By David DeNunzio
Thursday, February 22, 2007

For the majority of America's golfers, winter represents a time of great loss. Courses begin to close as the weather turns cold, and even the most impervious players are obliged to take hiatus from the game. If you aren't lucky enough to live in or travel to a warm and playable winter climate, the months between November and April may seem bleak indeed. There is hope, however! GOLF MAGAZINE has created a 10-week Practice Plan that will help you reach top form by spring, and all you need is a range, two afternoons a week, some patience, and a passion for improvement.

Week 1: Putting

Day 1 - What To Do
Start from three-feet. Don't pick a putt with break-make sure to choose a flat surface, even if you don't have a real green to work with. The goal of this drill is to develop a rapport with your putter and acquire a feel for short putting. Use 3 balls, and make 21 putts in a row from three feet. Then, make 9 from 6 feet, 6 from 10 feet, 6 from 15 feet, and 3 from 20 feet. These putts do not have to be made consecutively. Repeat this drill 3 times. You'll be amazed at how much more easily the longer putts go in after beginning with the shorter ones. This is also a great putter warm-up before a round.

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Day 2 - What To Do

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Week 2: Chipping (Flops & bump-and-runs)

Day 1 - What To Do
Choose your favorite chipping club (LW, SW, PW) and choose a spot to chip from no less than 15 feet from the hole. Each chip that comes within 3 feet of the hole is worth one point and each that doesn't is minus one. Try to reach 10 points and then change your location and distance from the cup.

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Keep your left wrist from breaking down. Left-wrist breakdown increases the likelihood of a skull and tons of short game misery. On all chips, swing your hands and arms together with your club as a single unit. You can add some wrist hinge in the backswing to create more of a descending blow and add spin, but come impact, never ever let the club outpace the hands.

Day 2 - What To Do

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Week 3: Bunker Shots

Day 1 - What To Do
Use last week's chipping drill but from a greenside bunker. This week, you're allowed 5 feet of leeway instead of 3.

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To hit short, high bunker shots with minimal roll, widen and open up your stance. Press forward slightly and grip the club lightly. Take a half-swing, with a follow-through that's equal to your back swing. You should hit about an inch behind the ball, and keep the clubface open through impact and deep into your finish.

Day 2 - What To Do

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Week 4: Pitching (30-40 yards)

Day 1 - What To Do
Hit shots from 30 and 40 yards, and try to put five in a row within 8 feet of the hole from each distance.

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Pitch swings are short little motions designed for accuracy, not power. All it takes to pitch the ball close to your target is bring the club you've chosen down into the back of the golf ball with a squared face and on a path that follows your target line. So keep your lower body movement to a minumum. Excessive lower body action makes pitching a more challenging task than it has to be.

Day 2 - What To Do

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Week 5: 50-yard Shots

By the end of this week, you should have a good idea of your 50-yard club played uphill, downhill, upwind, and downwind. This shot should be a piece of cake.

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Commit to a full swing. The normal lob wedge distance is in the 75-yard range, so open the face a few degrees. Rotate your stance to the left until the leading edge of the clubface points at your target. The preferred ball position is just slightly back of center.

Week 6: 75-yard Shots

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You can avoid hitting the ball fat (a very common error from in-between distances) by perfecting ball position. Play your short-range shots with the ball centered between your ankles (not your toes) and accelerate through impact to a longer follow-through than your backswing length. These two fundamentals will keep you from struggling with this important part of your game.
Week 7: 100-yard Shots

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The key to a successful knockdown shot is a short arm swing combined with a full hinge of the wrists. Retain that hinge into the downswing so the hands lead the clubhead into impact-a must to keep the ball low. Make a one-piece turn through the ball, with your hands, arms, shoulders and hips rotating together at the same pace. Doing so keeps your club on plane. Complete the knockdown with a limited follow-through but a full release of the body.

Week 8: Mid-irons

Day 1 - What To Do

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As you approach impact catch your hands. In other words, return your hands to the position they held at address. Imagine a friend cupping your grip as set up to hit the ball. As you swing from the top, try placing your hands in the same hold. This seemingly innocent visual guarantees that your deliver the club into the hitting zone on the correct path.

Day 2 - What To Do

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Week 9: Long irons/Fairway Woods

Day 1 - What To Do
Try to hit three 5-irons in a row within 20 feet of each other. Once accomplished, move down to your 4-iron.

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Remember that the downswing starts with a transfer of weight from the trailing hip to the target-side hip. Note the word "transfer"-a switch in pressure. We didn't say "turn." That's the last thing you want as you move from backswing to downswing. When you turn before you transfer, you swing plane goes kaput.

Day 2 - What To Do

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Week 10: Driver

What To Do
Line yourself up with the 100-yard marker and try to hit it with a full swing. You'll find that you need to throttle back on your swing speed to accomplish this. Once you hit 5 balls within 10 yards of the target, continue hitting to the 150, 200, and 250-yard markers.

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Day 2 - What To Do

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