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This practice session may explain Scottie Scheffler's dominance—what you can learn

April 11, 2024

For over two years, Scottie Scheffler has been the greatest ball-striker since Tiger Woods. With eight PGA Tour wins in the past two years, including a Masters and two Players Championships, Scheffler has emerged as a dominant World No. 1 and the prohibitive favorite at the 2024 Masters.

In March 2022, Golf Digest filmed an Undercover Lesson with Scheffler and his longtime swing coach, Randy Smith, to learn how the two practice to prepare for the biggest events. At the time of filming, Scheffler had recently won his first two tour events and was preparing to play in the match play tournament at Austin Country Club, a few weeks before the Masters. He won both.

We’re revisiting this range session to uncover what we can learn from how Scheffler practices. We can study his golf swing all we want, but that swing was created here, on the range, with hours of practice alongside Smith. Here are our key takeaways, followed by a minute-by-minute guide to our Undercover Lesson.

Key Takeaways

2024 Masters
  • Hit plenty of different shots. There is great debate over whether block or random practice is optimal, but it is clear here that Scheffler and Smith are not focused on hitting one shot over and over again, but rather variety and creativity. It is rare in this session that Scheffler hits the same two shots in a row. High, low, draw, fade, straight.
  • Don’t neglect your grooves. Though it might look funny, Scheffler uses a popular tour-pro range trick: He attaches a brush to his belt so he can quickly clean his clubface between every shot. He also has a wet towel on his bag. Tour pros are meticulous about having clean grooves before every shot because they understand that a dirty or wet clubface can alter spin and trajectory. Eliminate variables, clean your grooves.
  • Bad shots happen. Scottie didn’t hit many poor shots during this 20-minute range session, but there were a couple foul balls. He snap-hooked a 4-iron and hit a 30-yard pull with a driver. After each, he was laughing with his coach, who chimed in, “Everyone’s entitled to an Oops.” If the world’s best ball-striker hits a few terrible shots each session, maybe it’s time to extend ourselves some grace. What’s more, overanalyzing our worst swings can clutter our minds. Scheffler and Smith laughed them off and moved on.
  • Make the range the course. Numerous times throughout the session, Smith identified a specific scenario that Scheffler would face on the course and had him hit that shot. Whether imagining a front pin just over a bunker or a green where he had to run the ball up, Scheffler was focused on hitting the shots that he knew he would often face on the course. It added variety and creativity to the session. There was nothing monotonous about these 20 minutes. Everything had a purpose.

Minute-by-minute guide

0:40: As Scheffler is about to hit his first few shots, Smith says, “Loose, loose, loose, loose, loose, loose, loose.” Tiger Woods uses a similar mantra when he hits his first three wedge shots of each range session, focusing only on getting loose and getting a feel for the club and ball contact.

1:20: Smith reaches for Scheffler’s towel and notices it’s wet. “Did you come prepared?” he asks rhetorically. It’s a small detail but quite significant. Tour pros are obsessed with having clean grooves and clubfaces.

1:40: Scheffler awknowledges it was a late night, saying he landed at 2 a.m. night. “What airline lands at 2 in the morning?” Smith asks. “Apparently Delta,” Scheffler says. The then-two-time tour winner wouldn’t have to fly commercial for much longer, as he would win the Masters a few weeks after this session.

2:45: Scheffler is hitting his wedges and 9-irons pretty hard, noting that he is trying to get loose in the cold. As Scheffler is preparing for the WGC Match Play, Smith asks him what he did well in the 2021 event, when he was runner-up. “I remember taking a lot of spin off the ball,” Scheffler remembers.

That’s a key to playing in windy conditions as hitting “dead-handed” shots, as Smith says, takes spin off the ball and lowers the trajectory, making it much easier to control direction and distance.

4:18: Smith asks Scheffler to hit a full 9-iron, and it flying 161 yards with a 112-foot apex, which is quite hit. Then, he says to take 8-10 yards off the next one. Scheffler takes … 9 yards off, bringing the apex down to 94 feet.

His arm swing was significantly shorter, which allowed him to still maintain and aggressive pace through the shot. There was nothing lazy about the swing, even though he was taking distance off. He hit it shorter by simply shortening his backswing and follow through.

6:13: Smith is working through specific situations that Scheffler would find himself in on the course. “Basic straight ball,” he asks Scheffler to hit, “but you have one of those situations where you have a bunker out there, pin over it and you need to drop it right on top of it. Take it straight up.”

7:00: Smith asks if anything in his game concerned him the previous week at the Players Championship. Scheffler responds, “No.” No over analysis.

8:55: Smith asks Scheffler to hit a 4-iron really high with “minimal curve, just straight up in the air.” Scheffler hits a shot with a 145-foot apex, which is extremely high. The tour average is around 100 feet. A high ball flight, especially with long irons, is a crucial advantage to being able to stop it on firm greens at trickier tour venues.

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9:47: Smith now mixes it up, telling Scheffler to bring it “down, down, down.” “[Pretend there is a] little opening on the front of the green, something you had to do to get it up through the opening,” he says. Again, the two are working on real on-course scenarios, a key to preparing to play competitive golf.

Scheffler hits a low snap hook, however, giving a quick “Uh oh.” “Everybody’s entitled an oops” Smith says twice. Both guys aren’t concerned with the poor shot and simply acknowledge it’s a part of golf. Scheffler his next one dead straight.

12:00: Scheffler offered up the most relatable comment of the session: “Can I hit driver?” he pleads with Smith, who lets him. The first shot with the driver was a 20- or 30-yard low pull, but again, the two aren’t overreacting. In fact, they are laughing about Texas and Texas A&M basketball.

12:50: Scheffler is about to hit another driver, and Smith says “set the hip.” Scheffler seems to slightly bump his hips forward at setup, which gets his spine tilted slightly away from target. That allows him to hit more up on the ball, as is ideal with a driver.

15:00: Scheffler is coming close to hitting the guy on the other end of the range, so Smith says aim way left to hit his high bomb. Scheffler nicks the tree he is trying to hit over. Again, they are keeping the mood light and simply hitting a variety of different shots.

16:34: “Set the hip,” Smith says again , before Scheffler launches one over the tree with 179 ball speed, but more impressive is the 163-foot apex. The tour average is around 100 feet, so this is a certified moon ball.

17:20: After a few high bombs, they are back to the “little bleeder,” as Smith calls it. Scheffler tees it down and hits it perfectly. He is varying the trajectory and hitting different windows. He is not simply standing up and hitting the same shot over and over again.

After a few low fades, he switches and hits a low draw, a shot that he seemingly rarely hits on the course. It doesn’t matter; he is making sure he has all the shots he needs.

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