1) GROOVE A GO-TO SHOT
Everything here is about getting the most from your golf time. First, instead of working on a bunch of greenside shots, pick a wedge—a 56-degree is good—and groove one basic swing that returns the shaft at impact to where it was at address. This is what I taught my friend Frank Voigt (pictured), a business executive trying to improve on his 8-handicap. Your weight should favor your front side, and you want to skid the club's sole along the turf and under the ball. By adjusting the ball position up or back, you can vary the trajectory to hit different shots.
2) LOCK IN YOUR TOUCH
From 20 to 40 feet is what I call the "sweet spot" in putting. It's where most of your first putts come. The way many people practice—rolling random 10-footers and banging a few 50 feet across the green—doesn't address this reality. To improve your speed, build a practice grid on a green. Use lengths of string to make two sets of lines in 10-foot increments. Create the first set at 20, 30 and 40 feet, and an identical set next to your starting spot so you can work in a loop. Roll putts up to each of the first set of lines, longest to shortest, then putt back to the second. Give it an hour a week, and you'll drop a few shots by spring.
3) FOCUS YOUR WORKOUTS
If you're going to the gym, don't forget your golf game. Grab a medicine ball, and get into your golf setup with a solid wall to your left. Mimic your backswing, then throw the ball into the wall with some force (watch out for the rebound). Do this several times. In addition to strengthening key muscles, the weight of the ball forces you to sequence body motion the same way you should with a golf club. Your lower body, arms and chest have to work together. For muscular balance, turn around and throw lefty, too.
Randy Smith, a Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher, is based at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas.