This competitive short-game drill is as fun as it is effective

Struggling with golf practice? GOLF Top 100 Teacher Ed Ibarguen shares an easy drill that requires just one ball and about 30 minutes

Most amateurs don't have the time for golf practice, but this one leaves you no excuses.

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Welcome to Play Smart, a regular game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

If you ask golfers how they prefer to practice, the majority of them will probably tell you it’s by playing a round, rather than beating balls at the range.

While this tactic can be effective, it also commonly leads to frustration when you don’t see the scores you want to — causing a practice round to be more of a wasted round without many positive takeaways.

Remember, the key to good golf practice is sharpening your strengths and working on your weaknesses. So if you continue to slice the ball off the tee during a round, you’re not doing yourself any good by just playing — because you’re not giving that part of your game the attention it needs.

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The most common hinderance to regular golf practice: finding time.

Most people don’t have hours to spend honing their skills at the range and on the practice green. Instead, we head right for the tee to squeeze in a quick 9 before the day ends. That’s fun, but it’s not practice.

Proper practice provides positive reinforcements — done efficiently.

To help with that, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Ed Ibarguen has a fun, easy and effective practice drill that every level of player can try. It takes about 30 minutes and will lead to better results the more you try it.

So take a look below to see what Ibarguen has to say, and see why you can love practice as much as you do playing a round!

This golf practice drill takes only 30 minutes

“Yes, you can improve your skills, have fun, and achieve lower scores without it feeling like work,” Ibarguen says. “Unfortunately, many amateurs either don’t know what they should be doing when they actually take the time for golf practice, or they just don’t want to put in the time for it.”

By using Ibarguen’s suggested practice drill, you’ll effectively add game-like experiences into your toolbox, fitting it within a timeframe that works for your lifestyle — all while having fun!

What you need: Just one golf ball, a short-game area (bunkers and rough preferred) with a smooth rolling putting green, seven clubs (I suggest 8-iron, 9-iron, pitching wedge, approach wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge and a putter), and a scorecard and pencil.

Time required: Less than 30 minutes for 9 holes.

The drill: Playing one ball, select a target hole, drop a ball anywhere off the green (including bunkers, rough, etc.), then select your club for the shot. Play the shot to the hole, and continue until the ball is holed.

Next, count your total strokes as if you would during a regular round, and record the score on an actual scorecard in accordance with your handicap range.

This game can either be played in a 9-hole or 18-hole increments (depending on time availability).

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Format for scoring varies by handicap level: Keep your score on your club’s scorecard based on the par of each hole on the card. Example for a “High Handicap” format: Hole No. 1 on your card is a par 4. You hit the off-green shot and two-putted; so you’ll write in your score of 4.

If the first hole on the card is a par 5, you will write a 5. If the first hole on the card is a par 3, you’ll write in a 3.

Higher-Handicap player: From an off-green position, total strokes equals par on each hole.
Mid-Handicap player: You will alternate between holes, where a total of three strokes on odd number holes equals par, and then two strokes on even numbered holes equals par.
Low-Handicap player: Three holes per side, with three shots equaling par, and six holes per side scoring as two shots equaling par.
PGA pro simulation level: All holes played will be two total strokes equaling par.

This is a great drill to test your limits, too, with Ibarguen saying players can adapt the scoring system as they start to see improvements.

“I recommend testing your short-game skill by starting with easy off-green shots in the easiest scoring format,” he says. “If you’re breaking par regularly, then move up a level of difficulty until you can achieve an even-par or under-par level.”

This drill is also good to focus on key areas of your game, such as bunker shots and chip shots from just off the green — like a check-and-release shot.

“You can either play 9 holes out of the bunker, or 9 holes working on finesse shots with your wedge,” Ibarguen says. “The sky’s the limit, and I promise you this game simulation is never boring. In fact, invite friends to play against you using this format — including scoring and perhaps a wager — to give your practice time even higher stakes.”

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Nick Dimengo Editor