Short-Game Practice: 11-Ball Drill

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This Drill Helps Identify Strengths and Weaknesses on Shots Around the Green

Golf club and ball in mid air, close up
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One of the key tenets for golfers to absorb about practice time is that you need to work on things that need improving. Seems obvious, right? But it's more fun to hit driver after driver or to knock chip shots close to the hole if you're a great chipper. And if you are dedicated to your game, then you need to work on those things, too.

But you'll have to start improving the parts of your game that are weaknesses if you want to keep lowering your score.

That's where the 11-Ball Drill comes in. It can help golfers identify weaknesses in their short game, which is the first step in improving on those weaknesses.

"I'm not sure why, but many students spend their short game practice time working on things they are already good at," says golf instructor Neil Wilkins, who works with PGA Tour and other pro golfers. "Instead, golfers need to challenge themselves by practicing out of bad lies, from uneven lies, or other short game situations where they are weakest."

Neil uses the 11-Ball Drill with his students because, he says, it's "a wonderful evaluation tool for your short game, and can help you identify your weak spots."

How to Do the 11-Ball Drill

Here are Wilkins' instructions for using the 11-Ball Drill in your next short-game practice session:

  1. Take 11 balls to the short game practice area and use them to determine your strengths and weaknesses around the green. First, find one type of shot that you're good with; say, the pitch from a fluffy lie from five steps off the green. Hit all 11 balls from that situation toward the practice green cup.
  2. Once you've hit all 11 balls, remove the five shots that are closest to the hole. Six balls will remain.
  3. Finally, remove the five shots that are farthest from the hole. One ball will remain.
  4. The remaining ball is your average (actually the mathematical median, but let's not digress - golf should be fun). Now go back and try the same distance pitch shot but from a tight lie and see if your "average" is the same.

And that's the gist of it: The 11-Ball Drill is an evaluation tool.

"Hit chip shots, pitch shots, lob shots, and bunker shots, all using the 11-Ball Drill to determine which shots are your strongest, and which are your weakest," Wilkins says. "In this way, you can identify the shots you need to work on, and thus determine where your time will be best spent in your short game practice."