So you’ve been grooving your quarantine game—or at least you think you have—hitting foam balls into a net or putting on that mat in your hallway. But the problem is, how do you really know if what you’ve been doing is actually improving your skills instead of just killing time?
We asked two Golf Digest 50 Best Teachers to give their favorite compact improvement answers for those of us who have been “improvising.” Martin Chuck says that you don’t need to see the ball soaring down a range or be playing a real golf hole to really get the feeling of controlling the clubface.
Mimic the range in your back yard
“You don’t even need a real ball, to be honest,” says Chuck, who runs the Tour Striker Golf Academy at The Raven in Phoenix. “You can make a practice station with one of those foam yoga blocks and a couple of alignment sticks.”
Poke two of the alignment sticks into the foam block so that there’s about six inches of leeway between them, says Chuck. Then place that contraption a few feet in front of you on the target line. “If you can hit a foam ball through the sticks, it means your face angle is on point.”
Another way to work on your iron play without being outside is to use a towel set six inches behind the ball. “When you hit a 7-iron, you want an attack angle of about three or four degrees down, which this represents,” says Chuck. “Make some swings where you don’t hit the towel going back or coming down. If you can avoid disturbing the towel, you’re getting certainty on your low point control.”
A duct-tape diagnosis?
Nick Clearwater, the Vice President of Instruction for GolfTEC outside Denver, is equally fond of the ability to be flexible about how you measure progress. “If you tend to curve the ball too much to the right, you can get some good feedback even if you hit a ball made up of some wadded up duct tape,” he says. “Instead of listening to an explanation of how to swing, you can set up a station that will help you develop the feels you need on your own.”
Lay some clubs and an obstacle like a hat down on your carpet as show in the photo here to create a visual guide for the path on which you want to swing, says Clearwater. “If you can hit the ball without hitting the hat nine times out of 10, you’ve cured your slice without even being outside.”
Making proper putting contact
Another way to ramp up the feedback in your game is to re-think how you hit those hallway putts. “Anybody can make a 10-footer on the carpet, but what is that really telling you about your stroke?” says Clearwater. “The best putters consistently hit the same spot on the face, which makes it way easier to get a consistent feel for how far the ball is going to go.
“Wrap some rubber bands around the face of the putter about the width of a double-A battery apart, and practice making contact between the bands. If you hit one of the bands, the ball will go off sideways. To really add to this drill, put the ball up on a coaster, so that you have to make an ascending stroke to make good contact. Do this right nine times out of 10, and you’re going to be taking money from your buddies the next time you play.”