Critique Gameplan for Approach Practice (High hcp)

Hi all, high handicapper here recently using Shotscope to track strokes gained and I think I have the opportunity to shave a ton of strokes if I can get iron play under control.

I played my first full round of golf last August. I’ve taken a bunch of private lessons, use a Garmin R10, training The Stack, and usually go to range but have a mat and net at home. I did injure my wrist on my first round and have a tendency to avoid turf contact since.

Tracking with ShotScope, I typically drive at around a 10 hcp, putting is similar, wedges have been a struggle lately but they were previously a strength and I have a practice plan for that.

I’m losing 10+ strokes against a 25 hcp with approach play, however. Partly I’ve had challenges in recovery situations, but in general my iron play off mats does not translate to grass (I play dramatically better approach play on simulators, it’s not the clubs).

I have the opportunity to practice a fair bit, and I’m wondering about the following plan for the next couple weeks.

  1. Grass range or par 3 practice session 1x week
  2. One divot board/Dr. Shoals practice session
  3. Play 9 as a pure practice session with 1-3 balls, work from recovery situations, rough, etc. (spray face here too)
  4. Re-evaluate.

Since part of my issue is recovering shots when my approach to the green is blocked, I’m also going to significantly simplify recovery shots to “chip/pitch it back on the fairway.” I have had some fantastic recoveries with a gripped down 5i punching it under trees, but also some disasters.

Feedback appreciated.


Where have you been missing with your irons? Short, long, left/right? Any patterns? Is it clubbing based on your 100% hit, instead of your median?

When you hit off grass, where are your divots aimed, if you take any at all? And does that path change or have a pattern?

Depth of divots: deeper at heel, toe, no difference, show both extremes?

Where are you aiming vs where the ball goes? I.e., is your alignment jacked up? (Raises hand. I have to constantly make sure my address is good)

Finally, where are you aiming on the green, and how does that correspond to what your grass range work is telling you where your balls actually go? It’s OK to aim away from the flag.

In weird situations, if your dispersion suggests it, it’s fine to aim away from the green.

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Hey Jayjay,

I tend to miss short typically due to a mis-hit (a small percentage overshoot - 7%). E.g., I hit a 7i and it goes 100 yards instead of 145-155. Left to right is somewhat balanced. I miss 15% right and 6% left.

I very rarely take a divot.

I think aim is fairly good because I don’t trust my instinct. My eye on this tends to be waaay off so I line up the shot visually from behind the ball with multiple intermediate points starting 10 in. in front of the ball.

I target the center of the green, adjusting for where my miss pattern happens to be for that day. E.g., I sometimes consistently miss left and will adjust aim. For club selection, I choose a club where a perfect shot will hit the back of the green. I try to have my average distance be target the midpoint of the green. I don’t have reliable data on all my clubs yet, and I haven’t quite worked out how much more club to take hitting out of the rough vs. fairway.

I haven’t been using a grass range, but I do have access to one. I never aim at the flag unless I’m inside 40 yards and feel highly confident I won’t end up off the putting surface. I started out playing with the “ignore the flag” idea.

In general, my average irons shots are shorter than my CHS and woods distances would indicate, despite being pretty forgiving irons (Sub 70 699)

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Sounds like you’re doing a lot of the right things already. Did you get fit into those irons?

The grass range’ll help, just because it’ll be a more similar lie to the course. I can’t really fault you for not taking a divot—I don’t either, and a lifetime of mats and concrete-esque ‘grass’ is why—but they are supposed to help with getting the correct low point established. Futher, the grass will show when you’re hitting it fat. Which I suspect may be behind some of your ballspeed woes.

How’s your fairway wood contact and flight?

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To quote a famous long time teaching professional in golf.
“Touch” can be developed by practice. With the exception of a very few, every golf can and will develop the touch around the green.
The modern technology will certainly aid your progress to develop the touch but can not ignore the importance of a pair of experienced eyes.
Bottom line is, get proper guidance then go practice and play for a few months, then come back to check with the guidance and have new questions answered.
If you’re not in a tournament when every shot count, try those “hero” shots when you’re in a troublesome lie. Threading through an opening between the trees, hitting ball lying in a fairway divot… if you never practice those shots, you’ll never know how to handle it. Wonder how do those professional perform those miracle golf shots? Because they had encounter similar shots in the past and they increased the success rate by knowing and practicing for those situation.
Don’t worry, since you’re relatively a new golfer, all these different situation will come when you play enough golf. Remember most of those whom started playing golf from a very young age probably encountered all sorts of situation on the golf course already.
Practice and playing builds touch and confidence, no substitutes.

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Thanks guys. I did notice something reviewing my shotscope rounds that I tend to run into trouble in the rough, and saw this article:

Getting more conservative here may help. I miss a lot of fairways, and many rough shots turn into long iron shots for me if I’m either missed to the rough opposite the hole/dogleg, or I’m punching out of trees with a 5i. An an easier shot with a short iron, hybrid, or wedge would be smarter.

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Rule number one, if you’re laying up for a safety shot; make sure it will be a safety shot instead of turning the safety shot into more trouble.
Taking a penalty, is better than turning it into double penalty or even worse.
New golfers often have bleeding holes, those triple or quadruple or ever worse. Those bleeding holes will make a big number on your score card.
As in any other golf shot, observe if you can get the club to the golf ball, and which club you have the confidence doing the job.
The more you do it, the more you’ll make and the more chances you’ll better execute the shot. This is why when I see weekend golfers use their foot wedge to improve the lie of their golf ball. If they never practice it, how could they get better?

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The rough is challenging but I have (fewer, but still) mishits on the fairway as well.

If you were advising a practice regimen for someone with ball striking issues who could practice 3 times per week, what would you suggest?

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Every golfer has “missed-hit”, including the very best in this game, yes it’ll be from a perfect lie.
Watching some of the professionals hitting 6 irons on the driving range before their rounds and among all those near perfect shots, there be one or two missed hits. The fans will make fun of their missed hits and the pros will joke about it.
Accepting the nature of this game which is coming out of disaster triumphantly will make you enjoy it a lot more. A good read is " golf is not a game of perfect " will help if you have not already realized this.
Practicing 3 times a week for a weekend golfer is plenty. How many golf balls will you hit per session? For a relatively new golfer, try to hit as many as you could ( productively) without getting tired or hurt.
Do some eye/hand coordination exercise and strengthen your wrists and fingers. These exercise could be done outside of your driving range sessions.
If one has good eye/hand coordination, a strong set of wrists and fingers, one can get out of the rough easier than otherwise.
Learn how to use the swing plane to extract golf balls from not-so-perfect lie. May that be in the light rough, thick rough, or buried lie in the bunker. Steeper? Flatter plane? Match the slope of the terrain?
The goal is to the get the club face to the golf ball to produce the type of trajectory you want out of it.
Sometimes the lie will be so bad, there is not much one could do but just get the golf ball out of the bad lie , hopefully advancing toward the green.
In the old days, some golf courses will have hidden greens built between fairways for practice; hidden by the tree lines on both sides.
Some golfers will take a shag bag of balls to that spot and practice hitting from 50/80 yards all after noon. Hours after work.
I had also went to the short game practice green to practice chipping/ pitching and bunker shots for hours when I was new to this gem.
One has to like to practice these kind of essential golf shots to learn how to deal with them on the golf course.
I guess, in that way, I was a little different than most. I love to practice and my adrenaline pumped from excitement when my tee shots ended in a difficult lie, in the rough, or in the divot in the fairway, or behind obstacles…
I view them as a challenge to better my golf game.

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I always found the basic stuff helped me the most. I will hit balls feet together L-L swings until I feel like I’m hitting it crisp. Also standing on front leg with trail leg behind (toe on ground for balance). Easy basic drills but they really do seem to help me.

I used to struggle the most with the scoring clubs 8-P, G, S,L until I throttled back. I try to feel like I make 75% swings with those in most cases. In many cases I try to hit lower punch type shots with them. It seems to straighten me out and get me on more greens. Some days I do that will all the clubs just to keep it in play lol.


@Spells you’ve put a LOTTA thought into this :+1:

As a fellow improving high handicapper I’d suggest the following:

#1. Par 3s - if you have one, or more, near you strongly suggest using these to gain confidence in short approaches + actually hitting greens. Sounds silly but when you see your ball actually landing on the green it’s a big boost to your confidence!
1(b) - use different clubs; eg. don’t always pull 9i for your stock 9i distance.
1© - when you miss challenge yourself to get up & down … see if you can make 50% of attempts.

  1. Practice -
    …do NOT beat balls without a plan
    …do NOT beat balls with the same club over and over
    … Always select a target, and always line yourself up just like you would on the course
    … Always change targets + change clubs with every shot … like the game of golf is played.
    … hit a LOTTA partial wedges - try using different wedges to the same target
    … also try hitting your eg. 7i to 100 yds
    … Always always always be working on good solid contact - whatever swing mechanics you’re working on to help make that happen should be practiced at the range.

Go get 'em!

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It’s funny I was going to say “Par 3 courses start with tee shots and I am (comparatively) strong there” but there’s nothing stopping me from “teeing off” outside the tee box without a tee.

I have a solid par 3 course nearby, it helped me early on with wedge/bunker play. I could play a few balls at once. They’re also quite cheap midday.

Good suggestion, thanks.

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I’ll update because it’s hilarious/frustrating.

Went to grass range after a week away and couldn’t control turn interaction at all. Thin/fat/thin/fat/thin/fat etc. Then went to mats and couldn’t hit there either.

Upside: I don’t have mats covering up mistakes any more.


Definitely keep track of how far in front or behind the ball your divots start. A tee stuck in line with the ball, perpendicular to the target line, is a great way to get an idea of that distance.

EDIT: I wish I could find a grass range up here. Most of them are mats right now. I guess the grass is dormant in this heat, or just isn’t growing. Not ideal.

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Found this from Adam Young:

Will see how it goes. I have a sense I need to track improvement or I’m just going to get frustrated because it’s so far off right now.


He’s fantastic. Taking a course from him now (that I’m way behind on. Stupid work.)

The key is to get the student to recognize which species of bad contact they’re experiencing, and utilize a different feel to neutralize the fault. Change the feel (that you learned to associate with higher or lower, left or right contact from earlier drills), to move impact from where you suspect it is, to where you want it to be.

I.e, you’re topping stuff. Do the “lower clubface at impact” drills and feels, and see what results. It’s a constantly evolving process, but with practice, our wobbles around the set point should get smaller.

Definitely track what you’re doing. I.e., how many tops, how far back were you fat, where on the face are you hitting, etc… It will make you much more mindful in your practice, and bonus! You’ll spend less on range balls!

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Played a local par 3 course with no tees and 3 balls. Each GIR hit started the ball in the rough on the next hole.

First few holes started rough but things smoothed out. Having to take breaks between shots was better than getting frustrated at the range as nothing seemed to work.

Useful seeing distance loss depending on lie for different shots one after another. I see why my simulator knocks 10% off ball speed for the rough.

Weird thing that helped since my swing arc tends to be too high was to focus on driving left leg down in transition. Far fewer miss hits by the end.


Sure enough, this paid dividends, one fringed shot just missed GIR because I was 120 away from the green and mistakenly thought the flag was on the left rather than right. Doubled typical GIR and more GIRPs.

Driving completely abandoned me, so my score was about the same as typical, but approaches improved significantly.


Very nice! However, FYI … since you’re on this forum one of the Course Management “Rules” from @jon for us regular players is to - almost always - aim for the middle of the green.
(…or for odd-shaped greens the “fat part”)

Going at flags may be in play when you’re inside your approach comfort zone and you have a high %tge shot without bringing any trouble into play :+1:

Clarifying here, I was hitting from a lower position and could only see the flag - I didn’t identify the middle of the green (my aim point) correctly. I only aim at middle of green unless I’m inside 60 yards or so.

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