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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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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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