Golf is a hard game. That’s what makes it so all-absorbing, so infuriating, and such fun. The obvious point here, but one we all know to our cost: to get better, you need a practice program. So we’ve come up with the ultimate golf practice routine that will improve your mental game and physical skills when playing golf.
That means time, but we have noticed that a lot of us out there make a fundamental mistake. You hit away, ball after ball, with no clear plan, no target, and no strategy. You don’t improve much, and you get frustrated, so you stop practicing so much. It’s a vicious cycle.
We’ve done it ourselves, set aside a bit of time and hit a few balls without any definite plan, and get bored. It’s not the only mistake we have made. Here is a common one: you decide to put all your faults right and work on everything, and you don’t get better. So, you choose to ignore your weaknesses, and you don’t get better! Frustrating. If this is you, then read on.
Choosing your practice routine
There are lots of good practice routines out there, and it really depends on what you want to do and at what level you are. If you plan to play in tournaments, we would recommend the one-week practice routine to set you apart. It’s from Chris Smeal, Director of Instruction at Future Champions Golf Academy
We will give you here a routine for an enthusiastic amateur from beginner level upwards. It breaks down into the following sections:
- Using your time well
- Our half then half rule: Identifying your weaknesses and building your strengths.
- The ultimate golf practice routine
- Measuring your progress
Using your time well
An hour several times a week is better than a whole day once a month. Even better, practice every day If you can manage it.
On days you can’t get to the practice range, use our at-home shot routine for chipping and putting. Even putting on the carpet, you keep your golf memory active and your feel for the shots in the forefront of your mind.
On days you do get out, work through the following routines to make the most of your time.
Our half then half rule
Some practice routines will tell you to always concentrate on improving your weaknesses. We disagree with this for this reason. If you only focus on your weaknesses, you will not enjoy yourself, and that is not a good place to be if you want to learn. You will have a high failure rate, and that means your mind is going to be saying: “I’m useless, I’m no good, my buddy Jack is so much better, I’m going to make a fool of myself when I play with my boss.” You know what I mean, all that negative mental chatter. You don’t want this, so we advise a mix and match approach. Use our half then half rule. Here is how it works:
Start by making a timetable. 50 percent of your time spent improving your best shots and 50 percent of the time working on your weak points. With the 50 percent improving your best shots, spend 10 minutes on each.
Now identify the weaker areas of your game, divide them into:
- Not bad, but it needs improvement
- Bad, needs lots of work
- Useless, I hate this
Spend half your time on ‘not bad but needs improvement.’ half the remaining time on ‘bad, needs lots of work’ and the rest on ‘useless.’
For example, if you have an hour
- 30 minutes on not bad
- 15 minutes on bad
- 15 minutes on useless
This routine means your stronger areas are getting more attention and so are getting better faster. It’s great for your confidence and your enjoyment of the game. Over time ‘not bad’ will move into the area of your strengths, and ‘bad’ will become ‘not bad’ ‘useless’ will still be bad, but it will be better, and you won’t hate it so much!
The ultimate practice routine
Now let’s look at your shots.
Protect yourself against injury with a quick warm-up routine. This video from golf.com shows you how to do it in two minutes.
Stand straight, bend towards the ball from your hips, back, flat arms aligned, then take a shot (also practice this at home in front of a mirror. Get your set up right, and you will make more good shots.)
Don’t worry about speed. In practice, it is about finding the sweet spot and consistently hitting it. Start by deliberately hit balls slowly a few times to get used to the slower pace.
Draw a big dot on a ball with a marker pen. Hit the ball a few times, taking the club halfway back, no further. Examine the ball; you will see where your club is making contact with the ball. If you are too near the club’s toe, adjust your stance, swing slightly further away from your body. Reassess and adjust until you get it right.
Once you are happy, increase your backswing gradually. If you go off-center again, slow down and go back a step. Don’t rush; improvement takes time. This video from Hank Haney shows you a structured step-by-step way to get hit that sweet spot.
Short game – putting and chipping
Try these exercises to improve your putts.
Putt with one hand only.
This will improve your hand-eye coordination and help your control of the putter-head.
Put a coin on the ground and putt at four feet off of that. Here is the trick, keep your eye on the coin as you make the putt. It will improve your body line.
Keep your hands in a position that feels comfortable and natural to you. Then grip harder while keeping your arms relaxed. For the next shot, loosen your grip slightly. Continue until you find the tightness of grip which delivers the most success for you. (Also, varying your grip will help you when it comes to chipping, chipping out of a bad lie will require a firmer grip).
Set up tees at 10, 20, 30 yards with your favorite club. Hit three balls aimed at each. Note how well you are doing and repeat. You can pile on the pressure by setting yourself a target of reaching the tee 10 shots in a row, then 20 shots, then 30. Not only will you be getting in great practice you will also be learning to deal with pressure. And if you can deal with pressure you will have a real edge in the game.
Practice at different distances and set some targets to keep it interesting. Start with a variety of routine like this;
- 10 chips at 10 feet
- 15 chips at 30 feet
- 20 chips at 40 feet
- 20 chips at 10 feet
- 15 chips at 30 feet
- 10 chips at 40 feet
(The change will keep your mind engaged and your focus strong)
As you are working through your practice, keep a score of how many shots you get within 3 feet of the target. Then repeat the routine, trying to beat your score.
The ultimate golf practice routine – Use all your clubs
It’s a common mistake to practice with just one or two clubs. This means you are leaving weaknesses in your game that do not need to be there. Use this simple routine:
Like the best tour players, get to know your course, get to know the clubs you would use for each hole. Practice with those clubs in that order. Obviously, you will not do a whole course in one practice session, but you will get through it quicker than you think. This will give you a much better feel for what each club does, how you handle it, that tricky long bunker shot and where you need to be paying attention to how you use each club.
Taking some time to practice both your long game and short game will give you the best shot of improving fast.