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Game of the Weekend: 18 holes of up-and-down… with a twist

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If you’re like most golfers, you expect to go out this weekend and hit great shots and great putts. And it’s these great ones that keep golfers coming back. The reality is, however, that golf is a tough game and golfers mostly hit average shots — whatever that is for you.

So how to you hit more great shots? It starts with the proper practice, which means you need to simulate on-course pressure on the driving range, short game area and putting green. For that, you need games that help you measure your performance so you know what skills need to improve.

For this week’s Game of the Weekend, you’ll start by imagining that you’re having a tough day of ball striking. The key to scoring well on these days is to realize that bad ball striking days are going to happen, regardless of your skill level. If you can come to that realization and create a scenario like we have in this game, you’ll learn how to shoot “A” scores with your “C” long game.

The Game: 18 Holes of Up-and-Down … with a twist

  • Gear needed: A putter and your chipping clubs.
  • Time needed: About 20-30 minutes to play one round.

Rules: The “twist” is in how you prep this game. You need to pretend you’ve missed every single green in regulation. It’s been a terrible day of ball striking, but you can still salvage a good day of scoring with a great short game. From within 5 yards of the green, hit a shot to the hole and proceed by putting out. You’ll do this for a total of 18 “holes” that are played from a different location each time.

Add up your scores just as if you were playing on the course. If you chip-in, then you’ve earned a birdie. If you get up-and-down, scoring a two for that particular attempt, that’s a par. Taking three shots leaves you with a bogey, and so on.

You can enter your scores into our interactive practice website, www.golfscrimmages.com, which should be based on a par-72 course. For example, if you have zero chip-ins and fail to get up-and-down five times — scoring a bogey for each of those times — then you’d be 5-over par. The score you should enter is a 77.

Benefits: Here’s what this game helps you with.

  • Seeing a decent score next to your name after such “a terrible day of ball striking” should give you confidence that even on your worst day of ball striking you can still salvage the day.
  • When you do have a tough day with your full swing, you’ll be better prepared, and by playing this game you’ll worry less about your full-swing woes and more about getting the ball in the hole.

Enjoy this great Game of the Weekend!

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Trent Wearner is the No. 1-rated teacher in Colorado by Golf Digest Magazine, as well as a two-time Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year (2004, 2014). Along the way, he has been recognized as a Top 20 Teacher Under Age 40 by Golf Digest, a Top 50 Kids Teacher in America by U.S. Kids Golf and a Top Teacher in the Southwestern U.S. by GOLF Magazine. Trent is also the author of the book Golf Scrimmages and creator of the website GolfScrimmages.com

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Trojan

    Sep 1, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I use a similar version with a twist. I get a random number generator app for my phone and set the number of pins on the putting. / chipping green. Then let the god decide what hole I’m going for. This is much better as you have no say in the type of shot ( prevents subliminal favouring of your best type of shot ). Next day start from a diff position for variety.

  2. golfraven

    Aug 31, 2015 at 9:16 am

    I like the idea. Do you focus on pitching/chipping/putting only or also bunker play? I could imagine that you can replicate different positions around the green and also pin position – short, long, left and right of the green dependent on the hole. For instance you could practice to play a position short of the green on each hole and assuming you know the golf course and holes you would have bunch of different lies and challenges – downhill, uphill, over a bunker, over water/longer pitch, long or short chip.

    • JH

      Sep 1, 2015 at 8:33 am

      I’ve been doing a similar version of this for a while before I even read this article. To answer your question it is all up to you. The key is to use 1 ball and play it like it is a mini course. If you want to play it out of sand go for it. I have several times. I try to play through each scenario at least once when I do it.

      My version is a Par 2/3 course and play as far back as 50 yards from the green, or where a full Lob wedge shot can be played. I take my shot, putt it out and record how many strokes it took me. then I’ll replay that same distance and try to beat my score, unless I made par. If I do I pick a new spot, if I don’t I replay it again and again until I do.

      It is a great practice tool and has helped tremendously with my wedge play. The articles version is just as good, but I like to think of every hole being a Par 2 or 3 instead of trying to get up and down in 2 and recording it as a 4.

  3. Ronald Montesano

    Aug 29, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Wouldn’t a par of 36 work? If you drive into the woods and have to punch out, you’ll then miss the green with your third shot and try to get up and down for bogey, not par. That said, I like the idea…no I love the idea of this game. I plan to incorporate it into my varsity team’s practice schedule this fall.

  4. sgniwder99

    Aug 29, 2015 at 9:23 am

    I’ve played a version of this game before (not really imagining a score, just aiming for as many up-and-downs with one ball per hole location, 9 holes at a time, as I could manage). It’s definitely a great game for bringing some “reality” to your chipping practice. My issue with it is primarily that I haven’t actually found many places where I can do it very often. Most courses don’t let you chip on the putting green, and if they do have a chipping green I hate to be that annoying guy who’s obliviously practicing his putting in the way of everyone who’s trying to practice their chipping on the green designated for that purpose.

  5. Chuck

    Aug 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    btw: The article clearly gives the link to the scoring website. I should have looked more carefully at that. It is pretty clearly my fault alone.

    But the video, which I watched as soon as I saw the video link without reading the entire article, talks about “entering” your score without mentioning the [alternative] scoring website.

  6. Rob

    Aug 28, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    When I was in college, me and a buddy couldn’t afford to play so we would play this game competitively. We took turns picking spots around the practice green and picking which pin to hit to. We typically played match play format, and the gamble was a beer a hole. Nothing simulates in-round pressure like having to get up and down for “par” on the 18th hole with a case of beer (the presses got pretty insane) on the line, when you have barely enough gas money to make it home.

    If you really want to improve, play against a person who is much better than you and instead of just picking spots, mandate a club selection too and you’ll get really creative.

    We played for hours and it took a while for all that practice to carry over to the course, but after one season I had knocked 4.5 strokes off my index.

  7. Chuck

    Aug 28, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    So this is a great drill. They way that I would employ it, would be to do it with a friend, and bet some money on it in a match play format. (Or do it at 6:00 after work, and bet drinks on the outcome.) Match play puts pressure on repeated holes, virtually every shot. The outcome ought to be a real win, or a real loss.

    BUT…

    I have grave doubts about anybody introducing these “scores” into the GHIN system through your local golf association. I think that it’s a potentially serious distortion of the handicap system. I would NEVER enter a score from a game like this for purposes of establishing or updating a handicap! And I am not even going to bother to look up which handicapping rules it might violate.

    • Steve

      Aug 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      Where was GHIN ever mentioned? The article talks about entering scores into their interactive practice website…

      • Chuck

        Aug 28, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        As quick as I could, I tried to log back on to say that I misunderstood; nobody is turning in the scores to GHIN; scores are to be turned into a score-posting site for this game.

        My. Bad.

        I. Apologize.

        And yeah, as I originally said, I still think the game is a good idea, and I like it and I’ll definitely do it.

  8. Mark

    Aug 28, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Great practice routine! I teach the same game to my students, but have it 14 up and downs for par and 4 for birdie (greenside on a par 5 in two shots). Gives a little excitement to the game, and there’s nothing like a good up and down for birdie.

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I’ve written hundreds of articles as “The Wedge Guy” and answered thousands of emails in my 30 years of focused wedge design. So, I thought I’d compile a list of what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevent them from optimizing their scoring.

So here goes, not in any particular order.

Tempo

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Set Up/Posture

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Grip Pressure

A very light grip on the club is essential to good touch and a proper release through the impact zone. Trust me, you cannot hold a golf club too lightly – your body won’t let you. Concentrate on your forearms; if you can feel any tenseness in the muscles in your forearms, you are holding on too tightly.

Hand position

Watch the tour players hit short shots on TV. Their arms are hanging naturally from their shoulders so that their hands are very close to their upper thighs at address and through impact. Copy that and your short game will improve dramatically.

Lack of Body Core Rotation

When you are hitting short shots, the hands and arms have to begin and stay in front of the torso throughout the swing. If you don’t rotate your chest and shoulders back and through, you won’t develop good consistency in distance or contact.

Club selection

I see two major errors here. Some golfers always grab the sand or lob wedge when they miss a green. If you have lots of green to work with and don’t need that loft, a PW or 9-iron will give you much better results. The other error is seen in those golfers who are “afraid” of their wedge and are trying to hit tough recoveries with 8- and 9-irons. That doesn’t work either. Go to your practice green and see what happens with different clubs when given the same swing . . . then take that knowledge to the course.

Clubhead/grip relationship

This error falls into two categories. The first is those golfers who forward press so much that they dramatically change the loft of the club. At address and impact the grip should be slightly ahead of the clubhead. I like to focus on the hands, rather than the club, and just think of my left hand leading my right through impact. Which brings me to the other error – allowing the clubhead to pass the hands through impact. If you let the clubhead do that, good shots just cannot happen. And that is caused by you trying to “hit” the ball with the clubface, rather than swinging the entire club through impact.

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