We all love it when we hit a drive that booms down the middle or the iron shot that fizzes off the club and finds the middle of the green. Or better still sending a clutch putt right into the middle of the hole. But the trick is we want to do it more often. All golfers are looking for a bit more consistency, but how do we achieve that? We all need to tap into golf’s three Rs – repetition, repetition, repetition. If it is good enough for the pros to spend hours on the practice ground honing their skills, then we can find a few minutes here and there to try and improve our consistency. Here at American Golf, we have a few drills for you to try to iron out those silly mistakes and make good shots more common.
As Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of America once said, ‘Fail to prepare then prepare to fail’. Now golf wasn’t around in his time, but the saying is perfectly suited to the game. Think of the scenario, jump in the car, drive to the club, throw your shoes on, grab the clubs from the boot, nip into the pro shop for a card and a bottle of water and walk to the first tee. And after all that, what are the chances of hitting the right tee shot? Let’s be honest, if you do hit one down the middle, it will almost be a complete fluke – especially if you have not played for any significant period for time.
The keyword for all of these drills below is consistency. It is about having a consistent set-up and a consistent routine and for that, we need to hammer home things until they become second nature. It will take a bit of time and a bit of practice, but if we want to knock a few annoying shots out of our game, it will definitely be worth the effort.
Before we get to the course:
Here is a drill that does not even require putting a club in our hands!
Could we be a little bit fitter? Are rounds tailing off in the back nine as we yearn for the 19th hole? That may not necessarily be technical flaws but mental errors. And what causes those? Often it’s physical fatigue. So that means we have to build up our stamina. If you’re doing a job that requires a lot of sitting at a desk, then suddenly being on our feet for four hours is a big difference. That’s why we have to make sure we’re doing everything possible to do some good walking – and at a good speed to get the blood flowing. Can we push for 10,000 steps a day, if not doing so already?
When out on the course, nobody should just walk up to the ball and hit it. There needs to be more of a process. That’s why it is important to come up with a pre-shot routine. Confidence in golf stems from good habits and good practice and improvement will come from getting those fundamentals in place.
Here is something that we need to drill into our set-up to try to achieve that longed-for consistency. When stood on the tee, decide what works for you. How many practice swings do you need to feel ready to hit? If one, take one. Or three, do that. Do you want to step back and visualise the shot you are trying to hit? If that will help you, do it. There is no specific right or wrong way on this, only the right way for you. The key is to carry it out before every shot.
X marks the spot:
There is nothing quite like it. We stand over the ball with the driver in hand and ‘Whoosh’. The ball sails away right down the middle into the spot we are aiming at on the fairway. You have all pictured it, but come on seriously. How many times a round do you hit THAT drive? I would be surprised if it was more than once.
This is not one for competition, but a good drill if you are heading to the driving range or for a friendly few holes out on the course. The key to a great drive is finding the sweet spot of the club, but too often our strike is too close to the heel sending it off into trouble or off the toe, pushing it into the rough. So for this drill, get either a bit of tape or a marker pen and put a spot on the middle and the top of the driver. Line yourself up carefully with the ball against those marks and then take your shot. A quick look at the club will tell you where the contact was and what needs to be adjusted for the next shot. Keep doing this until you start to find consistency of shot. Like with most things in golf, there is no magic wand, it’s about creating the repetition so it becomes part of our muscle memory.
The right line to success:
The ability to hit controlled and accurate mid and long irons is the sign of a good golfer. It is normally the sign of a player in really good form, too, as that is when confidence, technique and set-up all come together. Collin Morikawa’s performance to win The Open at Royal St George’s in 2021 was a great example of pure striking with his irons, creating an element of control around his whole game. It may not have the adrenaline rush of a booming drive, but a well-hit iron, maybe finding the green at a longish par-three, brings with it a great deal of satisfaction.
The great iron shot requires everything to fall into place. One thing out of kilter and the ball veers off into a spot we don’t like. Maybe we have come up short or pulled it into trouble. That is why alignment is so important. The drill for this one involves an alignment stick that we should place on the floor, pointing at our target. Then we need to line up corresponding with that target. Get our feet in position with our toes level and touching the stick. The stick also helps with the swing too, because we want the angle of the swing coming into the ball to be running parallel with the line of our feet. If we get those two things co-ordinated, the chances are we will send the ball in roughly the direction we want it to go. Keep repeating. Make it so second nature that when we are out on the course, we can use an imaginary line to recreate that ideal position to produce those smooth iron shots.
Short game superstar:
Nobody likes playing against the master scrambler. Think of Padraig Harrington at his best or Jordan Spieth in that crazy 2015 season. You think you’ve got them, but they are capable of a chip and putt from anywhere. Getting up-or-down once or twice in a round makes such a difference to the score, not just in numbers but in terms of momentum and confidence.
Take ten balls and head to the practice chipping and putting green. Decide on one club and hit ten chips to different holes on the green. See how many times you get down in two. Then repeat the exercise. Build up a feel with the club for the different distances required. Be nice and relaxed over the ball and get to a place where your wedge sits softly in the hands so that you can produce those lovely, gentle shots that wend their way towards the cup. Mastering the short game is also a great way of boosting your confidence because if you can chip it close, you always have a chance of making a good hole, great or rescuing yourself from a potential card-wrecker.
Putting in the practice:
If like me, the putter is probably the first golf club we ever used. It could have been playing crazy golf on holiday or with a small set you get for your birthday or at Christmas as a young child. Everyone can use a putter, but not everyone can putt. The important thing is learning to use the putter effectively!
Nobody is going to hole every putt they have, but it’s about reducing the number of short ones we miss. You know the ones. The three-foot tiddler, where you then get really angry with yourself and let that frustration seep into a poor tee shot on the next hole. And one missed putt costs you three or four strokes. Remember when Tiger Woods was in his pomp, his brilliance on the greens was not the long birdie putts he holed, but the knee-knockers for pars to make sure his rivals never had a sniff.
Are you desperate to see if the ball is going in the hole? Well that desperation is probably causing you to make a fatal error. Putting requires keeping everything still. One good way of avoiding that is by using an alignment stick or failing that, another club in the bag. Rest the club against the side of your body furthest from the hole. Line yourself up putter in hand and then take your stroke. As well as trying to hole the putt, the main aim is to make sure the stick remains glued to your body. Too much movement and it will fall to the ground and the putt will have no chance of going in.
This exercise will create consistency by staying still over the ball and creating a good rhythm, elements vital in producing a good putting stroke. If we do that, the chances of hearing the ball disappear into the cup can only increase.
About the Author
Adam Lanigan - Golf Writer
Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.