Featured Tip: Q&A: Short Game Practice

For simplicity, all advice on actual swings or drills is provided from a right handed perspective.

Q: Hi Tom,

A quick question for you….

Last year I finished with my best ever handicap of 11.7.

My lifelong golf goal has been to get to single digits.

I now think the best way for me to pickup those final 2 strokes is to work more diligently on my short game (which I’ve never spent much time on).

So I’d like to try and spend 75% of my practice time this year on the short game and see what that does for me. My question is: do you have a short game practice routine that you would recommend?

I’d like something with some structure to ensure I’m “practicing with a purpose” .

Here’s a couple of heavy duty routines I pulled from the internet. I don’t think I would have the time to get through either of these in one session. But I could certainly work my way through them over a few practice sessions. (Eric listed a couple of what I would call standard practice routines – blocked practice sessions.

I thought I’d start by taking the Dave Peltz short game test to establish a baseline short game score and then retake a few times over the summer to measure my progress.

Being a one time college golf coach – I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this.



A: Thanks for the question Eric, that’s a lot to answer. I’ll do my best to get you pointed in the right direction then hopefully you’ll be able to structure your own practice sessions after I explain a few things to you.

I’ll take the last question first – I have read most – if not all – of Dave Pelz’s books, I’m a fan.

Having said that, I’m not sure you need to spend time on the test. If you practice like you should, and if you track your stats when you play, your score and your “up and down” and “greens in regulation” stats will provide the basis for measuring your progress and determining what you need to work on.

I’d rather see you spend your time playing than taking the test. Playing more is going to help you get to single digits faster.

I have a feel for the way you approach things, and I don’t want you to over think the process and spend time on things that might be better spent elsewhere.

There’s really no reason why you can’t be a single digit player if you can play two or three times per week and practice efficiently. I take that back – since I believe that you have really learned your own full swing method well, you may not need to play two or three times per week to get into the single digits, but to get into the low single digits it takes play and practice.

The best book about practice that I’ve used over the years and refer to frequently is: “The Practice Manual” by Adam Young. Get the book and read it, you’ll find it to be enlightening.

I looked over the two links you included in your email, and they look like good practice routines, but what I see as a weakness in the practice routines you mentioned was that they both use blocked practice as a premise for their routines.

You own your swing, so blocked practice is not the most efficient way for you to practice.

Blocked (or block) practice is when a player performs a single skill over and over, with repetition being the key. Variance is minimized. An example would be a ten swing practice session hitting only your 8 iron with the same swing pattern.

Random practice is just the opposite. Variance is necessary and is optimized by hitting a different club for each shot, executing different swings with the same club, or executing a different length swing with the same club. An example would be a ten swing practice session hitting ten different clubs.

Psychologists discovered (decades ago actually) that random practice is significantly better at leading to long-term skill retention and application than blocked practice.

I am constantly amazed at how many good players don’t know this.

The bottom line is this: if you own your swing, utilize random practice. If you are not swinging the club consistently, use blocked practice until you can, then switch to random practice.

For players that don’t have their swing method ingrained as much as it needs to be, I would use repetitive drills that usually exaggerate the cure for their swing weaknesses.

The absolute best way to learn and practice scoring club swings is to master a full swing length and a 3/4 swing length for four scoring clubs and to learn to repeat these swing lengths with consistent pace (speed and power).

Then practice these swings with actual ball strikes on a simulator to get the precise carry results so that you can chart your results for each swing length with each scoring club.

That way you will learn your repeatable distances for each of your scoring club swings.

You will need a partner or an instructor with you when you use this particular method. They will give you immediate feedback on your backswing length for each practice swing and each real swing. A mirror or video camera will not be as precise nor will the feedback be received as impactfully.

So in answer to your question, the first thing you need mastery over is your swing circle and your swing lengths for scoring clubs.

Then you should structure your practice sessions around pure ball striking practice first, starting with wedges and moving up to your 7 iron.

If your ball striking is sub par, then I would include some blocked practice swings – hitting one club for several swings before moving to the next club.

If your ball striking is satisfactory, then I would use a random practice method of full and partial swings with all of your scoring clubs, never hitting the same club or using the same swing length twice in a row. Actually you could hit the same club twice or more in a row as long as you are trying to change the curvature or flight of the ball differently with each swing.

I would pay more attention to the distances that the swings make the ball fly than trying to hit a particular target, although your directional control and curvature should match your intention on every swing.

For putting, simply practice the way I demonstrated in the SquareStrike™ Training Aid video that I gave you access to. It utilizes blocked practice drills to really help you own every aspect of your putting stroke.

After you’ve mastered all of the putting drills, go to a practice green and use random practice to work the stroke skills you’ve learned into your game. Take one ball and putt to one hole, hole out, then putt to a different length hole and hole out. Do this for about thirty minutes.

I hope this helps, and thanks for the question – I’m using it in this weeks newsletter!



Tom’s Bonus Tip: The Golfer Who Wins ….

The golfer who wins always putts well.

Let that thought sink into your brain.

Put in some putting practice time and your own win rate will improve.


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