Golf Practice Routine: How to Play Golf Better and FasterPublished on 03/14/2023 · 12 min readIt's important to have a golf practice routine and goals when practicing. Doing this will help you to practice better, play better and shoot lower golf scores.
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Are Golf Lessons Worth It?
Golf can be a very difficult game to learn, especially if you’re new to the game and have never had any formal instruction from a PGA professional. Golf lessons can definitely be very valuable in helping you to become a better golfer. A PGA professional has passed a playing proficiency test, and in many cases has taken classes on how to teach the game golf. They are experienced in helping golfers to practice in a more efficient way by identifying opportunities for improvement and then teaching students how to practice effectively.
It is always best to schedule a series of lessons or join a small group that has multiple practice sessions over a short time period. This allows you to identify opportunities for improvement and then develop golf practice plans. It is also important to be able to practice one to two times between each lesson so that you have the opportunity to practice what the instructor is asking you to work on, so you can continue to develop and improve each lesson. Following your lesson, your instructor should be able to provide you with drills to incorporate during your practice sessions.
Finding an Instructor
Finding a good instructor may require talking to not only a few instructors but also talking to students of theirs to learn about the lesson experience from the student’s perspective. A good instructor should be able to provide you with references that you can contact, or you can read online reviews on the instructor.
A great way to “test” a potential golf instructor is to sign up for a clinic or small group lesson. This would allow you to experience their teaching style first hand, at a reduced rate, so you can see if this is someone that you might feel comfortable working with on your golf game.
What is a Good Golf Practice Routine?
Practice routines may vary depending on your goals for the session. The key factor in a good practice routine is to have a goal. Whether you’re working on the driving range, chipping and putting on the practice green, or practicing on the golf course, it is important to know what you want or need to work on.
To get the most out of your golf practice routine you will want to make sure that you warm up by stretching and taking several practice swings to begin to establish your rhythm and tempo. Once you feel that you are ready to start hitting some practice golf balls, you will then want to start with some half shots or short swings, and gradually build up the speed and tempo of your full swing.
It doesn't matter if you're a beginner, amateur, or a tour player, you will want to have a consistent warm-up routine before you start practicing the game of golf. You should also incorporate your warm-up routine prior to any tournaments that you decide to play.
Make a Practice Plan
When working on your full swing, you will want to practice more with a club that you are comfortable with. I would suggest a 9-iron, 8-iron, 7-iron, or 6-iron. These shorter to mid-length irons are typically easier to hit. Some things you will want to have a practice plan for are:
- Grip: You'll want to ensure that your hands are placed properly on the club, and your grip pressure is not too tight or too loose to the point where the club is moving in your hands during your swing.
- Alignment: It's always best to practice with an alignment aid, or simply another golf club. Watch any tour player at any tournament and you'll find them using alignment aids to ensure they are properly aligned to their target.
- Balance: To be able to effectively hit golf shots with accuracy and distance, it will be key to ensure that you are balanced throughout your swing.
- Swing Path: Your alignment aid can also help you know when you are swinging the club on the correct path on your backswing. Whether you're on the driving range, practice green, or at a tournament, it is important to incorporate this training aid into your practice routine.
As you are hitting golf balls on the driving range and focusing on these aspects of your golf swing, you will also want to analyze your shots in relation to your target. Is the ball flying too high, too low, drawing too much, fading too much? If you are not seeing the results you are hoping for, it will be important to check your grip, alignment, balance and swing path, and make adjustments as needed. Did five out of ten shots land on the target green or close to the target? For the next ten shots, did six shots land on or near the target? It is important to measure results each session so you know when you are improving.
While you may feel the need to want to work on driving the golf ball with your driver on the range, you'll find it easier to make necessary swing changes with shorter golf clubs, and then as you see improvement begin hitting the driver. Do this and I'm confident you'll start to drive it farther and straighter.
The quickest way to improve your golf scores is to commit at least 50% of your practice time to the practice green working on chipping, pitching, bunker shots, and most importantly putting.
There is no quicker way to lower scores than to go to the practice green and work on your putting. If you think about it, half of the par score for each hole is attributed to putting. On a par 3, you allotted one full-swing shot and two putts. On a par 4, you allotted two full-swing shots and two putts. And on a par 5 hole, you are allotted three full-swing shots and two putts.
A good putting practice routine to follow is to first work on your lag (or longer) putts to get a feel for the speed of the practice green. Once you have a feel for the practice green and have made a few long putts, you will then want to work on some shorter putts to develop a consistent putting stroke.
Around-the-Clock Putting Drill
- Start 3ft from the hole and try to make five putts in a row. Once you make five putts in a row move back to 4ft.
- Make five putts in a row from 4ft and then move back to 6ft.
- Once you've made 15 putts (5 putts from 3ft, 5 putts from 4ft, and 5 putts from 6ft) in a row, you'll want to move to another side of the hole.
- If you think of the hole as the face on a clock, if you start at 12:00 and make 15 putts in a row, now move to the 3:00 position and make 15 putts in a row, then move to the 6:00 position and make 15 putts in a row, and finally move to the 9:00 position and make 15 putts in a row.
If you can consistently make it around the clock, you will start to see your golf scores drop and your putter will become your favorite club in your bag—especially when you make more birdies and save more pars by making more putts.
Chip Shots, Pitch Shots, & Bunker Shots
As part of your short game practice routine, you'll want to work on your chipping and pitching of the golf ball. There are a couple of great ways to measure your chipping and pitching ability so that you can improve and lower your golf scores. One chipping (and pitching) drill that I'd recommend is to set up targets and see how many you can get into the targets. 1. Visualize where you want to land the ball so that it finishes close to the hole and try to make each chip shot land where you want it. You can also use a training aid, such as a circular target (created with tees or a string), and try to land the ball consistently in the best spot to get the golf ball close to the hole. 2. Create a 3ft circle around the hole (or even a 3ft and 6ft), and see how many balls you can get into the circle. You can create a circle with golf tees or even string that can be laid in a circle around the hole. Try and see how many balls you can get to come to rest within the 3ft circle, and/or 6ft circle. Once you get a majority (or all) of your golf balls within the larger target circle, move to another spot around the practice green, or move back and start practicing your pitch shots.
Setting up these targets can really help you to sharpen your short game and lower your golf scores. You will want to incorporate the same target practice with your bunker shots. Once you get into the bunker, pick out an area where you want the ball to land and then try and land it there and get your golf ball to stop within 3ft of the golf hole. Like your chipping and putting, you'll want to try and get a higher percentage of your practice shots within the 3ft and 6ft circle. If you can do that, the around-the-clock putting drill will help you to get the ball up and down more and you'll start to shoot lower golf scores.
Once you are comfortable with chipping and pitching with one club, try and use different clubs such as your 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge. Each shot will launch the ball differently. Your short irons will produce a lower launch with more roll, while your wedges will produce a higher launch with less roll.
Practicing on the Golf Course
During your practice rounds on the golf course, you'll want to work on a consistent pre-shot routine. You'll want to take a practice swing or two to get your rhythm and tempo for your golf shot. Once you've made a couple of practice swings, pick out a target in the distance, then pick out a shorter target (ideally a couple of feet in front of your golf ball, in line with your target in the distance) to help you with your alignment. You'll want to have a consistent pre-shot routine for each shot you play, and that starts on the first tee. Typically there are several people around the first tee watching you tee off and it's only normal to feel a little nervous. A consistent pre-shot routine helps you to relax and rip it right down the first fairway.
Most people associate a pre-shot routine with their full swing, but it is also important to have a consistent pre-shot routine when putting too!
How to Identify Weaknesses in Your Game & What to Practice?
To identify your weaknesses, and know what to practice during your golf practice routine, you will want to measure your performance on the golf course.
- How many fairways did you hit?
- How many greens did you hit in regulation?
- When you missed the putting green, were you able to get it up and down?
- How many of your chip shots, pitch shots, and bunker shots were within 3ft of the hole? How many were within 6ft of the hole? If you leave yourself with putts longer than 6ft, you may need to work on your short game.
- How many putts did you have? How many one putts? How many two putts? How many three putts?
- Did you miss any 3ft putts? How about 6ft putts?
Understanding how you play your round of golf helps you to identify your weaknesses and helps you to develop a golf practice routine to improve and lower your scores.
How Long do Tour Players Practice?
While the amount of time that tour players practice can vary, one thing is for sure that they all have a specific golf practice routine that they use to help them improve their weaknesses so that they can shoot lower golf scores and win. Tour players do not go out to the driving range to "bang balls" or go to the practice green to pass the time. They have a specific plan to ensure they get the most out of their practice time. This includes time on the golf course.
How Many Days (or Hours) should I Practice Each Week?
Each Monday you will want to take a few minutes to analyze your round(s) from the previous weekend and see how you performed. Once you know what you need to work on and have identified your weaknesses, you can establish a golf practice schedule. You don't have to be out there for hours, remember this is supposed to be fun (not work)! On Monday you may want to spend your time on the driving range. Wednesday you may want to spend an hour on the practice green. Friday afternoon you may be able to get in a nine-hole practice round before the weekend. Each is an opportunity to improve and provided that you have a plan, you can see a lot of improvement out of a short amount of time. As little as three to four hours a week of planned practice can lead to lower golf scores.
If you have any questions about creating a routine or finding the best clubs for your practice, reach out to me or another Golf expert for free, personalized advice and recommendations. I know that regular golf practice is going to get you far!