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  • Writer's pictureThe Swing Suite

Perfecting The Short Game: The Key to Improve Your Golf Scores

Updated: Jan 4


One of the most overlooked aspects of golf, yet crucial to lowering your scores, is the short game. The short game, encompassing shots from within 100 yards of the green, is where matches are won or lost. Let's delve into why mastering the short game is vital and how it can dramatically impact your scores.





The Statistical Edge

Data in golf consistently highlights the significance of the short game. According to a study by the PGA Tour, approximately 60% of shots in a round are taken within 100 yards of the green. This statistic alone underscores the importance of proficiency in chipping, pitching, and putting. Moreover, the short game accounts for around 35-50% of total strokes and 80% of shots saved or lost against a par. Hence, honing these skills can significantly reduce your handicap.


Chipping Away at Your Handicap

Chipping, an integral part of the short game, requires finesse and strategy. It's not just about getting the ball on the green; it's about getting it close to the hole to set up an easy putt. Improving your chipping can lead to more up-and-down opportunities, turning potential bogeys into pars. The Vokey Design Wedges are a popular choice among players looking to improve their chipping, as they are well known for their consistent feel and performance.


Recommended Chipping Drills

  1. The Circle Drill: Place a circle of golf tees around a hole on the practice green, each tee about three feet from the cup. Practice chipping balls from various distances, trying to get each ball to land within the circle. This drill improves your distance control and helps you get closer to the pin.

  2. One-Club Challenge: Use only one club, preferably your favourite wedge (I tend to favour the 58 degree for its versatility) , to chip from various lies and distances. This drill forces you to get creative with your shot-making, adjusting your swing length and speed to suit different situations.

  3. Up and Down Practice: Simulate real-game scenarios by throwing a ball into different lies around the green, including the rough, sand, and uphill or downhill lies. Your goal is to chip and then putt, aiming to get 'up and down' in two shots or less. This drill is excellent for developing your ability to handle pressure situations on the course.

  4. The Ladder Drill: Chip balls from increasing distances, aiming to land each ball further than the previous one but still on the green. This exercise teaches you to control your swing for varying distances, an essential skill in chipping.

  5. Par 18: Create a challenging nine-hole course around the practice green. Each 'hole' starts with a chip and is followed by a putt. Par for each hole is 2, making the total par 18. Keep track of your score, and aim to improve it each time you practice.

Incorporating these drills into your practice routine will not only improve your chipping technique but also build your confidence around the greens. Remember, consistent practice is key to mastering any aspect of golf, and chipping is no exception. For a more unique and personalised short game review, and to learn some advanced techniques, book a short game session here.


The Art of Putting

Putting is arguably the most crucial aspect of the short game. A PGA Tour statistic revealed that the average pro makes about 50% of putts from 8 feet. This percentage drops as the distance increases, showing the difficulty of long putts. However, with better green reading skills, distance control, and consistent stroke mechanics, you can drastically improve your putting. The Scotty Cameron Putters are renowned for their precision and feel, a favourite among many top players, as well as the popular TaylorMade Spider Series. Putter choice, although personal, still comes down to finding the right balance between style and performance, and it's always recommended to seek a putter fitting!


Recommended Putting Drills

  1. The Coin Drill: Place a coin about six inches in front of the ball on your intended line. Focus on rolling the ball over the coin with each putt. This drill improves your ability to start the ball on your intended line, a key skill in putting.

  2. The Ladder Drill: Set up tees at different distances (e.g., 3 feet, 6 feet, 9 feet) from the hole. Putt from each tee in succession, trying to make each putt. This exercise enhances your feel for distance and helps with short, medium, and long putts.

  3. Gate Drill: Place two clubs or tees on the ground, forming a "gate" just wider than your putter head near the ball. The goal is to stroke the putt without hitting the clubs or tees. This drill is excellent for working on your putting stroke's path and consistency.

  4. Around the World: Place a series of balls around a hole at the same distance (about 3 feet). Move around the circle, putting each ball, trying to make as many in a row as you can. This drill is not only good for building confidence with short putts but also for practicing putts from different angles.

  5. Speed Control Drill: Putt towards the edge of the green from various distances without letting the ball roll off the green. This drill helps you develop a better feel for speed and adaptability to different green conditions.

  6. The 100 Putts Challenge: Set a goal to make 100 putts from within 3 feet in a single practice session. It reinforces muscle memory and builds confidence in short putts.

By incorporating these drills into your practice sessions, you will enhance your putting accuracy and control. Remember, putting is as much about mental preparation and confidence as it is about technique. Regular practice with these drills can lead to significant improvements in your putting game.


Pitch Perfect

Pitch shots, especially in the 30-100 yard range, are a vital component of the short game. They require a blend of power and precision. Mastering pitch shots can help you attack pins and set up birdie opportunities, or save par from a challenging lie. The TaylorMade Milled Grind Wedges offer exceptional control and are widely used in the professional circuit.


Variations of Pitch Shots and Technical Considerations

  1. From the Fairway:

  • Technique: Ensure a clean, crisp contact with the ball. Use a slightly narrower stance and a bit of forward shaft lean.

  • Practice: Try different trajectories. Use a lower trajectory for a running shot to a far pin, or a higher trajectory to stop quickly near a close pin.

  1. From the Rough:

  • Technique: Open the clubface slightly to avoid the grass grabbing the club. Position the ball slightly forward in your stance to promote a higher flight.

  • Practice: Experiment with various thicknesses of rough. Understand how the club reacts differently in light rough compared to heavy rough.

  1. Adjusting for Changes in Elevation:

  • Technique: Assess the elevation change and choose your club and shot type accordingly. For uphill targets, a lower, running shot may be effective, while downhill targets might require a higher, softer landing shot.

  • Practice: Experiment with different trajectories and club selections for both uphill and downhill targets. Understand that the approach may vary based on the specific situation, and it's up to you, the player, to assess and adapt accordingly.

  1. Pin Placement Relative to Hazards:

  • Technique: Assess the risk versus reward. If a hazard is close to the pin, aim for the safer side of the green.

  • Practice: Set up practice scenarios where you must land the ball on specific parts of the green relative to simulated hazards.

  1. Adjusting for Wind:

  • Technique: Keep the ball low into the wind with less loft, and use more loft to ride the wind when it’s at your back.

  • Practice: Play in various wind conditions and learn to adjust your shot choice and club selection.

Understanding and mastering these different pitch shot variations and techniques can significantly enhance your ability to handle a variety of situations on the course. Whether you're facing a tight pin location, a challenging lie, or a significant change in elevation, the right approach and technique can make all the difference.


Practice Makes Perfect

Improving your short game requires dedicated practice off the course. The goal is not just to get the ball on the green but to get it close to the hole. Here’s a balanced practice routine that’s both effective and engaging:


Weekly Short Game Practice Routine

  1. Monday - Putting Precision:

  • Spend 15 minutes on the Coin Drill to improve your starting line.

  • Follow up with 30 minutes of the Ladder Drill, focusing on distance control.

  • Finish with 15 minutes of the 100 Putts Challenge to build confidence in short putts.

  1. Tuesday - Chipping Challenge:

  • Start with 20 minutes of the Circle Drill to work on distance control.

  • Practice the One-Club Challenge for 30 minutes, using different shots with one wedge.

  • Conclude with 10 minutes of creative chipping, trying different lofts and shots.

  1. Wednesday - Mixed Bag:

  • Alternate between putting and chipping drills every 15 minutes for 1 hour.

  • This keeps the session dynamic and tests your ability to switch between skills.

  1. Thursday - Pitching Perfection:

  • Begin with 30 minutes working on shots from the fairway, focusing on trajectory control.

  • Spend 20 minutes on shots from the rough, practicing with various clubfaces.

  • Finish with 10 minutes of pitching to different elevations.

  1. Friday - Game Simulation:

  • Create a 9-hole short game course around the practice green. Include a mix of putts, chips, and pitches.

  • Play the course, keeping score to make it competitive and fun.

  1. Saturday - Wind Play:

  • Focus on adjusting shots for wind conditions, spending 30 minutes on putting and 30 minutes on chipping and pitching.

  • This is especially useful if you can practice in actual windy conditions.

  1. Sunday - Rest and Reflect:

  • Take a break from hands-on practice.

  • Review your week, noting areas of improvement and those needing more work.

  • Plan adjustments for the next week's practice

  • .

Monthly Focus Shift

Each month, shift the focus slightly to address different aspects of the short game. For example, one month could focus more on putting, the next on chipping, and so on. This ensures comprehensive development over time.


Keeping It Interesting

  • Track Your Progress: Keep a practice journal to note improvements and areas needing work.

  • Introduce New Drills: Regularly change drills to keep practice fresh and challenging.

  • Practice with a Friend: Turn practice sessions into friendly competitions.

  • Set Goals: Have clear, achievable goals for each practice session.


Conclusion

In conclusion, the short game is a critical component of golf that has a significant impact

on your overall score. By improving your chipping, pitching, and putting, you can save several strokes per round, thus lowering your handicap. Remember, long drives are thrilling, but a refined short game is what will consistently lower your scores.


 

PGA Professional

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