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Hit Your Peak

Try this top teacher’s plan to play your best golf early in the year

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Having a structured practice plan might sound a bit intense for your first few range sessions back, but staying focused on important swing keys and avoiding hitting shots without purpose will allow you to rediscover your swing sooner. We asked Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Jarut Padung, who coaches at America Golf Academy at Paradise Valley Golf Course in Phoenix, how to create an easy practice plan, and he explained why the best approach is to pick a couple of things to work on that day and stick with them.

Instead of making you sift through hundreds of instruction videos and articles online, Padung helped us create a simple range plan that’s good for any level of golfer. Piecing together a personalized practice plan is as easy as selecting a drill from each category below and following along with Padung’s objectives. Set goals and get your game back on track with his easy-to-use range guide:

Groove your distance control early

For a lot of golfers, those awkward-distance wedge shots are the last things to come around after a couple months off. Don't let that be you this year. Here's a plan to redevelop your touch with your wedges.

  1. Using each of your wedges, hit a controlled pitch shot to a 50-yard target. (20 minutes)
  2. Wedge gapping: First, figure out what swing is best for you, whether that’s hands to hip height, shoulder height or a three-quarter swing. Then hit shots in 10-yard increments from 30 to 60 yards, changing the target/yardage every five shots. Finish with a ladder drill, where you change the target/yardage on every shot and work your way from the shortest distance to the longest. (40 mins.)
  3. Wedge gapping from 60 to 120 yards. Finish with the ladder drill. (40 mins.)
  4. Using your pre-shot routine every time, make a full swing at 80 percent to a target and record the distance for each wedge. (20 mins.)

Follow a plan for better iron contact


Finding your iron swing early in the season will make a huge difference in your scores. Here's a plan to do it.

  1. With a mid to long iron, make swings from hip-high to hip-high to a shorter target. Focus on squaring clubface at impact, correct turf interaction and center contact. (30 mins.)
  2. Using a mid to long iron and an alignment aid, focus on your setup, grip and aim—crucial elements to finding your mid-season form—with each shot. (30 mins.)
  3. Pick a target and hit five shots to it, working from your shortest iron to your longest.
  4. Make a full swing with a mid to long iron and shape your shots into a target. Figure out which shape is more repeatable for you and practice that for 15-20 minutes. Then try to take some curve off that shot or even shape it the opposite direction for your remaining time. (30 mins.)

Develop some consistency with your hybrids and woods:

  1. Hit each shot off a tee with an alignment aid to focus on fundamentals like grip, setup and aim. (20 mins.)
  2. Hit each shot off the ground at about 60 to 70 percent as you shape the ball to a target. (20 mins.)

Your best rhythm for driver swings:

  1. Using an alignment aid, focus on your setup, grip and aim with each shot. (20 mins.)
  2. Create a 50-yard-wide imaginary fairway and try to hit it—swinging at max speed. (20 mins.)
  3. Before every shot, go through your pre-shot routine and hit your driver at 60 to 70 percent speed. This is a good time to work on your most repeatable shot shape and develop your fairway finder. (20 mins.)

Get more confident over chip shots:

  1. Bump-and-run chips (pictured above) to different targets. “Your landing spot for bump-and-runs should be two to four feet onto the edge of the green,” Padung explains. “Think maximum ground minimum air.” (20 mins.)
  2. Soft and high chips from the rough. Padung says to figure out how big your swing should be beforehand, then make a few practice swings, thinking about the correct length of swing. Rotate between a few different distances to really challenge yourself. (20 mins.)
  3. Greenside bunker shots. Padung says to remember to take your time practicing these shots and try not to get frustrated. (20 mins.)
  4. Lob shots. On these shots, Padung says to experiment with opening the clubface and the length of your swing. Distance control has a lot to do with club selection, length of swing and speed, he explains. (10 mins.)

If you find yourself getting nervous or hesitating over these short-game shots, Padung recommends using a shorter pre-shot routine. “Cutting out that lag time between the last look as you’re practicing, will help you feel more instinctive over the ball,” he explains. When you’re ready to execute he says to try this sequence: Look at your target or landing spot, look back at the ball then go.

Improve your touch and control on the green:

  1. The circle drill (pictured above) is used by some of the best golfers in the world. Place eight tees in a circle around the hole. Each tee should be about three feet from the hole to start. Make 100 percent of your putts from three feet, then move the tees back a foot and repeat. Allow yourself one miss from four feet, up to two misses from five feet and a maximum of three misses at six feet. Stop at 45 minutes or once you’ve completed the drill, whichever comes first.
  2. Practice your lag putting. Hit 10 putts from 10, 20, 30 and 40 feet. Focus on leaving your putt to a distance no more than 10 percent of the initial distance. For example, if you’re practicing 20-footers, you want your first putt to stop no more than two feet past the hole. (30 mins.)
  3. Find a straight putt that is 10 feet or longer. Then set up an alignment aid to help you focus on making a solid stroke down your start line. “You will not hit the hole if the start line is off from this distance,” Padung says.
  4. Play an 18-hole routing on the practice green, by yourself or with a friend. Pick random holes as you go, making sure that your first putt is longer than 20 feet. Par is two. See how low you can go!

While this practice plan is a great start, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your coach for drills that are specific to your swing. With Golf Digest Schools newest feature, Coach Connect, you can get in touch with world-class golf instructors right from your phone.

All you have to do is send over a video of your swing, short game or even your putting stroke to start getting help from one of our trusted coaches, like Best Young Teacher Jarut Padung. Sign up today to find the right instructor for you!