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The ultimate short game practice challenge

This game ranks as the favourite short game practice that I give to golf professionals and elite amateurs who I work with. It combines chipping practice, pitching practice and bunker practice all into one tidy hour of golf practice. It also scales well and continually challenges you as your short game develops, and provides you with specific feedback. What more could you ask for?

If you only have one hour per week to practice, this is the ultimate way to lower your golf scores. So let’s jump in.

Short game practice: set up

This is an adapted version of a game I first learned from reading Dave Pelz’s short game bible. The book is long (and slightly tedious), but this game is just brilliant.

You will need:

  1. 10 golf balls, similar to the ones you play with. Trust me, this will make a difference as you improve.
  2. 12 tee pegs.
  3. A short game area or course where you can play most of these shots.
  4. Some fine short game skills (if you want to score well).

Point three is tricky, but adapt it the best you can to fit your practice facilities. I have players who play this over 9 holes when it is quiet. They play one block of 10 shots on each hole, then move on to the next hole.

Find a hole on your practice ground and use your tee pegs to create two circles as follows. If you’re in a rush you can roughly measure 3 feet with a 9-iron and 6 feet with…you’ve guessed it; two 9-iron club lengths.

short game practice scoring. Create 2 circles around the hole of 3 feet and 6 feet. This can be done by laying down your 9-iron and placing a tee peg at the end.
Create 2 circles around the hole of 3 feet and 6 feet. This can be done by laying down your 9-iron and placing a tee peg at the end.

Short game practice scoring

You have 10 attempts at each of the following shots listed below. Your aim is to see how many points you can score with your 80 attempts. Play one challenge at a time, collect your balls, write down your score, and then move on to the next challenge. Here are the eight challenges.

  1. 10 yard chip and run – set up with lots of green
  2. 20 yard chip and run from light rough – set up with lots of green
  3. 30 yard pitch shot
  4. 50 yard pitch shot
  5. 15 yard pitch shot – 5 yards of green, 10 yards fairway
  6. 15 yard flop shot – have something that forces you to loft the ball, a bunker is ideal
  7. 10 yard bunker shot
  8.  20 bunker shot

After you hit your 10 shots for each challenge, take a moment you assess the spread of your shots. Do they finish left or right? Do you leave too many short of the target? Keep a note of this information for next time you practice.

It is valuable information to inform how you need to refine your technique and decision-making.

Your short game practice results

At the end of the game, you can tally up your eight shots and work out your total score. Here are the results from when I took on Ali, who is a dear friend of mine, a few weeks ago. I won this round, but Ali has a solid summer of practice and play lined up, so I’m sure he’ll come back strong when we next play.

short game practice results
Here are our results in the golf insider performance diary. This is a simple book to keep track of your golfing performance.

What should you be scoring? That is an open-ended question. Above 80 is really solid. When my players make it to over 100 I mix things up and add some extra spice. So when you get over 100 you best get in touch and I’ll give you the next secret touch.

Share this post with a friend and challenge them to a short game challenge.

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Happy golfing.

Head back to the short game hub for more ways to improve your chipping and pitching.

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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.

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