Golf Improvement Checklist (12 Month Practice Method)

Every year marks a fresh start on your golf journey. When the calendar flips over from December to January, I like to have goals set for the new golf season for what I want to improve on and accomplish.

Even if it’s not January when you’re reading this, you can take the same approach by creating your own 12 month golf improvement plan.

List out the months 1 to 12 and setup goals for each month so by the end of the 12 months, you’ll have several new things you’ve accomplished.

Alright, let’s dive into my checklist for things I want to focus on in a new golf season to improve my skills and lower my golf scores

Month 1: Build the Fundamentals

The first 4 weeks of the improvement plan should focus on building fundamental golf skills.

These include:

  • Making a straight putting stroke
  • Proper setup for chip shots
  • Having a pre-shot routine for Tee Shots
  • Perfecting the grip for both golf swings and putts

Getting back to the basics can help lay a solid foundation and get your year started on the right foot as a golfer.

Month 2: Work on the Swing Faults

Analyze your golf game and determine what problems you’re facing in your golf swing.

Then research possible causes and the drills you need to be doing to cure these golf swing problems.

For example, if I start the year off with a slice I’ll want to track how frequently it is occurring and how severe of a slice my golf swing has.

If I notice my shots are starting on a straight line then slicing further off-line, this tells me I have a clubface problem. My path is starting the ball straight, but the face is open creating slice spin that sends it slicing off-line.

I’ll jump on YouTube and watch how to fix a slice videos to learn some drills, then head to the driving range for practice.

You may have multiple golf swing faults and that’s okay. Take them one at a time though. Don’t try to make too many swing changes at once. Focus on correctly one thing at a time.

Month 3: Tune Up the Short Putts

Another focus area that will save strokes and lower golf scores for many golfers, is learning how to make short putts more consistently.

This comes by practicing to increase skill as well as working on mental training to not feel pressure when facing short putts.

You can sink 100/100 putts during practice but if the mental side of your game is lacking, you’ll miss out on the course during a live round.

In our golf practice program, we give students several challenging golf drills designed at building mental toughness. We call them pressure golf drills.

Start with 2 footers and get good at making 99 out of 100 or better.

Then work on 3 foot putts, 4 foot putts, and 5 foot putts. By the end of the month you should see your stats improve. Test yourself out of 100 putts from various breaks (right to left, uphill, downhill, left to right) around the hole.

Track data and see if you’ve improved at months end.

Month 4: Become a Skilled Chipper

Get really good at chipping inside of 5 feet so you can rely on your short putting skills you developed in the previous month.

To practice chipping, find space around a practice green and spend a few hours each week hitting high repetitions of chip shots to various holes around the practice green.

You’ll start to build feel for how hard to hit chip shots to various holes.

Test yourself by doing 50 chips to a short hole (within 20 feet of you) as well as a medium hole (20-40 feet away) and a far hole (50+ feet away).

See how many out of 50 you get within 5 feet and track this percentage to compare with in the future when you re-test again.

Work on bump and runs, flop shots, and test different clubs like pitching wedges, 9 irons, in addition to using your usual chipping club.

Month 5: Long Putts / Stop 3 Putting

This month, focus on mastering distance control with the putter. Being able to hit long putts close to the hole is key to scoring low in golf.

It sucks to waste strokes by 3 putting and it hurts when you hit a green in regulation and walk off with a bogey from a 3 putt.

Focus on drills that practice lag putting / distance control. We give students a bunch of these drills in our practice program here.

The goal is to putt the ball so it finishes within 3 feet or less, leaving a short second putt to finish with.

Analyze your current golf game and see how many strokes you’re losing per round from 3 putts and perhaps, 4 putts.

Month 6: Golf Course Strategy

You’ve been hard at work getting your golf swing faults fixed, building skill at chipping and putting.

Now it’s time to learn course strategy which could help you score lower and save strokes you’re currently losing from making poor strategy decisions on the golf course.

Think about when it’s appropriate to be aggressive and take risk versus taking risk out of play and going with the safer shot.

Part of golf course strategy involves learning to use other clubs for tee shots like fairway woods and irons, instead of always hitting driver on every hole.

For short game, knowing what your weaknesses and strengths are and trying to play strategy around them so you can hit the best chips and putts available.

This may be a case where you DON’T try to hit the perfect flop shot to a tightly guarded pin, and instead play a safe chip shot that can leave you a 4 to 7 foot putt chance at saving par still.

Month 7: Bunker Play

Sand bunkers are an annoyance when you land in them and can even be scary for beginners who don’t have the skills to escape golf bunkers easily.

But to fix the fear and build confidence, you should spend a month where your focus is on becoming a better sand bunker player.

This can involve:

  • Practicing out of greenside bunkers
  • Practicing from fairway bunkers
  • Testing different clubs to escape the sand
  • Testing backswing lengths / ball position in stance

You can start by reading our guide to getting out of sand bunkers here to learn the tips for a proper swing and setup.

Month 8: Driver Distance

One of the skills that takes your golf game to the next level is adding distance to your golf clubs, and specifically your driver.

Hitting longer tee shots, can make the game of golf easier and lower your golf score quicker.

How far you hit your golf driver is a combination of swing speed, strike location on the club face, and spin rate of the golf ball.

To help you improve driver distance, you’ll want to invest in a golf swing launch monitor.

These devices give metrics like swing speed, ball speed, launch angle, backspin, carry distance, roll distance, and more to help you see what’s going on in your golf swing.

You can figure out where you’re losing distance by analyzing the data that a device like the Mevo + provides you at the driving range.

Or you can step into an indoor golf facility and play on a golf simulator to see distance data. Trackman, Uneekor, Foresight are amazing pieces of simulator technology that produce accurate results on a screen for you to see indoors.

Month 9: Shot Shaping

As you build a fundamental golf swing that eliminates errors and faults from the swing, then you can begin learning how to shape shots on command as phase 2 of your golf swing training plan.

Shot shaping involves learning how to hit these types of shots:

  • Draw
  • Fade
  • High Flighted Shot
  • Low Flighted Shot
  • Mid Trajectory Shot

Certain situations will call for certain shot types so consider shot shaping a must have skill in your arsenal that you can pair with golf course strategy for best results.

Trajectory is key for learning how to hit over trees, under tree branches, or to fight weather conditions like wind.

Month 10: Master 50-100 Yard Approach Shots

Another area to gain skill at in golf is the 50 to 100 yard shot which creates an awkward distance for your wedge play.

If you can get really good from this distance, you can start sticking greens closer to the flag, leaving you short birdie opportunities on par 4 and par 5 holes.

Spend time on a golf simulator or at the driving range learning how to make different powered swings with different wedges and track how far these shot types are flying so you know which to use on the golf course.

For example, learn your full swing, 75% swing, and 50% swing yardages for 3 different wedges / clubs in your bag.

Month 11: Equipment Upgrades

Now that you’ve spend a good amount of time working on your golf game and mastering new skill, you may find deficiencies in your game caused by your equipment.

Consider doing equipment upgrades as you learn what your golf game needs.

For example, I realized that my driver was holding me back, costing me distance.

After getting fitted for a new driver, I added 30 yards and took my driving average from 250 yards to 280 yards off of equipment upgrades alone.

Shaft flex is another area to check with your golf clubs. As your swing improves and gets faster, you may outgrow your current shaft flexibility and need a stiffer golf shaft. Here’s our guide on golf club shafts.

Month 12: Playing Competitive Golf

You’ve crushed it the past 11 months working hard on your game and practicing.

Now let’s work in some competitive golf to work on your skills of handling pressure during tournaments or competitive matches.

Find some friends to join you and consider playing different golf games against each other or if you’re older than 21+ you can add money wagering to the golf games to add some pressure.

Consider joining local tournaments or country club events that give you access to a competitive round of golf.

The more competitive golf you play, the more comfortable you’ll feel and the nerves will settle each time you tee it up in a new tournament.

But expect the first few events you play in to be difficult from a nervous / pressure stand point until you improve your mental toughness skillset which comes from experience of being in these competitive events.

Overall, here’s a solid 12 month golf plan to improve your game and work on various skills that will help you score lower 9 and 18 hole golf scores. If you enjoyed this content, check out our golf practice program below.

Golf Practice System for Lower Scores

Learn the exact golf practice routines thousands of students at Foy Golf Academy are using to lower their golf scores.

Follow these step by step practice plans and watch video lessons to learn how to improve your golf swing, chipping, and putting fundamentals.

Get access to hundreds of golf drills to practice as well as content on the mental side of golf, fitness plans, worksheets, and many more resources. This is a complete golf practice system.

Start Following These Practices —> Nick Foy Golf Practice System

Work hard,

Nick Foy, Instructor

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