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Garden Plowing Or, How to best use your time on the Practice Tee

Garden Plowing Or, How to best use your time on the Practice Tee

For my many readers, which should number in the teens by now, thank you by the way; you may have surmised that I like to spend time at the driving range.  I’m a range rat.  Back in my teaching days at Brookview I probably used to hit up to 300 balls a day, spend countless hours on the putting green, create games in the bunker, and practice all kinds of shots from different lies and ball positions.  I used to be pretty good.

Not so much these days.  A desk job, declining physical skills, and the mental toughness of tissue paper has made my game a shadow of its former glory.  That does not mean I don’t relish my time on the range.  And I still can’t help myself watching the golfers around me.  You should do it as well.  Golf is a friendly game (or it’s supposed to be).  Smile, say hello, relax, and casually walk over to your hitting station.  But from watching the golfers, what is the first club the vast majority of players pull from their bag?  C’mon, you know the answer.  It’s the driver, isn’t it?  As cool as it is these days to watch the younger PGA players on TV and how far they hit it, they are not good role models for most golfers.  Everyone wants to hit it a mile.  Everyone wants to brag to their friends that they are in the “300 Yard Drive Plus” club.  They tend to leave out the fact that they hit ONE drive over three hundred and the other thirteen are scattered throughout the golf course and sacred offerings to the tree gods, water nymphs, and Joe Schlep who picks up all balls when they land in HIS fairway.

Anyway, remember folks, you only use the driver maybe fourteen times in a typical 18-hole round.  What’s the saying, “Drive for show, putt for dough”?  Words to live by.  I know, practicing putting is boring compared to launching a ball through the air.  But face the facts; from 100 yards in you will use almost 65-70 percent of your total shots.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s do the math.

The better than average golfer is around a 13-handicap, so his/her average score is around 85 for a par 72 golf course.  On a typical day, the player will hit fourteen drives and four tee shots into the par 3 holes.  There will be around 18 second shots into the holes and another shot each for the typical four par 5 holes.  Many of these second shots will be within 100 yards.  Then there are the third or fourth shots because the golfer did not hit the green in regulation and must pitch or chip.  Now the golfer is finally on the green.  It would be fair to say that a good putting day would be around 33 putts for 18 holes.  33 putts + 12 chips or pitches from around the green + 10 shots within 100 yards + 16 second and third shots over 100 yards + 14 drives = 85.  But 55 shots came from 100 yards or closer.  55 divided by 85 is just under 65%.

So what am I saying?  Start your range time on the putting green.  You should be practicing from the hole back to the tee.  If you only have 45 minutes to an hour for your range time, then well over half that time should be putting, chipping, and pitching.  Gaining confidence in these three areas of your golf game will drop shots faster than any training aid or DVD can offer.   The range you frequent does not have a putting green nearby?  Then start with your wedges.  Take loose and relaxed swings to help stretch your arms and body.  Again, if you start by taking full hard swings with the driver you’ll likely end up pulling something and then you’re in therapy (physical, but I know some that are in mental).  Use the targets.  Spend a few bucks and get a couple of fiberglass sticks and use them as alignment aids.  Work your way up the bag.  Move from the wedges and into the mid irons.  With the 7 and 8-iron you’re typically talking about shots around the 150 yard range.  These are our money clubs.  They are the difference between being on the green in regulation and having to chip/pitch to the hole (one extra shot per hole adds up quickly).

Now move to the longer irons and hybrids.  Your first instinct is that with longer clubs you should swing harder.  There is no need.  Your wedge swing and speed should be the same as your 5-iron swing.  The length and loft of the club will do all the work for you.  Allow me to recommend a book for you:   Tour Tempo by John Novosel.  I review this book at a later time, but this should be in every golfer’s library with fringed ears on the pages.

Finally, you move to the fairway woods and then to the driver.  Think about it;  you’ve been hitting balls for a while now.  You’re now better prepared and warmed up to make better swings.  Practice various lengths of how high to tee the ball and note the ball flight.  Is the flight too high with no carry, tee the ball lower.  Not getting enough height, tee it a little higher.  Many drivers on the market today tend to have the sweet spot now just a little above the center of the club face.

If you’re a range rat like me, you can vary your practice time by starting with the wedge and skipping an iron until you reach the driver, then work your way back down using the irons you skipped.  Another way to vary the routine is to play 18 holes on the range.  Once you’ve warmed up and hit some shots, tee off with the driver.  Now play your second shot to a target.  Missed the target?  Hit a little chip or pitch shot to a ball a few yards ahead of you.  Now play the next hole.  And so on.  Last but certainly not least, once you’re done with your range time, make sure to stretch again.  Don’t let your body tighten up.  Drink plenty of water.  Save the beer for when you get home.

Anyone know any range games or practice tips they like to use?  I would like to hear about it.

*** For FREE GOLF LESSONS w/ purchase or information on where to get lessons for all skill levels, visit

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