All golf practice is not created equal.
Sometimes you can go to the course and improve more in a 20-minute focused session than an hour mindlessly hitting balls on the practice tee.
To get the most out of your practice sessions, you want to make sure you are spending enough time on your weaknesses as well. While it’s always fun to practice your strengths, it’s vital to spend time on the areas that are holding you back from shooting lower scores.
You can do this a few different ways. I like to think of practice into these categories; block, routine, on course, and competitive practice.
Block practice is where you spend a block of time doing drills to improve your swing fundamentals. Routine practice is all about mastering your routine on the practice facility so it feels natural on the course. On-course sessions are all about going through the full routine in a friendly environment. Finally, the last category is all about simulating competitive environments on the practice facility or short game area.
In this post, I want to focus on your block sessions and a few on-course ideas so that you can spend your time doing effective golf practice drills. No more mindlessly hitting a jumbo bucket of golf balls.
Here are some of the best golf practice routines to help you sharpen your skills . Also, don’t forget to remember to use these strategies for better golf practice as well.
12 Driving Range Drills
Use these methods so you have a driving range practice plan anytime you can make it out to the course.
1. The 9-Shot Drill
If you’re looking to improve your ball striking and spend your range time effectively, this is one of the best golf swing drills around. This drill comes from the G.O.A.T himself, Tiger Woods. In his 2001 book, How I Play Golf, he talks about how much he loves doing this drill. Here’s how to get started:
- After a proper warm up, grab a six or seven iron at the range. These clubs are best as you can easily work them in any different direction.
- Then, try to play nine different shots. You can start in any order you want but here is a breakdown of the nine different shots.
- Straight (High, low, and normal flight)
- Fade (High, low, and normal flight)
- Draw (High, low, and normal flight)
This golf drill is so much harder than it seems. Pretty quickly, you will begin to notice where you struggle the most. Try to play all nine in a row and while it’s unlikely, make sure to keep score out of nine.
As you do these driving range tips more over time, focus on the shape that is giving you the most trouble. If you really want to be an overachiever, try this drill with a three wood or driver to improve your fairway performance.
2. Find the Fairway
One of the reasons that golfers can spend so much time on the range and get worse is that they have no clear aiming point. If you go to any range,it’s pretty easy to notice that few golfers are there with a clear purpose. But if you’re reading this post, I know you are different than most golfers.
To actively improve during your sessions, use this exercise to find more fairways. Here’s how you can get started:
- After a complete warm up, grab the three clubs you tee off with most (i.e. a driver, 3-wood, and hybrid)
- Then, create an imaginary fairway on the range roughly 20 yards wide. You could choose two trees, a flagstick, and a tree, two posts, etc.
- If you’re more advanced, imagine a smaller, more narrow fairway. Get specific and imagine that water or a hazard is on one side to increase difficulty.
- Then, strike 10 balls with this scoring method. If you use a hybrid or long iron and find the fairway, you get one point; a fairway wood equals two points and three points if you find it with a driver. If you’re imagining a hazard, you get -1 point if you find water.
This drill will help you improve your accuracy off the tee so that you can find more fairways and give yourself easier approaches to the green. Plus, it’s a fun way to make practice more competitive with your buddies as well.
3. Clock Drill
If you want to shoot lower scores, one of the best things you can do is work on your wedges. Whether you’re a golfer who shoots 100+ or someone who wants to finally break 80 for the first time, becoming a wedge wizard will help. If you can play different types of wedges, you can save more pars and give yourself more birdie opportunities.
To get started:
- Grab all three or four of your wedges
- Starting with your lob wedge, play three different types of swings (half swing, 3/4 swing, and full swing)
- Log in your phone how far each one travels and then try to do it again with the same club
- To play shorter shots, choke up on the club, take a shorter swing (imagine the position on a clock), and have a shorter follow-through
- Then, do the same method with your sand, gap, and pitching wedge
- ***If you have access to a longer short game area, practice from 50-120 yards. Play 5-10 balls at each target and reward yourself two points inside 10 feet and one point from 10-30 feet. Try to beat your own score!
If you can take off yardages from each wedge, you will almost never have a distance you don’t like. Remember, golf is all about distance control. Plus, it will make playing in the wind so much easier as you can hit a 1/2 or 3/4 that will stay low and out of the wind. Keep working on your wedges until you know how to easily take off 5-20 yards with each club and I promise your scores will improve.
4. Water Bottle
It’s not a surprise that the majority of amateur players slice the golf ball. A slice occurs when you cut across the ball at impact creating an over the top, left to right swing path.
To offset this, try out the water bottle drill as it will help you quit slicing it fast! This one is so simple yet so effective.
- After warming up, grab an empty water bottle (or headcover) and a 7-iron
- Place the water bottle just in front of your front foot (it should be about 9-12 inches in front of the your stance and to the left)
- Then, swing your club at about 75% speed. If you’re constantly slicing the ball, there’s a good chance you’ll make contact with the water bottle as you’re coming over the top.
- To course correct, swing out more on the downswing to avoid the bottle or headcover.
Keep practicing until you miss the bottle and are coming from the inside on your downswing. This drill will help you create a better path so you can end the dreaded slice.
5. Worst Ball Game
Let me start by saying this is one of Tiger’s favorite drills so you know if it works for him, it’s worthy of your time. To complete this exercise, you will need access to a golf course without a group right behind you as it will take some time. This is more of a mid-week afternoon round than a busy weekend tee time with the boys.
The reason this drill takes so much time is that you hit two golf balls during all 9 holes.
Here’s how it works:
- On the first tee, hit two balls with the same club
- Once you find both of them, identify the worst ball and pick up the other
- At the worst shot, drop the other ball and play two shots
- Hit both and identify the worst one again
- Repeat this process until the hole is completed
Personally, I love this drill for a few reasons. First off, it makes you stay engaged during each swing as you normally have to think more about the challenging ones.
Second, if you hit a good first shot, it makes you focus on the next one so you can have an easier time on the next one. Plus, if you can score well with your worst shots, imagine your performance when you get to play the best one!
6. General Body Alignment
I’m sure you’ve seen people using alignment sticks to check their body alignment before. It’s become a very popular, and simple, way of getting your set-up correct every time. The problem for most people is that they just set-it and forget it.
- Get yourself at least two alignment sticks, but three would be best.
- Then, lay one down your feet line and the other parallel to that outside your golf ball.
- Once you’ve set your alignment sticks, take a step back from your golf ball and look at them down-the-line. Make sure they are parallel and the golf ball line is pointed at your target.
- As you hit your shots, check your set-up before every shot you take.
If you get a third alignment stick, have a friend hold it down your forearms, hips, and shoulders for a second before you swing. These lines should also be parallel to the other two on the ground. These alignment sticks will help improve the consistency of your golf swing, because you’ll do it the same every time and you won’t have different body parts working against each other.
7. Secondary Target
Aiming a golf shot is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most people. It’s not the most intuitive process, but can be made incredibly simple. I always encourage people to pick a secondary target for every shot they hit. A secondary target is something that’s in line with your target, but a lot closer to your golf ball. This makes it a lot easier to get yourself aimed properly.
The problem is, sometimes on the golf course it can be difficult to find a clear secondary target. A lot of times I select a piece of grass, or a leave, or a clump of dirt. On occasion, there is an object that rests perfectly in line and is big enough to easily find, but that’s rare. So, on the driving range, create your own secondary target.
- Take a towel, hat, glove, golf ball, whatever, and set it a couple feet in front of your golf ball.
- Then, stand back before each shot and line yourself up.
Making this secondary target bigger makes the process easier to practice and get consistent. It also makes it easily flow with your pre-shot routine.
8. Glove Under Arm Drill
Swinging outside-in and hitting a slice is one of the most common swing flaws. The water bottle drill is a great one to fix that, but so is the glove under arm drill. Try both of these together to correct a slice problem.
To do this drill:
- Take an extra glove and put it under your back armpit (right for a right-handed player).
- Then, hit golf balls like normal, trying not to let the glove fall to the ground.
- This will keep your arms close to your body and not allow you to come over the top.
- If the glove drops before impact, then you know that your arms came too far out away from your body.
One thing to keep in mind with this drill is that it’s ok if the glove drops after impact. Your arms should extend through impact, so that’s when the glove might drop. The issue is if your bicep gets too far away from the side of your body before hitting the ball.
9. Take Out the Tee Impact Drill
This is probably my favorite drill of all because it helps to create a good impact position. A solid impact position is the most important part of the golf swing because that’s the only moment where the ball actually comes into contact with the club. You can do a lot of things weird in the golf swing, but if you get the club to a good impact position, you’ll hit a good shot.
- For this drill, only with your irons, push a tee all the way into the ground about half an inch in front of your golf ball.
- Then, hit some shots with your goal to be to break the tee.
This will force your body to swing down and through the golf ball. A successful shot will look like a divot that starts where the ball was, or a little after, and breaks the tee that was pushed fairly low into the ground.
If you are scooping or lifting the golf ball in the air, you’ll notice that your divot starts before the golf ball and the tee is not broken. You can add another layer to this drill by putting a tee directly outside the ball too. This marks the position of the golf ball, so that you can check it after you hit. Again, the divot with your irons should start after the ball and continue into the ground several inches after that.
10. Listen to Music
A lot of people wear headphones or earbuds while they hit on the driving range, but few think about what the songs are doing to their practice session. Typically, we just put on songs that we like. Some may be slow, others may be fast, some loud, others soft. Few people think about how music actually impacts our actions as we listen. At the same time, tempo in the golf swing is something we all need to consider. Swing too fast and you might hook or slice it too far off line.
The ideal swing tempo equals about 100 beats per minute. Consider makes a playlist of songs that you enjoy that are around 100bpm. Then, listen to those songs while hitting your shots. Let the pace of the music dictate on fast you move through your drills, pre-shot routine, and swing. Not only will this help with consistency, allow you to relax and focus on something else, but it will also help promote a healthy swing tempo.
11. Record Club Distances
The driving range also provides an opportunity to dial in your full-swing distances. Most amateur golfers don’t know exactly how far they hit each club. They might know approximately what they hit them, but not exactly. A driving range is flat and has yardage markers that can help you figure this out better than on a golf course. You might have two 150 yard shots in a round of golf, but we forget that one was straight uphill and the other wasn’t. So, figuring out how far we truly hit a shot is not easy to do on a golf course.
It’s true though, that driving range golf balls won’t fly as far as your normal golf ball. That’s ok. As long as you record your distances and then test them on the golf course, you’ll still get a better feel for what you hit. To do this drill, hit 10 shots with every club in your bag. That’s only 130 shots for a full bag. Use a laser to measure exactly how far you hit each shot. You can even make notes on how well you hit it too. Then, figure out your average of the ten shots you hit. Take this to the golf course and see your club selection process improve dramatically.
One way to make this drill even better? Practice with a personal launch monitor.
12. Upside Down Club Drill
For this final drill, all you need is a golf club:
- Simply turn the club over and hold it by the head.
- Then take some golf swings like you normally would.
- Listen for the “whoosh” each time you take a swing.
- Try to identify where the sound is coming from.
If the club is before impact, you might be “casting” the club. This means that you are releasing your wrist hinge too early and losing power on your shots. The longer you can hold off the “whoosh” the better your impact and distance will be when you turn the club back over.
5 Short Game Practice Drills
While the full swing sessions can become tedious, short game sessions should be a little bit more enjoyable. You get to use your imagination a lot more and can get your creative juices flowing. And if you don’t think you need to practice the short ones very much, remember that Tiger and Phil learned the game from the green, back to the tee.
In my opinion, amateur golfers can’t spend enough time on anything less than 100 yards! If you really want to improve your rounds, spend at least 50% of your practice time on the practice green.
1. Up and Down
Isn’t it a rewarding feeling when you hit a poor tee shot and a bad approach but end up saving par because of a solid up and down? To me, saving pars after a few ugly shots builds more momentum than making birdies. Not to mention, it’s disheartening to competitors who did play well but make the same score.
While there are a lot of golf chipping drills, the up and down game is one of my favorites. Instead of chipping without any goals, use this drill to simulate on course conditions.
To get started:
- Grab one ball, your lob or sand wedge, and putter
- Drop your golf ball around the green and go through your entire pitching routine
- Once you hit, go through your entire putting routine until it’s in the hole
- Do this 9 or 18 times. The perfect score is either 18 or 36
- Log your results in a note app so you can try to beat your personal best as you continue to improve
I love this drill as it will help you with your routine, all kinds of pitches, and get much better holing out 3-7 footers. This is also a great drill to do with a buddy and bet for some cold beverages.
2. Play It Where It Lies
As you probably know by now, you rarely get perfect lies when you miss your approach. It’s important to simulate these conditions in practice so that you are more prepared when it happens during the round.
To have fun with this drill, find a facility that has a lot of potentially tough shots with different types of lies. Try to find one that has a lot of rough, sand, and slope if possible.
Then, take a lob or sand wedge and challenge yourself with five golf balls and throw them all around the practice green. This will make sure they plug, sit down, and don’t end up with a perfect lie.
Challenge yourself to see how many points you can score:
- Hole out = 3 points
- Zero to three feet = 2 points
- Three to six feet = 1 point
- Outside of six feet = 0 points
3. One Ball
To help you simulate playing conditions, I suggest trying out the one ball drill. This one is pretty simple but will help you with finding the right line, routine, and shots gained putting.
The concept is simple; you get one shot on the course, so why not practice the same way? To get started:
- Grab your putter, ball marker, and one golf ball
- Find a hole and distance from 3-50 feet and go through your full routine until the golf ball is in the hole
- If you miss, make sure you mark and do your breathing and entire putting routine
- Putt from all different distances as if you’re playing a full 18 holes
The goal is to go the entire 18 holes without a three-putt. This will help you make less double bogeys and build confidence in your stroke and routine.
4. Towel Drill
To have a great hands around the greens, you need to have a good imagination. More specifically, you need to learn where to land the shot to get the right roll out so you have a short putt. To do that, you need to master your distances with chip shots so that you pick a spot when you’re on the course.
This golf drill is super simple but will help you learn how to pick the right spot on the greens. To get started:
- Grab your favorite wedge and find enough room and isn’t extremely difficult
- Then, place a small hand towel where you think the ball needs to land
- Swing 5-10 balls at your target. Try to score at least 70% or more landing on the towel
- As you get better, use a smaller towel and make the approach more difficult
5. The Phil Mickelson
Before each tournament Phil Mickelson makes himself hole out 100 three footers in a row! While I’m not asking you to do that, I would encourage you to do the same drill but reduce the number of putts.
While it seems super simple, it’s very effective in helping you become steady on short knee knocker putts. Find an empty cup on the putting green and make 20-50 three footers (depending on your skill level). To make it more challenging, add in putts with a little bit of break and ones that are downhill.
To make it even more challenging, use a progressive system. For example, if you make 20 three footers, go back to four feet and force yourself to make 10 in a row. If you do that, go back to five feet and challenge yourself to make 5-10 in a row. The better you get at short distances, the more confident you will feel when you need to scramble to save par on the golf course.
As you can tell, there is no shortage of amazing golf practice drills to increase your performance in all areas. Doing a few of these drills every time you go to the golf course will help you improve your performance greatly.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, think back to your last few rounds. What was the weakest part of your rounds currently? Were you spraying drivers, skulling chips, or missing three footers?
Once you identify one of the weaker parts, use some of these golf drills to help you shoot lower scores. Every few weeks, make sure that you are adjusting drills to keep working on your weaknesses. Plus, mixing it up will help you stay focused during each session.