LITTLE ROCK — Smack in the middle of the fairway, wedge in hand, the Razorback golfer must check out the pin, squelch his natural instincts, and miss the green.

LITTLE ROCK — Smack in the middle of the fairway, wedge in hand, the Razorback golfer must check out the pin, squelch his natural instincts, and miss the green.

The penalty for hitting the putting surface is stroke and distance, same as slicing a tee shot O.B.

Consumed by the importance of the short game, there is method to the madness of Arkansas coach Brad McMakin. This particular drill insists that his players figure out where they can miss the green and still make par.

Playing McMakin’s game, some clear-thinking Razorbacks have shot two- or three-over-par. That exercise in strategy is in play at some courses in the area, but not Arkansas’ home base, the super-difficult Blessings Golf Club. Miss several greens at John Tyson’s club and a player is out of golf balls.

The Blessings — site of one of six NCAA men’s regionals in 2013 — helped sell top five player Nicolas Echavarria of Colombia on Arkansas. The September weekend he visited Fayetteville, Echavarria couldn’t play because of a hand injury and the UA football team was out of town. Still, he signed on along with another top five player, Taylor Moore of Edmond, Okla., son of a Razorback baseball player and a UA cheerleader.

Next fall, Echavarria, Moore, and Zach Coats of Springdale are to join a team that was No. 3 in the final Golf World coaches poll of 2011.

McMakin believes a team that is a perennial top 10 team will break through with a national championship and that Arkansas is on track. A couple of years ago when his alma mater, Oklahoma, contacted him, McMakin said no thanks.

Like many others, the Razorbacks have PGA Tour aspirations and McMakin motivates with the scrambling and putting stats of weekly winners on Tour. Honing the craft from 100 yards in is such a point of emphasis that the players are eager to hit balls when they have free time.

Next time on the practice range, try these Arkansas drills:

• Take a 7- or 9-iron into the sand and strike the ball with the blade wide open. Do that enough, and an explosion with a 60-degree wedge is a piece of cake.

• On the putting green, place a club 18 inches behind the hole. From 20 feet, every putt must go past the hole and stop short of the club. The Razorbacks do that 10 times in a row from 20 feet, seven in a row from 30 feet, and five in a row from 40 feet. Talk about developing touch.

To illustrate results, note that Ethan Clarke, an average putter when he arrived at Arkansas, made a 10-foot par putt to beat the No. 1 amateur Patrick Cantlay in the finals of the prestigious Western Amateur last summer.

The structure imposed by McMakin spills over into other areas — the golf team had an excellent GPA and the players are in the hotel lobby 15 minutes early even when a team get-together is at 6 a.m.

Winter in Fayetteville puts the crimp on golf outdoors and McMakin frets that his players will be rusty on and around the greens when tournaments begin in February. His vision of a remedy is a 7,000 square foot indoor area with a synthetic green and a chipping area. It might fit on top of the heated building that allows players to pound balls to the Blessings practice area no matter the temperature.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is