Instead of crunching numbers this month, I'd like to discuss shooting lower numbers. Blindly beating balls on the range or hitting the same putt over and over on the practice green probably isn't the best way to improve. To make practice purposeful and fun, create a competition for yourself or for you and your golf buddies.
My favorite putting game helps improve short-putt performance (the biggest difference-maker on the greens) and encourages the good habit of getting the ball to the hole.
Take a ball and play to 10 different locations on the practice green. Vary the distance, placing the ball between four and six feet from each hole, and create an alternating mix of downhill, sidehill and uphill putts. Tally your score as follows:
• Add two points for each one-putt.
• Two-putts in which the first putt reaches or rolls past the hole earn zero points.
• Subtract one point for each two-putt in which the first putt doesn't reach the hole.
• Subtract three points for each three-putt or worse.
After 10 rolls, compare your total to those of the pros and weekend golfers. On the course, with these same parameters, the best Tour putters average 16 points; typical Tour putters, 15 points; and poor Tour putters, 14 points. Golfers who shoot around 80 average 12 points in the game; 90-shooters, 10 points; 100-shooters, eight points. Play against your friends or by yourself, and track your progress. Over time, your short-range putting will definitely improve.
Here's a fun way to practice your wedge game:
From off the green, play 15 shots: five from the fairway, five from the rough and five from the sand. Each should be between 15 and 25 yards from the hole, with the lie, angle and shot difficulty varied.
• Add five points for each hole-out.
• Add two points for each ball hit within six feet of the cup.
• Add one point for each ball that lands within six to 12 feet of the pin.
• Balls outside 12 feet but on the green earn zero points.
• Subtract one point for each ball that misses the green.
After 15 pitches, compare your total. On the course, the best Tour pros average 19 points; typical Tour pros, 16 points; and poor Tour pros, 14 points. Among weekend warriors, 80-shooters average nine points; 90-shooters, six points; and 100-shooters, three points.
Using games like these, the likes of Jordan Spieth, Luke Donald and Brendon Todd practice with a purpose and pleasure. Shouldn't you?