Improve your technique and master your short game. Get short game instruction to help simplify those critical shots. From holding the club properly to using the right angle, the key to golf's short game is a click away.
They don’t keep stats for it on the PGA Tour, but all pros excel at hitting the mid-range lob. It’s played with your highest-lofted club (usually a lob wedge) from around 30 yards, and it’s one of those shots that, if you pull it off to save par or make birdie, can energize the rest of your round.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous Sam Snead tip, “Hear your putts.” To ensure that he didn’t come out of his putts too early, the “Slammer” held fast in his putting posture until he hopefully heard the ball rattle the bottom of the cup.
The chipping and putting motions are linear in nature. By that, I mean the face remains square to the target line throughout, never opening or closing like it does with full swings from the fairway and the tee. Moreover, the path of the stroke shouldn’t deviate from the target line. Realizing these facts can save a lot of amateur golfers a lot of headaches around the green, where the majority of less-than-skilled players chip the ball with a full-swing technique and leave themselves with a lengthy putt.
There aren’t many shots that touring professionals fear, but if you had to choose one, the buried lie bunker shot would probably take the cake. It’s a shot even more feared among amateurs who have no idea how to approach it, let alone how the ball will react off the clubface and once it hits the green. I’ve always believed that a buried lie isn’t a cause for despair, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate your short-game prowess. With some adjustments to the normal bunker setup, you can accomplish the goal of getting out of the bunker and onto the green every time.
Few shots on the golf course are more satisfying than a well-executed flop shot. Unfortunately, unless you’re Phil Mickelson, the risk is probably not worth the reward. There’s very little margin for error. With the wrong lie, you can swing the club under the ball without advancing it. And, with such a big swing, you’re liable to hit an 80-yard screamer if you catch it thin.
Golfers who are confused about the amount of body action normally associated with a pitch shot can learn from the simple mental image of pitching horseshoes. During this underhanded motion, the arms and body work together in response to the target. The body parts don’t need to be consciously controlled; rather they should react naturally to the command of pitching the horseshoe based on what the eyes see as a target.
The following pre-putt alignment routine is one that I developed with Patrick Burke and teach to each of my students. Its success has been so dramatic that many have adapted it to the full swing. It’s easy to learn and remember as long as you think in right angles.
Chipping and putting are two areas of the game where everyone can improve. Improve your chipping and putting, and you’ll significantly reduce your handicap. The touring pros spend more time practicing their short games than all of their other shots combined. How many weekend golfers can say the same?
Use these simple chips to become a scoring machine
Whether your skills are strictly amateur or allow you to keep pace with any single-digit handicapper, you’ll never reach your true potential as a golfer unless you learn one of the game’s great tricks: turning three shots into two around the greens. In other words, you must find a way to become a scorer. Scoring is what separates the better players you know from everybody else. Taken to a higher analogy, it’s what separates the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh from the rest of the players on the PGA Tour.
Never make the same mistake twice and start shooting lower scores by fixing your swing faults
The game of golf is full of excuses. Whether it's an excuse for a bad shot, a bad pair of slacks or the dreaded excuse for a late or missed tee time, golf is littered with blame. Rarely, however, does a golfer blame himself or herself for a poorly hit shot. It could have been a distraction, a bad lie, a miscalculated yardage or my favorite—an unexpected 40 mph gust of wind. In any case, and despite the plethora of excuses for what seems like everything in golf, if you want to get better at actually playing golf, you must check your ego at the door.
An excerpt from Marshall Smith's latest instruction book focuses on the 50-year teaching veteran's favorite tips.
The most important thing you can do to improve your chipping game is to
know your distances precisely. Heres a drill that can help. Find an
area where you can pace off 30, 60 and 90 yards. Then place a small
builders brick at each distance. Hit pitch shots at the 30-yard brick
until you land one on it. Youll get a great thrill from seeing the
ball bounce way up in the air, and you should start to develop
confidence and an aggressive attitude when you begin to hit such a
small target with regularity. After you hit the brick from 30 yards, go
for 60 then 90 yards.
4 different shots with four different clubs from greenside sand
Bunkers are the only place on the golf course where youre not always
required to hit it perfectly. Its okay—even encouraged—that you
sometimes hit it fat, hold the face open through impact and minimize
your weight shift and rotation. So why, then, are golfers terrified of
what seemingly should be one of golfs easier shots? Astonishingly, the
top player on the PGA Tour through 20 rounds of golf this year—Luke
Donald—has nearly a 90 percent success rate from the sand. Theres no
reason you cant be at least half that good.
If you think back to your last good round of golf, odds are you’ll envision a number of solid drives and approach shots. We bet you’ll also remember making a few excellent par saves or maybe draining a birdie putt or two you normally would have no business making. And if you recount your last poor round of golf, it’s likely you’ll conjure images of errant drives and sloppy iron shots, combined with recovery attempts that failed to get you on the green and into the hole. For low scores, the short game is key.
Bunkers elicit a common reaction from most recreational golfers. That reaction is fear—fear of leaving the ball in the bunker, fear of blasting it over the green, fear of looking foolish, etc.—and it stems from misunderstanding how a sand wedge is designed to function.
It’s been well documented that a solid short game is the key to consistently shooting lower scores. A vital part of the short-game mix is the “finesse shot,” typically from within 100 yards of the green. On a finesse shot, your mindset must be quite different from that applied to the full swing. For example, when hitting a shot with a full swing, your goal is to hit the ball as hard and far as possible.
Add closed and open-faced shots to your short-game arsenal
The plethora of multiple wedge offerings is fantastic. They’ve made extinct the old saying “a sand wedge is the only wedge a good player needs.” That adage came from Greg Norman, who I bet has added a lob wedge to his set since. Nevertheless, despite owning the tools for hitting any number of specific yardages from 125 yards and in, most short shots you’ll face will require something much different than a full swing from one of the two or three wedges in your bag.
Controlling your wedge distances is more difficult than you think. The key is to benchmark your yardages with a “three-swing system.” Since we can no longer make a full swing, we must create a simple method of defining swing length as it relates to ball carry distance. First, I make a quarter-length swing, where my hands finish about waist high. Second, the half-swing, where I gauge my left arm position as being level to the ground. Finally, my three-quarter-length swing, where my hands reach shoulder high.
Like any aspect of the game, improving your bunker play takes practice. But practicing the wrong technique will do little but further ingrain whatever mistakes you’re already making. As a result, instead of getting better, you’ll probably just get worse. The good news is, the fundamentals of solid sand play are actually pretty simple, and can be learned quickly provided you take the time to make certain your setup and execution are correct.
Throughout my 15 years of teaching, I’ve learned no two golfers swing the club alike. I’ve also learned that, despite the individual thumbprint every player puts on his or her swing, good swings share several common traits at key points of the motion. Unfortunately, these traits differ from the commonalities found in the swings of lesser-skilled golfers. In fact, high-handicapped golfers tend to do the exact opposite of what a fundamentally solid swing requires. Of course, you don’t need to swing exactly like a Tour player to improve your ballstriking. However, building a few of the common traits found in higher-level swings into your own will pay huge dividends, especially those that pertain to pitching and chipping.
Four stellar shots to save par from tough greenside situations
The ability to salvage par from a difficult situation around the green often is the difference between contending for a tournament title and missing the cut. Common scenarios require a high-lofted shot over an obstacle, such as a bunker, heavy rough or a greenside mound. There are four approaches for successfully executing a lofted wedge shot. I refer to them as the Butterfly Lob, the Explosion Pitch, the Bird’s Nest Lob and the Standard Pitch.