if you are under 40 years old) and initiation fees are nothing right now. Play as often as you want for a set price.
flannery says:
With the deal I got I only need to play once a week to get a better ROI than playing the local public courses. Add my kids to the mix and we only have to play once a month and we are money ahead. The deals are very much in favor of new members right now.
iGolfPuma says:
watch the golf channel and pay attention to everything Sir Nick Faldo says.....very good info.
DoubleDingo says:
A local club offered a Summer membership costing $400 for 11 weeks and two days, minus the Mondays they normally close, so 68 days. It equated to about $38/week and I can play unlimited golf if I want to. I don't care to pay $5 for a bucket of balls so I don't use the range very much, and consider each round played as a practice. Before I struggled to get under 100, and now I have been consistently under 100 and I know soon it will be in the 80's. Well worth the money if you ask me.
Bill Zone says:
range twice a week.. par 3 twice a week.. big course 1 a week..
thats my routine.
gummerz says:
more driving range, more pitch n putt and more beer when you finally hit the big course...that way you don't think too much and just hit the ball like you've been practising. works for's nice to find something that you're better at drunk...or play angry when you have other things on your mind and your golf swing is the least of your concerns...
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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