Possibly one of the most important aspects of golf is being able to get up and down. This skill truly does shave shots off your score, for some, it could be a few shots whilst for many I would imagine more like 10 or 12. Yes, you read correctly, I believe that many of you who shoot regularly in the mid-nineties could transform your game into shooting in the eighties simply by improving your short game. So what does the short game consist of and how can you improve?
It consists of 4 main areas:
Each of these aspects brings their own challenges, both physical and mental. For many, the most worrisome of these is the greenside bunker shots, for others a deft chip over a bunker or a mound and then there is the dreaded 3 footer. All of the shots I mention conjure up thoughts of failure and many of you approach with little or no confidence. So what can you do? The obvious and repeated answer is to get down to the practice ground and practice. But the question for some is what to practice and how they can practice to improve their techniques. I am going to quickly go through the four aspects and give you a few drills and tips to help you improve your short game. From a greenside bunker, start to focus on hitting the sand a ball width behind the ball you are trying to get out. This will increase your consistency of impact and improve your chances of getting the ball out. The second thing to note is that for many, the aim is to get the ball out and onto the green, not to try and play a high flying soft landing shot, as you see on the TV. Pitching, firstly you need to understand a pitch is played mostly through the air. This can be a tricky shot for many as backswings are too long and result in a lack of commitment to the shot, for others trying to “scoop” the ball into the air is the downfall. Tip: Practice pitching using a “half-swing” or the “9 o’clock” backswing position.
This will help you to achieve a consistent backswing allowing you to learn to control the distance the ball will travel. Once you have learned this length of swing, move onto a ¼ swing or “the 7:30”, if you prefer to use imagery. Be aware that the rhythm of the swing needs to remain the same for all swing lengths, further increasing your control.
A chip shot should be played with a variety of clubs, which is where most golfers make their first mistake. Many will simply choose the club with which they feel most comfortable. In my opinion, you should choose the club dependant on the distance you have between you and the hole, just as you would playing from the fairway. To improve your chipping further, begin to “see” where you want the ball to land, not just hit it the general direction of the hole. The landing area is the key to making massive strides in improving your chipping. A great exercise for this is to place a towel on the green and land balls on it, keep practicing the exercise until you can land the ball on the towel 90% of the time. Putting; The dreaded 3 footer, one of the most confidence-sapping shots in golf. Miss a couple and you begin to think, panic….miss them regularly you begin to think you are incapable of holing a single one. If you struggle from this distance you need to remedy it quickly, a great exercise is to place balls 6 inches away from the hole in a circle and hole each putt, once holed move to 1 foot from the hole and so on. Keep going until you miss. If you are lacking confidence the sound of the ball falling into the bottom of the cup rebuilds that lost confidence. One of the main reasons I see a lot of missed 3 footers is people look to see the ball falling in the hole, refrain from doing this…..stroke…..strike and listen.