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65/20/15 Practice Ratios: Where to Devote Your Practice Time


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I've been working off a theory for awhile now, and I've talked with a lot of people about it. I've charted how much time the average PGA Tour player spends doing things, I've talked with coache

Just saw your post on dividing up practice time iacas.  Your explanation and reasoning is really well thought out with solid statistics to back you up.  I completely agree with your assessment and for

Great advice. Take the 100 shooter and focus solely on putting, transforming that player into a PGA Tour caliber putter and you'll have someone who shoots 95 with 30 putts per round. Good luck breakin

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Good read. Well argued. Probably spend a bit more time putting myself, because that's been a particular irritant.

In terms of the article, it would likely help people to have an explicit time reference in there -- ie. that two hours of practice under this regime breaks down to (roughly) an hour and a quarter on the full swing, half an hour on the short game and 15 minutes putting.

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I know that my scores would be better if I didn't have to rely on my short game all of the time.  While there are days when I can get the ball up and down from every trash can and ball washer on the course, (can shoot in the 70s hitting 6 or 7 greens), it's extremely frustrating having to do it.  I would love to have a day where I have a few birdies and a bunch of boring, 2 putt pars.

With my home course closing on Monday to renovate the greens, I'll spend the summer working on my ballstriking.

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Good post, Erik.  I like the "number of balls hit" idea instead of the "time spent". I would break it down even a bit more:

For the full swing, spend almost all of the time on drivers and wedges.  You MUST get the drive in play.  Additionally, you must be able to control the distances on 50-125 yard shots.

For the short game, spend an equal amount on chipping (you MUST get up and down a high percentage of the time) and pitching (you MUST get it close enough for at least a reasonable shot at making the putt.

For putting, work on longer lag putts, say in the 30-50 range.  You MUST avoid 3-putts.  And work on the 4-8 foot range.  You MUST make a high percentage of them.

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Originally Posted by Harmonious

Good post, Erik.  I like the "number of balls hit" idea instead of the "time spent". I would break it down even a bit more:

For the full swing, spend almost all of the time on drivers and wedges.  You MUST get the drive in play.  Additionally, you must be able to control the distances on 50-125 yard shots.

For the short game, spend an equal amount on chipping (you MUST get up and down a high percentage of the time) and pitching (you MUST get it close enough for at least a reasonable shot at making the putt.

For putting, work on longer lag putts, say in the 30-50 range.  You MUST avoid 3-putts.  And work on the 4-8 foot range.  You MUST make a high percentage of them.

I agree with all of that except the bit about the 50-125 yard shots. I think you can map those out pretty easily (I tape the yardages for my swing lengths to the underside of my shaft, just below the grip). "Set it and forget it." Revisit them occasionally but otherwise, even PGA Tour pros aren't sticking those things as close as you'd (general you, not you specifically) think.

The driver is critically important, you bet. A drive that goes OB or behind a tree or into a pond is one or two shots absolutely lost.

But then I'd say you absolutely need to improve your GIR numbers, so that typically works out to practicing a lot with the driver (so you have a chance to hit the GIR and aren't behind a tree or in the water) and then your mid-irons (or whatever clubs you typically have to hit on approach to the greens).

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Originally Posted by iacas

I agree with all of that except the bit about the 50-125 yard shots. I think you can map those out pretty easily (I tape the yardages for my swing lengths to the underside of my shaft, just below the grip). "Set it and forget it." Revisit them occasionally but otherwise, even PGA Tour pros aren't sticking those things as close as you'd (general you, not you specifically) think.

I agree with you both on all of the above, but would just like to add that the average golfer should simply concentrate on getting the ball on the green from 50-125 yards rather than trying to get too cute. If I received a dollar every time a hole was ruined from that distance I'd be a millionaire. Working on hitting the ball first, ground second and aiming at the fat of the green is the order of the day for shots between 50-125 yards.

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I've been saying this for years!

Well not exactly this, but the full swing is the bane of my golfing existence, and boy do my wildly fluctuating scores show it!

Not only do I agree with this premise but in my experience I enjoy the rounds where my full swing is clicking and putting is so-so far more than when I make every putt I look at but spray the ball all over the fairway.  Both of those scenarios are frustrating, but I can actually begin to play golf as it's intended when I can control my ball (to a degree), than those times when I'm always out of position prior to getting onto the green.

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The reason I put an emphasis on the 50-125 range is three-fold.  First, those are the distances where you have a chance for birdie.  Truth be told, not many folks knock it inside 10 feet from 175 yards.  Second, you will hit anywhere from 6 to 12 of these shots every round, whether it be third shots on par 5's, second shots on short par 4's, or short par 3's. Dialing in those distances (which most amateurs definitely do not do) is important if birdies are to be had. Third, a 50 or 100 yard shot uses the same mechanics as a full swing, but relies on knowing how large a backswing to make.  And that takes a lot practice to determine, and practice to maintain.

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Originally Posted by Harmonious

Third, a 50 or 100 yard shot uses the same mechanics as a full swing, but relies on knowing how large a backswing to make.  And that takes a lot practice to determine, and practice to maintain.

We'll have to agree to disagree on that. I wrote down my yardages, and I've always been able to hit them with minimal time spent practicing them. Maybe I'm unique there, but if so, I'm unique with Dave, too - he has his yardages down as well and rarely works on them. Just confirms that they're still the same now and then (usually when he changes wedges, which isn't often).

Small point on the side though, this is. If some of your 65% of the time is spent on this, great. I'm fortunate in that I can spend my full swing time doing other things.

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For a while I had gotten obsessed with practicing my irons. I wanted to hit GIRs so badly, and I worked on my short and mid irons like there was no tomorrow. For a while I spent pretty much my entire full-swing time on them. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't matter how good your irons are (mine still aren't very good), you don't hit GIRs from the trees. I got more comfortable with my irons (and made reasonable progress, they were the weakest part of my game), but my game from the teebox went to crap as I made swing adjustments for my irons and spent very little time practicing my longer clubs. I had a couple of rounds were I would've been better using a 7-iron from the teebox than my woods. I was looking at my past scores and I noticed that the seemingly most closely correlated factor to lower scores was fairways hit. Balls that go into the rough or the trees can turn an average difficulty hole into a fight to save bogey, and it's hard to play even bogey golf when half the time you're getting up and down for it. The games I hit fairways are the games I have fewer blow-up holes and hit more GIR, and those are the games I have more pars and lower scores. Even if your irons are crap, it's not too hard to hit them to within 30 yards of green if you have a clean look at the green from the fairway. If you can always do that, a chip/pitch and two putt will grind out bogeys all day. I've become somewhat convinced that over-bogey games (for me) can be blamed on bad driving. I'm comfortable with my wedges, so if I can get my irons in the air I should be able to shoot par from the fairway. The problem then becomes getting to the fairway. I remember two games. One where I felt I played pretty good and shot 89. Another were I felt like I played like crap and I shot an 89. The game where I felt like I played great I was hitting great recovery shots and hitting good irons. But my driving was all over the place and my great shots were usually recovery shots that just barely got to where a mediocre shot off a good drive would've gone. I felt like I worked hard to break 90. The game where I felt like I played badly I'd hit fairways all day long, but struggled with my irons and some of my putting. I was shocked and almost felt guilty that I'd broken 90. I no longer think that practicing driving is overrated. I won't practice it 1/2 of the full swing time, but I think it deserves 1/4-ish of my time.
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Thanks Erik,

My single biggest weakness, IMO, is the driver and keeping the ball in the fairway.  When I do, then chances for par go up.  My GIR for the last 20 rounds is ~23%.  My GIR from the fairway is ~43%.  That's a huge difference.

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Originally Posted by B-Con

I remember two games. One where I felt I played pretty good and shot 89. Another were I felt like I played like crap and I shot an 89. The game where I felt like I played great I was hitting great recovery shots and hitting good irons. But my driving was all over the place and my great shots were usually recovery shots that just barely got to where a mediocre shot off a good drive would've gone. I felt like I worked hard to break 90. The game where I felt like I played badly I'd hit fairways all day long, but struggled with my irons and some of my putting. I was shocked and almost felt guilty that I'd broken 90.

I no longer think that practicing driving is overrated. I won't practice it 1/2 of the full swing time, but I think it deserves 1/4-ish of my time.

I'll agree with you on this.  Yesterday I had the best driving round I've  had in a long time but struggled to a 79 with two three putts on par fives for bogey among some other "stupid" moves on my part.  I felt "dejected" in wasting so many good drives.  I mean I hit my irons okay but, not with the same quality that I was hitting the driver.  Usually for me, it's the other way around.  I'll spray the driver and then feel great about the "scrambling" 79 I shot.

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Originally Posted by boogielicious

My single biggest weakness, IMO, is the driver and keeping the ball in the fairway.  When I do, then chances for par go up.  My GIR for the last 20 rounds is ~23%.  My GIR from the fairway is ~43%.  That's a huge difference.

Right.

Simply put (I may have said this almost exactly the same way before): the longer shots have a bigger influence on your score.

You're far less likely to "blow up" from close to the hole as you are from the tee box or fairway. The closer you get to the hole, the less likely a "blow up" will happen.

From Scorecard, my stats tell me a few things:

  1. From the left and right rough, my GIR is 20% lower than it is from the fairway. They're also about the same compared to each other, so my misses aren't particularly bad to one side (or particularly playable to one side).
  2. From the rough my scoring average in relation to par is 0.25 strokes higher than my scoring average from the fairway.

Dave and I are talking about writing a book on some of this stuff. You know, in the infinite free time we have. :P

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I am making huge strides in my game and I feel like structuring my practice properly was very very important.  In my opinion the biggest way to wreck a round is to struggle getting off the tee box and not getting on the green in regulation.  With putting, I find the hole with the biggest slope around it and set up the Mickelson three foot drill and hit 100 putts and note my percentage.  I embarrassingly started in the 78 percent range, but am now consistently in the upper 80's and low 90's.  After I do that then I practice on lagging putts inside that three foot circle  from varying distance and it amazes me how quickly my reads improved  along with my distance control.

I hate practicing missing putts so I  keep my non lag putting practice inside 3 feet until I can make 97 out of 100 and then I'll move it back to 5 footers. I just want to make sure that I take care of the putts that MUST be made almost 100% of the time.

I work on tee shots mainly with my full swing because that is my biggest glaring weakness that is costing me the most strokes, and the course here in Doha is extremely punishing with its unplayable desert and club grabbing rough so you must get off the teebox without question as the first order of business. Next would be missing the green in regulation but to me this gets more and more dialed in so long as you are practicing with a purpose because I am quickly hitting more and more greens, and narrowly missing a few more which keeps the big numbers off the card.

I think you are probably right with your findings as far as the practice time allotment.  The most important factor is practicing with a purpose  for sure though!

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To someone (me) just getting back to golf after nearly a year away, this was immensely helpful. I remember being that guy who leaned on his short game for the longest time. I'm glad to see this all mapped out. Now to go and do what I know I need to do to properly practice the full swing... step one, find that camera.
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I would agree with this ratio. Although I normally tailor it before a tournament comes around. I may do a bit more short game and putting the week before because I don't want too many swing thoughts in the full swing before the tournament, and I want the short game to be sharp during the tournament.

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I have to agree, most people think pro's putt better than they do. There is a huge decrease in percentage as you get past 10 feet. If you want to practice putting, do it on 3-5 footers, were pro's can make over 90% of them easy.

I agree as for short game, why work on it, if you can hit more greens you don't need a short game. Working on short game to phil's level is not very good, its basically putting a patch on a problem instead of cutting the problem off ahead of time.

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My first problem with the 65-25-10 argument is that pros rely on their long games more than amateurs.  The pros expect to hit the green with their long irons and they work on this aspect of their game so they can get within 10 feet and make more birdies.  Tour pros hit 12-13 greens per round, whereas the average 10-handicapper hits 4-5.  Amateurs have many more short game shots per round and these shots make more of a difference on the scorecard.

Second problem is that the short game is full of different strokes: full wedge, chipping, pitching, bunker, and putting.  Add to this the fact that many short game shots come from the rough, from awkward stances, imperfect lies, and from hills.  And, to hold the green, we need to have the ability to vary our trajectory and control the spin.

I don't disagree that it is also important to get off the tee, but for most of us this is the same swing from the same stance 12-14 times per round.  If I hit one good drive, I would love to copy and paste that drive onto all the other driver holes on the course.  Yet if I hit a good shot from 50 yards and in, chances are I won't use that same shot more than twice.  How many bunkers does the average golfer reach per round?  For me, it has always been 1 or 2 at most.  Sadly, there have been too many times in the past when I've gone into the bunker and taken 2+ to get out, or blasted it over the green.

So I practice the variety of shots in my short game (from 100 yards and in) with the hope that I will be able to get up-and-down once in a while for birdie or to save par, and of course not blade the ball over the green, pitch into the bunker, or come up short with a wedge, thereby eliminating the doubles and triples.

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