The best short game drills for golf I’ve ever used came from the “Practice Like A Pro” DVD set which came out around 2007 or so. (Plus an extra 1 from PGA pro Emily Kuhfeld)

‘Practice Like A Pro” is light on technique. It’s job, and mine here, is to teach you how to make your practice time as Effective as Humanly Possible

I used these exact short game golf drills and games to drop my handicap from 11 or so to a 5.6.

I guarantee you Will Drop your scores and handicap IF… IF you practice the drills on this page 2-3 times per week. 

1. The Clock Putting Drill / Game

**Ideally, you want a combination of straight, right-to-left, and left-to-right puts to build those skills and confidence.
**Phil Mickelson puts 6 or 7 balls around the hole for this drill. (I’ve never done this, but am considering doing it now to build confidence even faster)

  • Embrace this practice. Don’t try to get through it. You are building your skills, your confidence, and you will start dropping 3-5 foot putts like it’s your day job
  • Bonus Skill Building: Start going out to 4ft and 5 ft, even 6 ft. You won’t regret it.

Instruction: Place 4 tees around the hole at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. 

Clock Putting Drill

The goal is to go around the circle without missing. You MUST go back to the beginning if you miss.

This is my base drill and the first one I do when I practice putting.

How the game is played:

Skill Level
10 Times Around Without Missing: Can Increase To 5 Ft And Go 8 times around
0 – 10 Handicap
5 Times (Around Without Missing)
11 – 20 Handicap
3 Times (Around Without Missing)
20 + Handicap
1 Time (Around Without Missing)

Variations for continued improvement:

  1. Move the tees to the 2, 5, 8, and 10 o’clock positions.
  2. Move the tees out to 4, 5, and 6 feet.

2. The Star Putting Drill / Game (the way I perform it)

Instruction: With our Clock drill setup, we place tees further back on our lines at 4, 5, and closer at 2 ft for higher handicaps. The table below contains the official version. 

  • Putt all the balls in one line before moving to the next line of balls. 
Star Putting Drill setup
Skill Level
Put tees @ 3, 4, 5 Ft. Go Around 2 Times Without Missing A Putt
0 – 10 Handicap
Put tees @ 3, 4, 5 Ft. Go Around 1 Time Without Missing A Putt
11 – 20 Handicap
Put tees @ 2, 3, 4 Ft. Go Around 1 Time Without Missing A Putt
20 + Handicap
Put tees @ 3 & 4 Ft. Go Around 1 Time With 1 Miss Allowed

Variation for Continued Improvement:

Add another tee out to the 6ft mark – 3,4,5, and 6 feet.

Phil Mickelson says that at 6 ft you can no longer just ram putts in the hole. You have to start using real touch and read real breaks at this length.

3. The Lag Putting Drill / Game

We are keeping our clock face set up for this drill.

Instruction: We are lag putting from varying lengths trying to get the ball inside either the safe zone (in the hole or no further than 1 putter length past the hole) for tour to 10 handicaps or within our 3-foot circle for 11-plus handicaps. 

Sinks give you a pass for a miss and a miss means you start over

Skill Level
Tees at 20, 30, and 40 ft. Complete 20, 30, and 40 feet without a miss. If you miss, not including your passes, go back to the prior tee. 
0 – 10 Handicap  
Tees at 15, 25, and 35 ft. Putt 3 balls in the safe zone from each length but with one free pass to start
11 – 20 Handicap
Tees at 15, 25, and 35 ft. Still 3 balls, but now we move to the 3 ft. circle as our target. You start with one pass
20 + Handicap
Same As 11-20 Handicap, But With 2 Passes

Variations for Continued Improvement:

The end goal from 20 feet and beyond is to have tap-in putts. With that in mind, Emily Kuhfeld (our resident short game genius) suggests we change the criteria for our 20 – 40 footers to 1.5 feet in front of the hole to less than 3 feet past.

4. Chip in 3 ft. Circle Drill / Game

This is one of my favorite drills. Frankly, I find chipping more enjoyable than putting. 

Maintain your clock face configuration of tees and chip balls to it from various locations around the green.

For me, this is where the scoring begins because I add putting to this drill a lot of times to get used to paying off the good chips. 

Variation: Chip one ball at a time and and putt your ball in after every chip to simulate what you would do on the course

Instructions: Throw balls in different locations around the practice green and chip within our 3-foot circle. If you miss, you must start over. 

  • A hole-out counts as 2 balls in the circle.
Clock chipping Drill target
Skill Level
10 In Circle In A Row
0 – 10 Handicap
5 In Circle In A Row
11 – 20 Handicap
2 In Circle In A Row
20 + Handicap
2 Out Of 4…Or One Hole Out

5. Total Distance Chipping Drill

Is the 3-ft circle chipping drill a little too demanding at this point?

Emily suggests this drill as an alternative.

Instructions: Scatter 5 balls around your chipping green, making sure to vary the lie. Chip to the same hole with each ball. Then, add up the total distance away from the hole of each ball. 30 feet or less total is not bad. That’s an average of 6 feet away.

This is completely acceptable if you’re chipping on slick, or contoured greens. And, depending on how bad your lie is.

What To Do Next?

There are TONS of short game drills and it’s not a bad idea to vary them from time to time.

But, I firmly believe you need a few base drills to keep your short game sharp. These are the ones for me and I think they can be the same for you.

Now that you know some of the best short game drills, it’s time to work on your technique to make them even more effective 

Check out our chipping and putting guides.