9 Steps to Building a Bulletproof Golf Practice Plan

I've been helping golfers improve for 25 years. Here's how to create golf practice plans that work!

, GolfLink Writer
Updated March 4, 2024
Golf pro and student practicing the golf swing
    Golf pro and student practicing the golf swing
    Getty Image license

Having a good golf practice plan and practicing with purpose will without question help you improve much more quickly than a random practice session here and there.

As a PGA professional, I've been helping golfers improve for 25 years. Here's how to create golf practice plans that work.

Golf requires laser-focused practice and unwavering dedication. If that sentiment scares you, that's perfectly fine. You don't need to get super deep with your practice if you are more of a recreational golfer.

No matter what level your game is at or how much time you have to devote to your game, I suggest that your golf practice routine is much more than simply hitting balls at the range or putting on the putting green. 

To be blunt, without having structure and purpose embedded in your practice time, you can’t expect to improve your skills and lower your scores.

To truly practice with a purpose, it's essential to have a concrete plan and a foolproof strategy for each practice session. A big part of creating this, and one of my highest recommendations, is to consult with your local PGA or LPGA teaching professional. Having a set of eyes you can trust to help you develop and be a cheerleader for your success is a massive advantage.

In this article, I'll share some tips and techniques for practicing golf with a purpose that will empower you to take your game to the next level. As a PGA teaching professional myself, these are the key areas I stress with my own students.

Check out these methods and tip for making the most of your practice time to get real results from the work you put in.

  1. Set SMART Goals
  2. Create an Unwavering Practice Plan
  3. Quality over Quantity
  4. Mix Up Your Routine
  5. Practice Under Pressure
  6. Use Technology
  7. Focus on the Mental Game
  8. Block vs. Random Practice
  9. Gamification

1. Set SMART Goals

To practice with a purpose, you must start by setting what I refer to as SMART goals. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Goals must be achievable and focused on the areas of your game that need the most improvement.

For example, if you struggle with your short game, you might set a goal to make 80% of your putts from 6 feet or less. If you have difficulty with accuracy off the tee, you must set a goal to hit 7-out-of-10 fairways without fail during your next practice session. 

The more specific and detailed you can get, the better. 

Lastly, journal your journey. Write down the goals, your plan to achieve them, and your results along the way.

2. Create an Unwavering Practice Plan

Once you've set your goals, it's time to create a practice plan that will help you achieve them. This plan should be unwavering, specific, and structured, with a variety of drills and exercises that target the areas of your game that need improvement. 

For example, if you're working on your short game, you might spend 30 minutes practicing your putting, followed by 30 minutes working on chipping and pitching without any deviation.

If you are working with a coach, which I sincerely hope you consider, let them help you develop this plan. Additionally, allow them to follow your progress by sharing what your practice sessions were like daily. 

Take a video and share that with your coach. A good coach does not just meet with you once a week for an hour but is a resource you can lean on between sessions by sharing your day-by-day progress.


3. Quality over Quantity

Quality is far more important when practicing golf than quantity. It's better to spend 30 minutes practicing with a purpose than to spend two hours mindlessly hitting balls at the range. Ensure that each shot you hit has a specific purpose and focus on always progressing towards your goals.

The best example of this idea is putting practice. In putting, you really want to focus your efforts on putts that are most important to lowering your score. In most cases, for those who struggle with putting, it is not the long putts that cause issues, but rather, the shorter ones. 

Generally, the most important length putts to practice are those within 6 to 10 feet. These putts will make or break your round, as they often determine whether you make par or bogey. Practicing putts within this range can help you develop a consistent stroke, translating to improved performance on longer putts. Working on these length putts regularly but in shorter increments, such as a 20-minute block daily, is far more effective than putting for two hours twice a week.

While I am on the topic of putting, I can not emphasize enough that practicing your putting over, say, hitting drivers on the range, is far more advantageous to lowering your scores.


4. Mix Up Your Routine

Mixing up your practice routine to keep things interesting and exciting and avoid boredom is essential. Try different drills and exercises, and focus on different areas of your game each time you practice. For example, one day, you might focus on your short game; the next, you might work on your long game. However, always keep sight of your goals and remain focused on achieving them, no matter what.

5. Practice Under Pressure

One of the keys to improving your performance on the golf course is learning how to perform under pressure. To do this, it's important to practice under pressure without any hesitation or indecision. 

You can do this by setting up competitions or challenges for yourself during your practice sessions. For instance, you might challenge yourself to make 10 putts in a row from six feet or play nine holes on the range and try to beat your personal best score without any fear of failure.


6. Use Technology To Your Advantage

There are various technologies available today that can help you practice with a purpose and take your game to the next level. 

Launch monitors provide detailed data on your ball flight and help you identify areas of your game that need improvement. 

In the past, I have used Trackman and FlightScope, and currently, I am in a partnership with Rapsodo, using their MLM2PRO launch monitor when I teach and practice my own game. In fact, six of my more serious students use the MLM2PRO in their practice regimens.

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Video analysis software, such as V1 Golf, SportsBox 3D Golf, and others, can help you analyze your swing and identify areas of your technique that need work.

Data is king in the modern game, and it’s not limited to the numbers you get on your launch monitor. Training systems like DECADE Golf help you track, learn from, and strategize your on-course play by evaluating your tendencies. 

ShotScope, an industry leader in on-course distance measuring devices and stat-tracking, offers several devices that can help you track your round statistically so you can learn from your patterns. Both of these examples offer invaluable information and can transform your game. 

Training aids like putting mirrors and alignment sticks can help you improve your mechanics and develop a more consistent swing. I am a massive fan of training aids and use them often. Some may shy away from items like these, but if you do your research and filter out the "snake oil" products, you can indeed find some game-changing training devices.

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7. Focus On The Mental Game, Relentlessly

Golf is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. 

To practice with a purpose, you need to focus relentlessly on the game's mental aspects. This means learning to stay focused and relaxed under pressure and developing a positive mindset to help you perform your best. 

One way to do this is to practice visualization techniques. Imagine yourself hitting perfect shots and making putts under pressure without any self-doubt.

8. Understand the Differences Between Block and Random Practice

When it comes to structuring your practice routine, there are two main approaches: block practice and random practice. 

Block practice involves repeatedly practicing the same shot or skill until it becomes almost automatic. In contrast, random practice consists of mixing up different shots or skills to help simulate the unpredictability of an actual round on the course. A great practice session has a well-calculated balance of block and random practice.

Block practice can be beneficial for beginners who need to develop habits, feel a new movement, or build confidence in their abilities. This type of practice allows golfers to focus on specific aspects of their game and make consistent and incremental improvements. 

However, block practice can lead to a false sense of security where you feel as though you have a skill down but may struggle when trying to apply it in game-time situations on the course. This is mainly because, during a round, the shots you need to be able to execute are constantly changing.

On the flip side, random practice can help develop the ability to adapt to different situations and make quick decisions when you get on the course or are competing. By practicing a variety of shots and skills in other orders and contexts, you can learn to be more flexible and versatile with your game.

However, random practice can also become challenging and frustrating for some, as it’s hard to see immediate progress in this style of practice. 

It requires time and patience to reach your golf goals. Making mistakes, as you often will in random practice, is seen by experts as the building blocks necessary for improvement to happen long term. For some, learning from mistakes, combined with the time it takes to develop certain skills, often leads to frustration. This is especially true with younger players. Trust me, as a youth golf coach, I know this all too well.  

Both block and random practice have their advantages and disadvantages. I believe that using both styles, finding a balance between them, and tailoring your practice routine to your individual needs and goals is highly beneficial. 

Ultimately, the key to improving your golf game is a consistent and deliberate practice regime, regardless of your chosen approach.


9. Gamification Is Massively Important, So What Is It?

Gamification refers to using game-like elements such as a point system or leaderboard or creating challenges to make golf practice more engaging and enjoyable. By adding these elements, you can improve your skills while having fun at the same time. Gamification can also help you stay motivated and focused during a practice session, leading to better overall performance on the course.

Here are two great games you can add to your practice sessions to crank up the gamification and pressure.

Nail the Number

An example of a full-swing golf practice game incorporating gamification is one I do with my students using our Rapsodo MLM2PRO radar. In this game, I challenge students to hit a shot to a specific carry distance number and assign points to each based on how close they were to that distance. 

This can also be used to really get them dialed in with shorter wedge shots from distances between 20 and 100 yards. This particular adaptation of the game helps my students improve and develop that all-important wedge play and makes practice more enjoyable and engaging.


Around the World

One simple yet effective putting practice game incorporating gamification is "Around the World." To play, place markers in a circle around a specific hole on the practice green, with each at a different distance from the hole. The objective is to make the putt from each marker, working your way around the circle.

For gamification purposes, you can assign different point values to each marker based on the distance from the hole. For example, the closest marker might be worth one point, while the farthest marker might be worth five points. You can also set a time limit for completing the game to add an extra challenge and motivate you to work quickly and efficiently.

Putting It All Together

Practicing golf with a purpose requires unrelenting focus, unwavering dedication, and a well-structured plan that leaves no room for deviation. 

By setting SMART goals, creating an unwavering practice plan, emphasizing quality, mixing up your routine, practicing under pressure, using technology, and focusing on the mental game relentlessly, you can take your game to the next level and become a champion on the golf course. 

Doing this with a trusted PGA or LPGA coach can lead to even more success. 

Remember, it's not just about hitting balls at the range – it's about practicing with a purpose and developing a more well-rounded game with unshakable confidence and bold determination.