How do you go about practicing your short-game?
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However, you may be able to do a bit better than the back yard for pitching and longer wedge shots if you keep your eye out for likely spots. All you need is a decent size open lawn. Obviously, private property is just that without permission from the owner, but a number of public parks around here have open spaces where you could probably practice, your neighborhood may also. Not taking big divots would help with your reception. And I used to work at a university that had some pretty large mowed areas that people would regularly practice their golf on. Perhaps you can find some place similar that will let you practice longer shots than most back yards can support.
Although I have access to short game areas, they are a hassle to get to. When I'm too lazy to go, I play 9 holes when it is slow/empty. I play the first few holes and when I get to an hole that's relatively quiet, I start playing 75 yards and in. If there are people behind me, I let them through and keep doing my thing. I might let several groups through. I keep proceeding through each hole, practicing bunker shots, putting, etc...
I've seen more than a few people do this as well, but I'm not sure as to the ethics of this. I play from areas where I won't take out a whole lot of grass and try to minimize wear and tear on the course.
Sometimes the green fee doing this is cheaper than the short game facility fee. I sure save a lot of time driving and gas as well.