It is no mystery that amateurs take the majority of their strokes from areas on and around the greens. PGA Tour commentators and conventional golf instruction have preached for decades that the most effective way to improve scores is by devoting more practice time to improving the short game. Statistically speaking, I could not refute this notion. I do refute it however, because statistics alone cannot effectively determine a proper practice schedule.
It is true that most amateurs could benefit a great deal from learning to execute the basic shots needed around the greens. What is also true but rarely discussed is the fact that amateurs hit on average fewer than 50% of greens in regulation - adding undue stress and pressure to their short games. Not only do amateurs hit very few greens, but their misses tend to end up in spots from where even many PGA Tour professionals would struggle to get up-and-down.
I am not advocating that players reduce the time they spend on their short games. I'm also not advocating that they reduce the time they spend on their golf swings either. What I advocate is based on the premise that golf is a cause-and-effect sport, and that practice schedules should be designed in a way that addresses the root cause(s) of high scores rather than raw data such as "putts per round" or "scrambling percentage".
For a large percentage of the golfing public, learning how to drive the ball better should dominate practice time because their errant drives leave them out of position. This directly hinders their ability to score well. For this reason, I cringe when club professionals complain about members who "spend too much time hitting drives and not enough time practicing their putting".
In order to lower your score quickly and dramatically, you must first take an inventory of your game, identify the area that typically causes the most damage to your score, and turn it into a strength. For you, the cause might be your approach shots that wind up too far away from the hole, increasing the chances of the dreaded three-putt or missed up-and-down. For others it may be the short game, which constantly fails them after their approach shots land on or near the greens. Whatever the cause is, I have laid out below several practice suggestions for you to employ to help turn your weakness into a strength. It is also helpful to have someone else observe your game to help identify weaknesses objectively. A missed 10-foot putt for par often causes many frustrated golfers to cite their putting as the root cause of why they lost a shot, when it reality it was a poor chip or pitch that left them with a difficult, low percentage putt.
Executing your pre-shot routine before each attempt, hit 10 drives to roughly a 20-yard wide fairway. Record the number of drives that successfully land within the boundary. This is your base number. You will then attempt to hit your base number in succession. For instance if your base number is 4, you will attempt to hit your fairway 4 straight times. Once you do so, you will be able to tee up 10 more balls and try to establish a new and improved base number. The ultimate goal is to be able to establish a base number of 10 - meaning you landed all ten drives in your fairway. You can only attempt to improve your base number by hitting your previous base number in succession. This drill can be very tiring as well as time-consuming due to the number of drives required to hit. I recommend recording your base number at the end of each practice so you are able to pick next time where you left off. For those who struggle with hitting fairways, understand that it may take a long time to finally hit a base number of 10. Stick with the drill and I guarantee it will improve your driving.
Weakness: Iron Play/Approach Shots
This is called the 9-Ball Drill. Select a target on your practice range that resembles the size of a putting green. The distance of the target will depend on whether your weaknesses typically derives from short, mid or long approach shots. Go through your pre-shot routine and attempt to hit the target using each of the 9 possible ball flights (Low fade, low straight, low draw, mid fade, mid straight, mid draw, high fade, high straight, high draw). It is important to go through your routine for each attempt. Record the number of attempts it takes you to successfully hit your target with each of the 9 ball flights. The goal is to complete the drill in 9 total shots.
Weakness: Short Game
I am a firm believer that effective short game practice mimics on-course scenarios. This is called the 10/20 Drill. All you will need is a single wedge, your putter, a golf ball and a practice green. Give yourself 10 different shots from off the green and attempt to get the ball up-and-down each time. The shots you choose should offer varying levels of difficulty. The goal of the drill is to take no more than 20 strokes to hole-out from 10 locations. If you fail to complete the drill, take note of the number of strokes you took and attempt to improve on that number.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reply in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps your game!