"Real Deal" Practice
To me, there are two basic pieces of practice, no matter what part of the game you are talking about. The first is that which we all do, that is to go to the range and hit balls. We might be working on a particular swing mechanic, maybe timing and tempo, maybe just trying to work out a few kinks. Most of the time what I think golfers are doing on the range is just beating balls for fun, not working on anything in particular. I enjoy that as much as the next golfer, but I really don't consider that "practice".

In my practice regimen, I have two aspects. In my "range time", I'm always trying to explore and work into my routine some new move, feeling or position that I think will get me to a better place throughout the swing. I always hit range balls with my alignment sticks on the ground, as that way I am always reinforcing proper set up and alignment. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is just a waste of time.

On the range, I take a tip from the legendary Harvey Penick, whom I had the privilege of watching give a lesson to Tom Kite on one occasion. He would not let Tom hit more than 6-8 shots with the same club before he would have him switch. He did not want Tom to get in some kind of groove with a 5-iron, he said, but his work was to help Tom get in a groove with all his clubs. That sure made a lot of sense to me, so I follow that practice most of the time.

The exception is when I practice my short wedge shots. I'll take a bag of 35-40 balls and just my 58 or 55 and hit all kinds of shots. All distances, from 10-15 feet to 30-50 yards. All trajectories, from high flops to low runners, sharp spinners to normal routine pitches. That lets me work on the mechanics of the short game.

After any wedge practice session, I then go out to the course and play just a few holes, spending 10-15 minutes around each green executing those various shots I was just practicing. I call it "real practice", because I have put myself in a "game day" situation. It's like the football scrimmage, I guess. They practice hard to get ready for the season, but you have to get in something more closely resembling game conditions to really fine-tune it.

If you want to improve your short game performance this spring, I suggest you try my routine to see if it doesn't help. Some range time to work on technique, then some "real practice" on the course, hitting "real" shots to "real" pin locations.
I think you'll find that it is time well spent.
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[ comments ]
Duke of Hazards says:
sounds good, and I'd love to be able to do that, but how does one go out and 'play just a few holes' without paying a full green fee, or dally around the greens for 15 minutes. maybe if you're a private member somewhere? a cheap 9 hole exec on an empty day is about the closest an average joe's gonna get to that, I would think.
2/8/13
 
Anti-Mulligan says:
I find that going to a par three course and paying for nine holes is the best way to accomplish what wedge guy is talking about. It does really work and you can got better from 100 yds and in quickly.
2/8/13
 
larrynjr says:
Most public courses also offer yearly membership fees that typically pay for themselves within 30-40 rounds of golf. With that you can sign in and if it's quiet work on shots around particular holes to your hearts content.
2/8/13
 
bobhooe says:
Let them eat cake
2/8/13
 
GolfSmith7 says:
Another way is to do "dawn patrol" I was the first one out solo on Monday and I got 5 holes ahead by hole 12. I could see people approaching hole 8 so I hit shots until they were on the green on hole 11. Never did they catch up but I got good practice time.
2/8/13
 
onedollarwed says:
Well,you definitely hit on an important aspect of practice. Imagine if there was no golf industry, but instead a sort of socialist body to support golf improvement - like Olympics programs in China, say.
New gear and misleading ads would be practically non-existent. Instead, 95% of the paradigm would be practice/workout/coaching (think Romanian gymnastics).
If we could only create this for ourselves, the progress would be astonishing (The Dan Plan). Most of us would lose interest w/o room and board, but there you have it.
In our "for profit" paradigm, "real practice" facilities don't really exist. I know of one place in my state where you can actually practice in a real sand bunker and green. It's a new "golf academy" trying to address these issues, but I don't think it can commercially survive. At the same time, I'm glad golf has been made accessible to the public.
2/8/13
 
onedollarwed says:
Personally I'll practice the 9 shot types at the range with almost every club. I try to hit only 3 balls with each club at a time. Straight, Draw, Cut. Any mishit I'll repeat.

Wedges are hit full to find range from different ball positions, and then at any and all available targets. The driver is for fun! I'll beat at those for a bit once I've gotten in a groove with straights, draws, and cuts. I still have a hard time getting a high draw with the driver. And I make sure I can hit "my drive" - a low-slight-push-draw at any time, and at a target area.
Also, settling on any knock-down wedges or 1/2 or 1/4 wedges is difficult. What I mean is, There aren't usually any good yardage markers under 100, and I haven't developed any formula for those shots. (like we've discussed so many times). So it's mostly eye and feel for non-full pitches.
2/8/13
 
GBogey says:
I only wish that I was in a groove after 5 shots with the same club, but generally this is very sound advice. Executive courses tend to be great for practicing short game.
2/8/13
 
Kurt the Knife says:
on the range i often pretend Im playing the front nine at a course whose lengths I can remember. Driver tee shot, 3-wood/hybrid/5-7iron layup, short iron/wedge, etc. Repeat
2/8/13
 
bogeyy says:
This will be my practice plan for the new season:
(15-30 min each)
Day 1
Chipping, “target chipping“ 15-40 meters
Pitching, 35 meters
Middle iron, basic swing technique
6-5-4-3-Hybrid fairway practice
Driver off the tee
Putting, play 18 holes
Day 2
Pitching, “Target pitching” 20-40 meters
Bunker play
SW-P-9-8-7 irons
Hybrid – Fairway woods
Driver off the tee
Putting, play 18 holes
Day 3
Chipping, 30 meters
Pitching, “Target pitching” 40-100 meters
Play the course (on the range)
Putting, play 18 holes
2/9/13
 
bogeyy says:
3 days a week that is ;-)
And I mean it!
2/9/13
 
Tim Horan says:
All my practice is done out on course. Even my lessons are out on course. I hate the range as I get bored after about ten balls. I have tried the nine square drill where you imagine a square with nine small squares within it and the high draw, mid draw and low draw down the right hand squares, high straight, mid straight and low straight down the middle and high fade, etc down the left side. You are supposed to start again if you fail at any of these. It may be a good drill for some but with an attention span of zippo...not for me. My coach says that I learn more out on course playing max of three balls at any one shot and then move on. It gets him out on course as well playing shots that I can learn from too.
2/13/13
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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