Structure Your Practice!!

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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How do you spend your valuable time practicing? Yes, practicing which does not include a few minutes warming up before you tee it up. If you want to get better, which every golfer strives for, practice is a vital step in the process. How you spend that valuable time is just as important as what you are practicing. 

The reality is that approximately 75% of your score occurs from 100 yards and in. Are you practicing your short game 75% of the time? That would be my first suggestion to you. In addition, spend your practice time two ways – work on improving your technique – short game and full swing and couple that with simulating on course situations from the practice area.

Below is a recommended practice plan for one visit to the golf course. The outline includes a 2 hour practice schedule that will allow you to improve your skill set and will simulate the golf course from the practice area. Commit to structuring your practice as outlined below and I promise you will get a lot more out of your practice sessions.

Two Hour Sample Practice Plan

1.  Full Swing (total time 1 hour) – work on full swing skill acquisition.  Example: focus on setup–GPA. Make sure your grip, posture and alignment is up to par. Hit 30 balls out of an alignment station. This type of practice is what we call a block setting. Before each shot, go through a routine focusing on your grip, posture and alignment each and every time. After you have finished your 30 shots, pick up your hitting station and hit to various targets on the practice tee. With each new shot, pick a different target and vary your distances. Make sure to go through your pre shot routine each and every time. Also, create a fairway and hit a few tee shots. This type of practice is what we call random practice and will simulate the golf course from the practice tee. The above should take you about an hour to accomplish.

2.  Short Game (total time 1 hour) – work on putting skill acquisition. This would include any drill that you might like. For example, purchase a putting plane if you don’t already have one. Putt to a hole using the putting plane for 30 minutes working on your setup and the motion of your stroke. After you finish, take 1 ball and putt through an 18 hole putting course performing a routine every single time. Again, the above two exercises will allow you to improve your technique and also simulate the golf course from the putting green.

I consistently am asked the question, “How should I be practicing?” The above is a very structured sample of an efficient two hour trip to the golf course. If you are only able to practice once a week, go through the above practice plan the first week and follow the same structure the following week working on another area of your game. For example, work on your full swing motion and then pick another short game topic. I challenge you to try the above practice plans. Remember, perfect your practice and master your game!!

John Stahlschmidt is the Senior Head Instructor for the TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale. To comment on this column or for more information on golf instruction, email John at