How to Practice Golf (And Not Waste Your Practice Time)

Going to the driving range and hitting 100 golf balls won’t do much for you, unfortunately. It’s not the best way to practice golf. However, in this guide we will break down a 3 step strategy for how to practice golf the right way so you can improve your skills in three key areas:

  1. the golf swing,
  2. the short game,
  3. and putting

The worst thing you can do is go to the golf course and practice with no structure. Which is why we’ve created structure with these golf practice plans giving you specific drills, reps, sets, days to work on your game and improve fast!

How to Practice on the Driving Range

When working on your golf swing at the driving range, the best way to practice your swing is to start with the more lofted club first like a 7 iron or 8 iron rather than starting with driver.

Technical Golf Swing Practice

And get started by working on the technical aspects of your swing. Don’t worry about the results on these first few swings. Focus on your swing thoughts, pick one or two thoughts to focus on during the swing like taking the club up to the top but not letting it dip past parallel.

Hit 5-10 golf balls working on the technicals of your swing, the technique changes you want to make to improve the swing.

Then change clubs and continue working on the technical practice part of the golf swing. Usually I like to go to a more lofted club like a pitching wedge to continue working on the technical movements of the golf swing.

Then switch it up again and go with a longer golf club, continuing to work on the golf swing fundamentals and technical side of the swing.

And the technical aspect of your swing you work on is up to you and what you think you need to fix.

If you are slicing, for example, then focus on getting the club to drop to the inside on the way down and swing outward away from you to create an in-to-out swing path.

Results Based Golf Practice

Once we are done with the golf swing fundamentals, next let’s move to the results phase of the driving range practice session.

For this type of golf practice, we will step back behind the ball and pick out a target on the driving range we are going to be aiming at before we hit the golf shot.

Hit a few golf shots with each club, working on set up and getting aligned properly to aim straight at the target.

Most beginners actually have aim problems with their golf stance, where they think they are aiming at the target but if you step back, you’d realize you’re actually aiming off to the left or right of the target.

So to help with aim practice on the driving range, use alignment sticks or set a couple golf clubs on the ground to serve as your alignment sticks to make sure you’re aimed straight at your intended target.

Work through your golf clubs in your bag, hitting with each club and monitoring how you hit the golf ball with each. You’ll find tendencies like longer irons hooking the ball while shorter irons were much more on target and straight, for example.

Mix up which targets you aim at with your same golf club, getting creative on how you’ll hit the target. For example, if you hit your 7 iron 140 yards, then aim at a 120 yard target and swing with 80% power or not a full backswing to get the ball to not overfly the 120 yard target.

You can also use a golf launch monitor during your practice session to gather data about your swing and learn tendencies.

Golf Practice Resources

Wedge Practice on the Driving Range

The last 25% of the range balls you hit, should be with your wedges and aiming at targets 50 yards to 80 yards away on the driving range.

This gives you a chance to get some wedge practice in from these awkward distances before we move to the putting and chipping greens for closer in wedge shots from 10 – 20 yards away from the green, known as pitching.

This part of golf practice is all about distance control. Learning how to take half swings, three quarter swings, and full swings with your wedges to fly the ball the proper distance and land on the green.

Switch it up, using your different wedges in your bag. Ideally, a golfer should have two higher lofted wedges such as a 56 degree and 60 degree wedge to compliment the pitching wedge and gap wedge / sand wedge that come with most iron sets.

Here’s a TaylorMade Milled Grind 56 degree wedge if you need recommendations

How to Practice Short Game

Where most of your golf practice should be spent is practicing your short game. The short game is defined as any golf shot hit within 100 yards of the green. It requires distance control and finesse to get the golf ball to fly a certain yardage and may not require full swing power.

The short game is made up of three components:

  • Pitching
  • Chipping
  • Putting

Pitching and Chipping differ by how far the ball has to fly in the air to get onto the green and how much it has to roll once on the green to get to the hole.

Pitching is when you are farther away from the green and have to fly the ball farther to get it to land. It has more distance traveled through the air than on the actual putting surface.

Chipping is when you are close to the green and the ball doesn’t fly as far through the air, but instead does most of the traveling on the actual putting green. Chipping is usually when you are within 10 yards of the green or less.

Putting is taking the putter in your golf bag and making a putting stroke to roll the ball across the green to the hole, with the goal of taking 2 putts or less to get it into the hole. If you take 3 putts or more to get the ball into the hole, then this is a sign you could improve further on your putting skills.

Golf Practice Resources

How to Practice Pitching – Golf Practice 101

Pitching in golf is all about getting the ball to fly just the right distance to land on the green and stop, so you can finish with 1 or 2 putts and get the ball in the hole.

Therefore, pitching golf practice should focus a lot on distance control practice drills. Learning how to make different swings with the wedge to hit the golf ball different distances.

We’re not as worried about how close we get the ball to the hole, but more worried about actually getting the ball to land on the green and stop (and not roll off back into the rough).

A great way to challenge yourself with pitching golf practice is to measure off 3 yardages:

  • 20 yards
  • 30 yards
  • 40 yards

You can take long strides and consider that to be 1 yard (3 feet) roughly. Or you can get an actual distance measuring device to mark off these distances.

Then work on hitting 10 pitch shots from each golf distance and record how many out of 10 you successfully pitched onto the green and got to stop on the green, without rolling off into the fringe or rough.

Try to get 10 out of 10 from 20 yards before moving back to the 30 yard practice distance. Eventually get good enough at pitching that you can get 10 out of 10 onto the green from all 3 distances.

How to Practice Chipping

This type of golf practice is more focused on getting the ball close to the hole, unlike pitching practice where we focused on just landing the ball on the green.

With chipping, we can dial in distance control even further by focusing on a specific spot on the green we need to land the golf ball in order for it to have the right distance left to roll to the hole.

How much a golf ball will roll once it lands, depends on what type of club we use to chip and the type of shot we play when chipping.

For example, a higher lofted club like a 60 degree wedge will place more backspin on the golf ball, which reduces how much roll out the ball will have on the green.

A lower lofted club, such as a 7 iron, will not place much backspin on the golf ball and thus the ball will roll more.

The type of chip shot also matters.

Flop Shot vs Bump & Run

A flop shot, where the golf ball flies higher into the air and comes down at a steeper angle will not have as much horizontal momentum and won’t roll as far. Check out Phil Mickelson’s tips on how to hit a flop shot.

A bump and run is where the ball is chipped more horizontally across the green rather than vertically in the air like a flop shot. Since it has more horizontal momentum, then the golf ball will want to continue in motion as it lands, thus giving you more roll out.

To practice chipping, you’ll want to learn the fly to roll ratios of your golf clubs when you are chipping. Start by picking a target landing spot on the green and mark it with a few colorful ball markers to give something to aim at.

Hit several chip shots from 5 yards off the green and watch how the ball lands near the desired landing spot and then watch how far it continues to roll.

Switch clubs after awhile and notice the difference in how much the other golf clubs roll compared to the wedge you use most often to chip.

This is called gaining “feel” and as you gain feel for your golf clubs, you’ll be able to get a better idea of where you need to land the golf ball to account for the roll the ball will have after landing.

Overall, this is the key to successful chipping practice… learning the distance control aspect to hit the chip onto the target spot you picked out on the green.

Practice hitting chips onto a towel on the green to give yourself a bigger target at first, then shrink it down to landing the ball on top of ball markers (smaller target) until you have dialed in distance control when chipping.

And every chip you hit, study the roll to learn more why it rolled as far as it did.

Was it a lower or higher trajectory chip that caused the roll to slow quicker than usual? Was it poor contact or grass grabbing the wedge, slowing it down and this caused the ball to react different?

Always be a student when chipping and learn and study why the outcome occurred to gain feel with your wedges.

Golf Practice Resources:

How to Practice Putting

Putting golf practice comes down to making putts. The more putts you make in practice the more putts you’ll make out on the golf course. For this type of golf practice, we like to focus on volume.

Technical Putting Golf Practice

Start with 5-10 minutes of technical practice, working on the putting stroke motion with no golf balls. Set down some alignment sticks or make a path to swing through with tees, and practice keeping the putting motion straight back, straight through.

If you keep the putting stroke straight, you should avoid hitting the alignment sticks on the ground or the tees your swinging between. If you make contact however, it tells you that your putting stroke veered off line to the left or right and did remain straight.

Also focus on keeping the putter face square at impact. Hitting the golf ball with an open or closed angle will send the ball off line to the left or right of your intended line.

Focus on your hands and grip of the club to control the putter face and keep it from twisting during the putting stroke. This will keep the face square and not come into the golf ball at an angle.

Volume Reps Golf Putting Practice

The next 45-50 minutes of practice should be volume focused, hitting as many putts as you can with proper fundamentals. Hitting with poor fundamentals at high volume, will only worsen your putting. Here’s a list of 21 golf putting drills you can try out too!

Start with close putts from 2-3 feet away from the hole. Hit 10 putts at a time and try to make all 10 out of 10 from 2 feet away.

Then move back a foot to 3 feet. Try to make 10 putts from this distance.

Then move back to 4 feet and repeat until you make 10 putts.

Keep going working your way back 1 foot increments until you come to 8 feet away from the hole (about 3 putter lengths).

Every golf practice, repeat this putting practice routine of starting in close and working back to 8 feet away, and you’ll notice improvement on your putting from inside 10 feet. This is where most golfers can improve strokes off their score and stop 3 putting on the green.

Overall, I hope today’s guide on how to practice golf has inspired you to get to the golf course and start putting in the work to improve your skills. Once you improve in the three areas: golf swing, short game, and putting, then you’ll see results in your golf score when you start playing 18 hole rounds on the golf course again.

Aim to practice 3 times a week if you can for faster improvement. Here’s a guide on how frequent should you practice golf. And here’s another guide on a golf practice schedule template.

Golf Practice Plans:

Try our step by step golf training plans that give you daily practice routines to complete. Each practice routine has putting drills, chipping drills, and golf swing drills for the driving range. Learn more about each.