To get better at golf you need to practice. However, knowing how best to practice and making it fun is a tough problem. In this article we’ll cover some great practice games to help you improve your driving, iron-play and wedges.
If this is your first time to Golf Insider, have a quick read below, to get some more info on why skills games are useful. If not, feel free to dive down into the practice games themselves.
What are golf practice / skills games?
Many golfers love to spend time working on their golf technique. However, golf isn’t about having a beautiful backswing. It’s about finding a way to get the ball into the hole – the golf ball doesn’t care how.
Technique is important, but let me ask you this question – How much time do you dedicate in your practice routine to developing your golfing skills?
How often do you set technique to one side and just let your body find a way to get the ball as close as possible to your target?
If your answer is very little, don’t worry, you are with the golfing majority. Many golfers spend an unhealthy amount of time refining their backswing position, and far too little educating their body to execute golf shots.
This in a nutshell is what golf skills games are. They aim to develop your golfing skills.
“Focus far less on your technique, and far more on getting the ball to your target”
What makes a great golf practice/skills game?
Practice by itself won’t make you better at golf. Going through the motions in the range is pointless.
Practice needs to be specific, difficult, measurable and; ideally fun. Golf practice games give you a great way to achieve all of the above.
Below are some of my favourite golf practice games to improve your driving, iron-play and wedge game. If you wish to get better at golf, choose one or two of these and try to play them once a week. Tracking your progress will really start to help you refine your errors and watch yourself develop as a golfer.
Practice game 1 – Will’s range challenge
This practice game will provide a great 40-minute practice session that challenges your driving, iron-play and wedges. Adapt it as best as possible to suit your home driving range.
Will’s range challenge has 6 stages to complete. You have to complete the previous stage before you can move on to the next. Take 40 range balls and see how far you can get.
Set up: Create a 30-yard fairway on your range using two targets. Find/create or imagine small greens (approx 20-yards diameter) at 100, 150 and 200 yards. Then complete the following stages in order:
- Hit two drivers in a row that land in your fairway.
- Hit two shots with a fairway wood that land in your fairway.
- Hit two shots with a long iron that land in your fairway.
- Hit two shots in a row that land on your 100 yards green.
- Hit two shots in a row that land on your 150 yards green.
- Hit two shots in a row that land on your 200 yards green.
When you master this level, move the challenge up a notch by aiming for three successful shots in a row. It really increases the challenge.
Golf Insider Pro – I use this game with pros I work with too. However, the fairway size is reduced to 10-yards wide, meaning they have far more of a challenge and increased confidence when transferring their skill to competitions where fairways are far wider. We also change the greens into flagsticks or signs as targets at 100, 150 and 200-yards. Spending 20 balls trying to hit a flagstick is near impossible, but it really helps them dial in and changes their mindset during practice.
Practice game 2 – Flagstick challenge
Next up, we have one of my favourite practice games for dialling in your wedge distances. Flagstick challenge can be played on a range, but is best suited to an area you can use your own balls and walk up to assess your spread of shots.
Pick a target distance (60 – 130 yards). Take 20 balls and see how many shots you can hit to finish within a flagstick length of the target. You score one point for every shot that finishes inside this zone, zero points for outside.
This is challenging, but it really gets you focused on hitting your wedges close. Outside 10-feet (the length of a flagstick is roughly 8-feet) putting conversion rates are less than 40% even for the best players in the world. Therefore, if you want to become a birdie machine you better start hitting it close.
Adapt this game as you wish. I personally like to take two or three key distances and practice them once a week during the golfing season. This builds my confidence and helps me know what distances I should aim to leave myself into par-4s and 5s. Below is one of my fine attempts from the summer.
It’s amazing how many shots look and feel great, but don’t get inside a flagstick.
Practice game 3 – Hugo’s range challenge
A second range challenge was created by a good friend of mine (and serious player) Mr. Hugo Dobson. Again, you’re allowed 40 golf balls to see if you can complete this challenge. It’s a simple practice game and allowed Hugo to adapt a range challenge to any tournament practice ground he rocked up to.
To set up Hugo’s range challenge pick two targets on the range, or in the distance, that are 20-yards apart. This is your target zone – don’t worry about distance control during this game, your focus is on reducing your lateral error.
Begin with the shortest club in your bag (a wedge of some sort) and aim to land the ball within your target zone. If you land it within your target zone, move onto your next shortest club in your (a pitching-wedge), next a 9-iron… Follow this process until you finish the game with your driver. If you miss the target zone (left or right), repeat with the same club.
14 clubs (minus your putter) means 13 stages to complete. Measure how many clubs you can get through with your 40 balls. A little tip – this starts really simple, but just wait until you get to your long-irons and woods.
Golf Insider Pro – Hugo will play this with a 5 or 10-yard practice zone. Depending on where we are up to with his training programme. If he’s pre-season adapting this game to a 5-yard zone and requiring two successful shots in a row provides a great deal more practice volume and difficulty.
Practice game 4 – Mid-iron challenge
I love this practice game, it’s also great with a friend. It does take a little effort to play, but it is well worth it. If you can stripe the ball on the range with your irons it is time to work on refining your golfing skill on the golf course. The issue with playing 18-holes is that you just don’t get enough volume to improve specific parts of your game. The mid-iron challenge solves this problem.
Head onto the golf course when it is quiet. Your aim is to play 9-holes of this skills game. Feel free to combine it with knocking a ball around or some short-game practice.
On each hole drop a ball at 130, 150 & 170 yards. Each of these target distances becomes a mini par-3 hole. If you’re very fortunate this will give you 27 attempts, however on most courses you’ll get 21-25 attempts, due to lakes, bushes, short par-3’s etc.
You get three points for a birdie and one point for every par you make. If you miss your par attempt pick up and move on. Your focus is on developing your mid-iron skill within a 60-90 minute session.
See how many points you can score and track your progress.
Summary – Driving, iron-play & wedge practice games
There we have four new ways to practice your long game. Please set aside time to practice you golfing technique, but I can stress the value of adding in practice games like these. They will really speed up your progress and develop your ability to perform on the golf course.
If you are keen to get going and see how good you can get, you may wish to grab a performance diary to help track your progress. If you would like some chipping skills games and putting drills, check out these articles.
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Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider
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