It’s no secret that the short game should occupy most of a golfer’s practice time. After all, most strokes are racked up from 100 yards and in, especially on and around the green. If you truly want to put a dent in that handicap and perhaps put your personal best-ever score in your sights this golf season, here are three short game drills I use with my students a Troon North all the time. Work them into your regular practice routine (you do have one of those, don’t you?), and you’ll be set for a successful spring and summer campaign.
PUTTING: SQUARE THE FACE
Just as with the full swing, what’s important with the short strokes is the putter face. It’s 80 percent of what determines the direction of the golf ball at and after impact. I like to make sure you get the putter square at address, so I break out my trust yardstick and get to work (Photo 1).
For this drill we want to find the straight uphill side of a hole on the practice green, we place the stick at the right edge, and I make sure the face is perpendicular to the stick (Photos 2-3). That way you know you’re aimed correctly. If you make a stroke and the ball doesn’t go in the hole, you know you’ve manipulated the face at some point.
I make sure you hold your finish until the ball stops rolling, so you can check for clubface squareness at the end, too (Photo 4).
PUTTING: LADDER DRILL
With better players, I’ll do a ladder drill where I put a tee at two, four, six and eight feet from the hole. We hold players accountable for performance, so they need to make two putts up and down the line — four eight-footers total to complete the drill — and if they miss one they start over. It’s a drill I use all the time to create pressure on the putting green.
PITCHING: KEEP THE HANDLE MOVING
Better players avoid the “flip,” as in flipped hands at impact, like the plague (the “NO” photo says it all).
The trick is to make sure the hands don’t stop through the stroke but keep going even as the clubhead slightly passes them beyond impact. This popular drill does just that — keeps the handle of the wedge moving through impact on pitches and chips.
To get the feel of those solid and forward-moving hands, I use an alignment stick, holding it in my left hand alongside the gripped club. When I make my swing, that stick needs to stay outside and pretty much parallel to my arm, which means my hands haven’t broken down, causing a chunk or a top.
The first set of photos (above) shows how the drill works; the second set (below) shows how to make the same stroke without the training aid.
The main points to remember and work on for this drill and shot: The set-up is a little bit open, the hips are open, the hips clear coming through, and the loft of the club is maintained. Put it all together and you’ll get your share of tap-in saves.