Connect with us


What to practice when you have little time to practice



At age 47, I cautiously suspect I finally have time to practice. Our children are mostly self-dependent, edging toward independence. I even struck a deal with a club 10 minutes away to let me play and practice, in exchange for some marketing/promotional advice.

Now that I have all the time I never had to hone my game, I look back at those child-rearing years and miss them tremendously. If I could go back and change one thing, given the wisdom I have today, it would be to practice important elements of the game with just a wee bit of time available.

Sagacious wag that I am, I am also generous and have decided to share this wisdom gleaned from years of futile ball-striking, wretched putting and spastic chipping. I put my money where my mouth is, mind you. When I have the following amounts of time at my disposal, this is what I practice.

1. 10 Minutes: Ultra-long putts

Have you ever putted to those mini-holes that some courses have on practice greens? After, the regular hole appears much larger, right? This is the opposite, yet the same.

After banging some 80-, 90- and 100-foot putts, the 30- and 40-footers don’t seem quite as three-puttable anymore. Hit about 15 ultra-long putts and you will come to know your stroke. After all, it will never be any lengthier.

An alternative to this is to hit putts from 10 different distances, dropping 10 feet each time. Start with 100 feet, and then go to 90, 80 and so on until you finish with a 10-foot putt, which will feel like a tap-in.

2. Five minutes: Hands-ahead chip shots

If you haven’t played much golf recently, there’s a good chance that you’re going to struggle with your chipping. One of the most common reasons for bad chipping that I see is that golfers let their forward wrist break down before impact, which can cause the the chili-dip, the chunk and the skull — all nightmares for your score.

That’s why I’ll sometimes start a short warm-up session by swinging a wedge with my forward arm (for me, it’s the left one). After a few air swings, I’ll advance to actually striking the grass and ground with the club to feel the resistance. Finally, I’ll put the back hand on the club and start hitting chip shots.

My focus is on keeping my hands in front of the club through impact. I’ll carry that thought out onto the course for half and full shots, too. It’s a great swing thought to use when you only have space for one.

3. 10 Minutes: Sand shots

It is imperative that golfers reconnect from time to time with the shot where club and ball never meet. At a golf camp in high school, I stood out only because I won a greenside bunker contest. I’m no Gary Player, but I’ve saved a few birdies in scrambles by blasting orbs to within a few feet on short par 4s and 5s. I simply have a feel for it.

However, not practicing something you have a feel for leads to something you used to have a feel for. Hit four to five shots in a bunker to see how the club and sand interact. Then, bounce over to a space where you can nip a few fairway bunker shots. These are the ones where club meets ball in a most conspicuous way. Nothing like hitting a good drive, finding the sand, and making double or triple because you weren’t confident from the beach.

4. Five Minutes: Driver

The point here is not to hone your tee ball, nor to find that extra 50 yards to finally reach 300. The goal is to simply determine which way your ball is curving, unless it is going straight. If you’re fading the ball, forget the draw today. Vice-versa holds true. If you’re the Tom Kite of the group and have the straight ball mastered, I’m told it plays as well.

Remember that you are impoverished with practice time as your currency, so don’t force a draw or a fade or a straight during warm-up. Go with what you find.

5. 10 Minutes: Punch Shots

You might be amazed at how many people can’t pitch back to the fairway. They hit it too high, too low, too hard or too soft, turning a one-shot surrender into an X on the scorecard.

It would be comical if their tears were fake, but they aren’t. These golfers know that it’s time to play safe, but they don’t know how to do it. Take some time to learn what clubs allow you to to pitch or punch the ball back to the fairway with the most ease.

The punch shot is also an awesome option when directly into the wind, or when battling a side wind. The higher the ball gets in the air, the more the wind has a day with it.

Also, if you’ve lost your swing (remember that you have no time to practice), the half-swing or punch shot can be easier to control than a full swing. Normal 7-iron distance with zero confidence? Punch a six- or five-iron shot to the green apron and count on your chipping (see No. 2).

6. Five Minutes: Clean Your Clubs


Nothing against the change-up or the knuckle ball, but I need spin. If my grooves are filled with muck, my ball isn’t spinning. That’s why it’s imperative to keep extraneous materials off your clubs, out of your grooves and away from your grips — gunk is not your friend if you want to play a clean game of golf.

Warm and soapy water does wonders, and remember to clean your golf balls while you have a tub of the suds. And if the grips are slick because they are worn, clean them too — or have a friend/golf professional change them for you. If you can change your own grips, well … why did you let them get slick in the first place?


I could go on, ad infinitum, but I sense that you have the spirit of the points I’m trying to make. The old adage of “practice smarter, not harder” is the basis for my decrees.

Too many golfers bang away on the course or on the range and have no direction nor goal in mind. By the end of the session, they are tired, frustrated, at times injured and unaware of any impactful discovery about their game. Don’t be that guy.

Address every ball as if it truly were the last you would ever hit and every ball will count toward your improvement, even if you only have five minutes.

Thanks to Simond Selin, whose How Much Time Do You Really Have To Practice Golf? served as the impetus for this piece, and to River Oaks Golf Club (Grand Island, NY) for location.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Ronald Montesano writes for from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.



  1. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Beautiful words, Joey! It’s great to have the perspective of the middle ages…here’s hoping you preserve your health and can play well long into your years. Keep reading and keep commenting!!

  2. Joey Koontz

    Aug 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Good stuff here. I’m just getting to a point in my life where I have more time to devote to the game, my only child is now a senior in HS.

    I even got a part time job at the city course so I could play and practice for free. It’s a bunch of fun for sure.

    The advice in your article is simple, “not simplistic” which is a great thing for me. Loving the game, hoping to get down to scratch one day. Will enjoy the journey no matter the destination. Peace!

  3. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 14, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Nick…good point. It’s the things we take for granted, be it long putts or scoring clubs. I chose the punch or recovery because I see so many kids and adults destroy good rounds with a woeful recovery shot. Thanks for reading, EVERYONE and for commenting!!

    • Nick

      Aug 15, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      No doubt that a failed effort to “take your medicine” is a double bogey or worse, without fail.

  4. Nick

    Aug 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Ronald, I very much agree with your article, especialy the long putting. I neglected it for years, mostly because the embarassment of rolling long putts woefully short or long on the practice green was more than my fragile ego could bear, but come to find out, its better to be embarrased on the practice green than the first or eighteenth green…

    The one thing I would add, perhaps in substitute of the punch shot which I think is fairly easy to master (perhaps because I’ve spent a lifetime employing it with great regularity…) is that the average joe should spare ten minutes on his precious time on 80-125 yard approaches. Few of us with little time to practice will throw darts with our long irons or fairway metals, and even the mid irons can be a challenge without time to hone a stroke, but we should be able to be confident enough with our “scoring clubs” to at least routinely find the green.

  5. Timothy Young

    Aug 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Love it. I actually cleaned the wifes clubs and my clubs the other night when the weather didn’t let us get out to the range.

  6. Tyler

    Aug 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Good article. I have an 8 month old so making time to practice can be tricky when I’m working.

    I’ll go to the range a few times in the evenings after the crowds have left(and hopefully left me some grass). I’ll hit about 60 balls in 45 min. Wedges(focusing on rhythm and contact)then I fly some short irons out into the range(no targets yet). After some solid shots I’ll starts firing at some pins.

    Then I’ll do the same with mid irons and hybrids. Then I move to metal woods and Driver.

    Quality over quantity works for me. I like hitting less balls more often versus practicing for hours at a time a couple times a week. It helps of course that I live right across from a golf course.

    P.S I usually alternate hitting odd and even numbers each session.

  7. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 14, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Thanks, jabrch. I would fill up the sink with hot, soapy water and my clubs always said “gracias.” None of us backs up the ball like the pros, so we’re not looking to take spin off the ball. Appreciate the read, friend!

  8. jabrch

    Aug 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Brilliant article. I have two 6 year olds. I totally get your point. The clean clubs point is tremendously underrated with Jo Average who doesn’t have caddies and rack room boys to clean their clubs or aren’t analysis retentive about their sticks. I try and clean mine after every round.

  9. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 13, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Damian…if I knew then (when our 4 kids were ankle-biters!) what I know now…Thanks for reading.

    Curt…I hope you meant “simple” and not “simplistic.” Thanks for reading.

  10. Curt

    Aug 13, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    A very simplistic, well organized, article!

  11. Damian

    Aug 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Great article Ronald! From someone who has 2 kids under 2 years old, its great to hear how to make the most out of little time. Thanks for that little gem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)



This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

Your Reaction?
  • 2
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP3
  • OB3
  • SHANK12

Continue Reading


Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes



There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.


One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.


Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

Your Reaction?
  • 10
  • LEGIT8
  • WOW2
  • LOL4
  • IDHT2
  • FLOP3
  • OB1
  • SHANK10

Continue Reading


Golf 101: What is a strong grip?



What is a strong grip? Before we answer that, consider this: How you grip it might be the first thing you learn, and arguably the first foundation you adapt—and it can form the DNA for your whole golf swing.

The proper way to hold a golf club has many variables: hand size, finger size, sports you play, where you feel strength, etc. It’s not an exact science. However, when you begin, you will get introduced to the common terminology for describing a grip—strong, weak, and neutral.

Let’s focus on the strong grip as it is, in my opinion, the best way to hold a club when you are young as it puts the clubface in a stronger position at the top and instinctively encourages a fair bit of rotation to not only hit it solid but straight.

The list of players on tour with strong grips is long: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Fred Couples, David Duval, and Bernhard Langer all play with a strong grip.

But what is a strong grip? Well like my first teacher Mike Montgomery (Director of Golf at Glendale CC in Seattle) used to say to me, “it looks like you are revving up a Harley with that grip”. Point is the knuckles on my left hand were pointing to the sky and my right palm was facing the same way.

Something like this:

Of course, there are variations to it, but that is your run of the mill, monkey wrench strong grip. Players typically will start there when they are young and tweak as they gain more experience. The right hand might make it’s way more on top, left-hand knuckles might show two instead of three, and the club may move its way out of the palms and further down into the fingers.

Good golf can be played from any position you find comfortable, especially when you find the body matchup to go with it.

Watch this great vid from @JakeHuttGolf

In very simple terms, here are 3 pros and 3 cons of a strong grip.


  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and helps you hit further
  2. It’s an athletic position which encourages rotation
  3. Players with strong grips tend to strike it solidly


  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and can cause you to hit it low and left
  2. If you don’t learn to rotate you could be in for a long career of ducks and trees
  3. Players with strong grips tend to fight a hook and getting the ball in the air


Make Sense?


Your Reaction?
  • 29
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW2
  • LOL4
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP3
  • OB2
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading