2006: On-course challenges

Have time for only nine holes? Or maybe just four or five?

An abbreviated round actually provides a great opportunity to practice and improve specific skills. Late in the day or whenever the course is not crowded, any golfer can take advantage of playing a few holes alone or with one other person.

Here are some drills, or golf course games, designed for one or two players. Some are easy, some are more demanding. For a serious golfer, they can be very instructive. For a twosome, they can provide a new format for friendly competition.

This project started with teaching professional Brad Brewer, who runs the Brad Brewer Golf Academy at Shingle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Fla.

“When you practice, it is important to challenge yourself as much as possible,” Brewer said. “Everything you do should help you learn more about your golf game.”

In the spirit of learning, here are 10 top on-course drills and games:

Best Ball

Play two or three balls from the tee, then select the best shot. Play the same number of balls (two or three) from each succeeding location, always picking the best shot. Keep score.This is intended to give you a dose of confidence, helping you identify your potential.A highly skilled player might establish a goal of making birdie on every hole. A less skilled golfer might try to par every hole. This game clearly identifies any areas of weakness, because two or three unsatisfactory shots from the same spot will raise an immediate red flag.

Worst Ball

This is the opposite of Best Ball. Play two or three balls from each location, always selecting the worst shot. Give yourself plenty of time; you’ll need it.This game is designed to improve a golfer’s consistency and concentration. It also will bring anyone back to the reality that golf is a tough game.Keeping score is important, because this allows a golfer to trace his progress over a period of time. An improvement in Worst Ball generally indicates an improvement in a person’s overall game.

Mulligans Wild

Allow yourself to take one mulligan, or do-over, on each hole. If you are able to save your mulligan for a crucial putt, good for you!This game is a first cousin of Best Ball, although more limited in its generosity. Perhaps the best element of Mulligans Wild is that it allows golfers to see how close they really are (just a shot here and there) to an excellent overall score.

Birdie Ball

This is a points competition that will force you to think about birdies. On each hole, give yourself 1 point for hitting a green in regulation and 2 points for making a birdie.The idea here is to rivet your mind on birdies. Par is meaningless in this game.Hint: Combining Birdie Ball with Mulligans Wild will allow you to make more birdies.

No Putts

This is another game that stresses the advantage of hitting greens in regulation. Leave your putter in the car; count only the strokes that it takes to reach the green.If you hit every green in regulation on a par-72 course, your score would be 36 (unless you hit one or more par 5s in two, in which case your score would be lower).This also will allow you to play quickly. Putting requires special concentration, so No Putts can be a welcome diversion.

Up and Down

This is the opposite of Birdie Ball. It is a game in which you try to intentionally miss all the greens. The idea is to leave yourself in a position on each hole from which you can easily get up-and-down for par (or sink a chip or pitch for birdie).To earn any points on a hole, you must intentionally miss the green. From there, you earn 2 points fora birdie and 1 point for a par.Trying to miss a green on purpose can be very educational, because it forces you to consider the exact consequences of being off the putting surface.

Driver Be Damned

Play without a driver. Experiment with fairway woods, hybrids and long irons off the tee on par 4s and par 5s. Go ahead: Move up and play a shorter course. It will be more fun.Many golfers rely far too muchon their drivers. This drill forces them to abandon the hit-and-hope philosophy and adopt a different strategy.Strategy is a word that applies to most of these games, because the best golfers are the ones who think clearly and execute flawlessly.

Throw Out Half

Forget the 14-club limit. Remove half the clubs from your bag.This is a wonderful way to improve your shotmaking ability. You will be faced with a flurry of three-quarter shots and half shots. Your creativity will be severely tested.Chances are, you will emergeas a better player.

Wedge Heaven

Most of us have extra wedges in the garage. Make yourself play with five of them (while staying within the 14-club limit). Load up with sand wedges and lob wedges.Learning about the characteristics of wedges – how they react in different kinds of lies and conditions – is one of the most valuable lessons any golfer can learn.

Going Forward

I know, I know – you’re a big, strong, long-hitting guy who always plays from the tips. Forget that.Force yourself to play from the forward tees (or, if you must, from the senior tees).If you are an excellent player,you should expect to score verywell from the shorter tees. Be conscientious about this. See how low you can go.Most men find they don’t meet their expectations. Playing, say, from 6,000 yards may sound likea cake walk, but many men end up with cake all over their faces.This is a great game to play occasionally with your regular foursome. Just move up to the forward tees and see whathappens. You might be greatly surprised.

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