Harvey Penick: How to Knock Five Strokes Off Your Game


I don’t know any golfers who wouldn’t like to shoot lower scores. In fact, that’s what keeps many of them coming back to the golf course. Men and women of all ages and skill levels want to cut strokes from their game.

Some want to turn that 95 into an 89. Others want to break 80, that boundary between pretty good and darn good. And those hot-shot golfers scoring in the mid 70s want to shoot par and dream of an occasional 68 or 67. Improvement is possible at every level of the game.

Legendary golf teacher Harvey Penick had sage advice about lowering your score in his bestseller, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf. In his chapter titled “How to Knock Five Strokes Off Your Game,” Penick wrote, “Improvement comes in plateaus,” not stroke by stroke.

Can you lop off three or even five strokes from your game?

Yes, according to Penick, but not from pounding drivers on the practice tee.

“The short game. Those are the magic words,” he said. “The higher your score, the faster you can lower it—with the short game.”

Penick pointed out what you probably already know: that about half of your strokes come within 75 yards of the hole. The longtime golf coach also stated this conviction:

“If I ask an average golfer what percentage of his practice time he spends on his short game in comparison to hitting the longer shots, he’ll probably tell me he gives the short game 10 or 20 percent. This is usually a fib. The average golfer will devote 15 minutes to stroking a few putts before he heads to the first tee, and that’s about it for the short-game practice.”

Radical improvement requires a radical change in how you practice, Penick explained. His advice: spend 90 percent of your practice time on chipping and putting for two weeks. Expect rapid improvement.

“[I]f you want to knock five shots off your game in a hurry,” Penick said, “leave your long clubs in your bag and head for the green.”

Harvey Penick was a golf professional and teacher for more than 70 years and coached Hall-of-Fame golfers, including Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls and Kathy Whitworth. The annual teacher award presented by the Golf Teachers Association is called the Harvey Penick Award.

The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Sagebiel

Neil Sagebiel is a golf writer and author of two golf books published by St. Martin's Press, THE LONGEST SHOT and DRAW IN THE DUNES. He lives in Floyd, Virginia.

Leave A Reply