Breaking Even: The Best Golf Drill for Getting Your Short Game Tournament Tough

Let’s face it, all too often, practicing kind of sucks.

Putt after putt, chip after chip, it gets old unless you have a way to keep things engaging and exciting.

More importantly, the traditional short game drills (and most golf drills) leave out one essential component to actually scoring better on the golf course: pressure.

This is a game that I came up with a few months ago that helps me improve all aspects of my short game, sharpen mental toughness, and best off all, it keeps me engaged and entertained in the process.

The Basic Game of Breaking Even

Even though I have one of the most flexible work schedules known to man, I still can’t quite get out there for 18 every day of the week.

However, I can get out for a round of breaking even after a session on the range, or do a few rounds of this as my daily practice.

The Setup: You’re lying two on a par 4 3-50 feet off the green.  Your goal is to get it in the pin in 2 for an even par.

The Details: Find a spot you’d like to practice chips from and pick a hole on the putting green.  Drop a club or your bag to mark the spot, and pull out two balls.  Chip each ball towards the pin and then putt them both out. Repeat this with 9 balls.  Then pick a new spot to chip from and a new hole on the putting green for the “back 9”.

The Goal: Get as close to breaking even on your “round of 18” as you can.

Why Is this Drill So Great?

This drill is great for a number of reasons, but the best part is it’s completely scalable up or down.

A few months back I did a stint of Crossfit training, which I didn’t stick with, but I loved the idea of scalability.  A total beginner and an expert can essentially do the same experts by making each of the components of the session easier or harder.

The great thing about “Breaking Even” is that you can make it more difficult as you get better, or work on a variety of shots.

Ways to make it more difficult:

  • Start out chipping a ball from a divot
  • Chip from the sand
  • Place the ball on a steep uphill lie
  • Place the ball on a downhill lie
  • Place the ball near an obstruction such as a tree or bush

All of these are shots you’ll have to deal with on the course, that you probably don’t practice as much as you should.  This gives you the opportunity to do so.

You can also make the game easier:

  • Turn it into a par 5, where you get two putts instead of one
  • Set the ball on top of short rough, effectively using the grass as a tee
  • Place the ball closer to the green

Regardless of what you’re in the mood to practice, you can scale this drill to your needs.  Shanking your chips? Make it easier.  Draining 3 out of 10 in the hole, back it up and put it on an incline.

The Mental Aspect

The scalability is only one reason why this drill is so good.  The other is the fact that you’re given the ability to practice a real world situation.

I treat every single shot as if I’m playing an actual round of golf.  I’ll put my glove on before chipping, and take it off for putts.  I’ll walk around the hole and analyze every lie.  When my goal is to break even, I’m not just mindlessly hitting putt after putt.  Sure there’s a time and place for that, but essentially I’m getting an entire round of 18 in minus the longer shots.

Since I’m playing the same chip shot 9 times, I’m able to practice reading greens, and hopefully see my number of  “pars” increase by the end of each nine.

Adding Real Pressure

In order to fully prepare yourself for the mental aspect of the game, you need to create pressure.  In order to actually bring up the nervousness of playing in a tournament of against a competitive group of friends, there has to be something on the line.

This is your opportunity to do that.  I’m kind of a cheap ass, ahem, frugal, so the thought of losing money is particularly frustrating.  So every 4 or 5 rounds of “Breaking Even” that I play, I’ll have a money round.

Depending on how I’m feeling that day I’ll create an attainable goal for myself.  Such as:

  • I have to 15 over or better, otherwise I have to take my girlfriend to dinner.
  • For every double bogey I have to donate 5 bucks to Kiva

You can figure out what works for you, but by adding the monetary component to my practice, I experience all of the same nerves I would on the course, even though this drill does a good job of modeling that without the money.

Your Arsenal of Courses

To add longevity to this drill, for each putting green that I practice at on a regular basis I have a small book of “courses.”  I map out the basic green and the locations of the pins.  Then I map out the chip locations to the desired holes.  Every time I play a 9 or 18 I keep a score for that particular “course” as some are much harder than others.

This allows me to have a specific goal to work on beating, essentially gamifying my golf practice.

Have you tried this? What do you do to make this game personally work for you?

There are 3 comments

Add yours
  1. Stephen Ancowitz

    I simply do not understand your description of this game…read it five times and had my wife try to explain it to me. Could you try to explain it more clearly for me?

    • Eric

      you’re playing 18 “holes” of golf around the practice green. take two golf balls and pick a spot around the green. start there. pick a hole. chip each ball to it. putt each ball out. write down your score. repeat for 17 more locations. total your score. rinse and repeat and try to beat your scores.

      at the end he’s suggesting if you go to multiple practice courses or ranges you can create “courses” by using the same 18 “holes” at those particular places. by doing this you’re able to track and compare your scores (and thus improvement).

Post a new comment