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Golf Insider Practice System

Welcome to the golf insider practice system. From here you will find downloadable tools and challenges to help benchmark and improve your game.

What is the golf insider practice system?

To date, I’ve compiled many skills games to help you develop your long game, short game and putting. However, sometimes you need something a little bigger to benchmark your current ability and to help find areas to focus on.

On this page we have just that – The golf insider practice system contains challenges that you can complete on the golf range and/or practice ground to benchmark every area of your game.

Golf Insider Practice System – Driving

This challenge focuses on optimising your ability to get the ball in play. By completing this challenge you should also gain a clearer understanding of the direction of your misses, and specific issues with particular clubs.

Head to the range, once you are warmed up, you will need 40 balls to complete this challenge.

Choose your target width, based on your current ability (see options on download), then create two goal posts on your driving range roughly that width. Focus on where your shots land within the target zone, rather than where the ball rolls out to.

Below is an example of a completed challenge. You can view the full challenge, download and print a free pdf copy using the button below. If you prefer, take a picture and make notes in your Performance Diary, or just keep a note of scores and the direction of your missed shots on your phone.

An example of the Golf Insider practice system for driving. Fill out where each shot lands, and tally up your hit and missed shots for each club.

Golf Insider Practice System – Iron play

There is a simple reason why it is so challenging to create a great iron-play game – limited feedback. We all know we need to hit our iron shots closer, but on the golf range it is challenging to say exactly where our shots land. This iron-play challenge adds some value to your range sessions and gives you insight into the patterns of your missed iron shots.

Head to the range and grab 60 balls to complete this challenge. You have three distances and 20 attempts at each distance; to see how many points you can score.

On your phone, the downloadable pdf below, or your performance diary, note down where your shots finish. The inner area represents inside 8-feet, worth 3 points, (roughly a flagstick length if you are on the range). The outer areas are 8 to 21-feet, worth 1 point (roughly 3 flagstick lengths if you are on the range).

golf practice system for iron play

How this translates to your golf game

If you are a solid, or excellent, putter the following applies – We observe a considerable increase in conversion rates inside 8-feet. Outside this distance, even elite players have less than a 50 % chance of making the putt. Inside 21-feet you are highly probably to 2-putt and no more.

This means any shots that land inside the inner target in this challenge represent a great birdie opportunity. Shots that finish within the outer regions will most likely result in a par. Outside the target areas means you will be relying on your short game to save you.

See how many birdie opportunities and likely pars you will make with your short-irons, mid-irons and long-irons. Use the direction of your missed iron shots to refine your iron-play in the coming weeks. Feel free to share your results with your coach to help target technical areas to work on.

Golf Insider Practice System – Short game

This short game challenge allows you to benchmark key shots required to become a great golfer. It also provides a great 45-minutes of structured practice with clear feedback.

You have 8 locations within 50-yards and 10 attempts at each shot. Score 4 points for a holed shot, 2 points within 3-feet and 1 point within 6-feet. If you want to be precise, place a ring of tees around your target at these 3-feet and 6-feet. If you’re in a rush, just use 1 and 2 pitching wedge lengths to calculate your scores.

golf practice system for short game

Start with challenge 1 (5-yard chip from rough), hit all 10 shots, check the spread of your shots (short, long, left or right), calculate your score then move on to the next location.

At the end of the challenge note down your total score and give yourself a key focus you need to improve on to beat your PB next time.

Extra short game notes

If you’ve never practiced in this way before you will be surprised how infrequently your shots finish inside 3-feet for shorter shots and how challenging it is to get pitches and bunker shots inside 6-feet.

If you are a reasonable putter, inside 3-feet means you will convert your putts 80% of the time or more. 3 – 6 feet leads to 70 – 50% conversion rates, and outside this distance means you are less than 50% likely to make the up and down. For this reason, the points system in this game nicely reflects your ability to get up and down.

Expected scoring and adapting this game

Everyone will be playing this game in a different practice area, with different contours, so treat your score as a unique value you’re aiming to improve on. However, below is some guidance for you competitive golfers.

Section 1 – Inside 15-yards

Scores of 12 – 15 for each shot in the top section mean you have a solid, single figures short game. If you can score 17 and above for each shot you’re scratch or better.

Section 2 – Pitching 30 & 50-yards

There is a considerable difference in difficulty depending on how firm the greens are. If the greens are receptive, 6 – 10 points is a good score for each pitching challenge and will place you as a single figure player. Above 10 is excellent and equivalent to scratch or better.

Section 3 – Specialist shots

This set of shots really separates the good players from the very good. From my experience few golfers practice these shots, as a result, they rarely get them inside 6-feet to begin with. Scoring 6 – 10 means you are heading towards a sound single-figure standard. Aim for above 10 with the chip and flop shots if you are aiming for scratch or better, you should be peppering the flag with your bunker shots and score 14 or above.

Adapting and re-playing

Tweak this game to fit your practice ground, if you can’t play the longer shots or the bunker shot, just select the shots you can play. The key is to play the same shots from the same locations each time you come back. This allows you to measure and track your progress.

Once you can score over 100 points for the full challenge, make one simple adaptation. Drop each ball and play it as it lies (no Patrick Reed funny business). You’ll be amazed how this small change affects your scores.

Golf Insider Practice System – Putting

This challenge offers you an opportunity to benchmark your putting ability. 120 putts covering short-range, mid-range and long-range putting. For each section you are required to mark down your make-rate, putts missed left, right and putts that missed due to poor pace.

The process will start to show you clear trends in your putting performance. At the end of the challenge make a note of your one key focus for improving your putting performance.

For each stage, place a tee peg in the ground and hit all your putts from the same location. Unless stated, try to find a level putt with little break.

Below are some relevant putting stats from the PGA 2019 tour season. Use these to help benchmark your current ability. Click the button below to view, download and print a copy.

Golf insider practice system putting stats
All data sourced from for the 2019 full season. Percentage holed has been rounded to one decimal places, followed by (attempts/holed) data.

How often should I play these challenges?

If you are a club player looking to improve, I would advise you play them once every 3-months. If you are obsessed with golf, or it is your career, then consider playing them once a month.

What scores should I be aiming for?

Based on practice conditions and individual variance it is tricky to indicate what scores you should be aiming for at a given handicap. But I do have two offerings for you:

Firstly, aim for personal progression, each time you complete a challenge, find one key focus for your practice and coaching. Secondly, leave your data as a comment below on this page. Once I have enough data, I shall compile tables, based on scores and handicaps and publish them under each challenge.

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Will Shaw, PhD, MSc, PGA Pro

Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

10 thoughts on “Golf Insider Practice System”

    • Yes sir,

      I’ll add a few extra notes to the article. For all putts use the same location each time and for the short putts try to find a straight-ish, flat putt.

      Let me know how you get on.


  1. This is great–I just did the putting test today. It’s good to have a test to compare progress to. It’d be nice to have a point of comparison to set goals (i.e., how would the average scratch golfer, mini tour, or PGA tour player do on these)?

    For putting especially the stats are a little skewed because the test is mostly straight putts, but the PGA stats aren’t. I’d imagine if you gave a tour player 20 straight, flat 7 foot putts from the same spot they’d hit at least 19.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for the feedback – glad it was of use. Yes, it isn’t perfect, the volume of straight putts is less comparable to real life, but hopefully gives you a great insight into what direction you miss putts, based on your aim and putting mechanics.

      I think I left a little paragraph after all the test about normative data. If you would be so kind to leave your handicap and score(s) at the bottom of the article I will begin to curate a set of normative data that everyone can use.

      I hope this helps.


  2. This has been a helpful and fun way to be purposeful to be more intentional at the range. Thanks! I’m looking forward to seeing some comparable scores so I can have a better understanding about where I am. Thanks again!

  3. Hi Will! I am a junior golfer who plays in the Russian National team. Love your content and always checking for new articles. I have probably read the practice articles more than 6 times each. So much to learn from! I was wondering if you could help me with organising my practice and routines. I love to practice (I practice 4 yimes a week due to school: 2 hours after school on Tuesday and Thursday, and from 9:00 till sunset on weekends). I also practice 1 hour of putting every day at home and 30 minutes swing changes every day at home. I feel that with a better structured practice I could get very far. Would you want to callaborate? Thank you very much for reading! Hope to hear back from you!


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