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



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,, 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



  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.


    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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The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo



One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.


If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots



You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?



As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.


  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]





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