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.
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.