If you want to break 100 consistently you’ll do yourself a favor to understand and learn to execute the common shots in the short game. Know when to use each of the following shots and the basic technique for each.
You must get on the right bus to get to the right place.
The set-up is most important in each of these shots. Set yourself up correctly and your chances of accomplishing what you have in mind are increased. Set up improperly and you’ll be on the wrong bus, you’ll go to the wrong place and it will cost you when you get back to the clubhouse.
Here are the most common shots in the short game:
- Putts less than 4 feet—short putts.
- Putts 20 feet or less—mid range putts.
- Putts 20 feet and longer—lag putts.
- Putting from off the Green.
- Greenside Bunker Shots.
Here’s a brief description of each shot and the proper set-up for each. If you have any questions, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask me anything.
Note: With all ‘partial shots’ of the short game, the length of backswing controls distance. A short shot requires a short backswing. The shorter the shot, the shorter the backswing. The longer the shot, the longer the backswing. You’ll have to do a bit of practicing to learn to control your backswing to get the desired distance.
Rule of thumb: Use the shortest backswing possible for the distance required. The head of the golf club must always be on the increase of speed as it approaches the golf ball. I can’t emphasize this enough. If your backswing is too long, it will cause you to allow the clubhead to slow as it approaches the ball.
- Putts less than 4 feet–short putts. This is the most common shot in golf. Every golfer who has ever played the game has to face this shot on almost every hole. Even the best don’t make many putts over 4 feet. Here’s how to practice: Go to the practice green. Find a hole on a flat spot. Put a ball 10 inches from the cup. Strike the putt and hit the little standard in the cup dead center with your golf ball. When you can do that 10 times in a row at 10 inches, go to 11 inches from the cup and do it 10 times in a row. You get the picture. Set-up for short putts: 99% of your weight on your heels. No lateral head movement. Grip down the putter handle. The shorter the putter, the better. No wrist movement. Your arms and the club swing smoothly as if they were a pendulum hinged on your shoulders. If you’re not a good putter, try left hand low. Use the shortest backswing possible and still get the ball to the hole.
- Putts 20 feet or less-mid range putts. Not even professionals make many of these. You won’t either. Your task is to make sure your ball stops so close you can tap it in with one hand. Here’s how to practice: Go to the practice range and find a flat putt of about 20 feet. Putt four balls to the cup. Stop all four balls within 6 inches of the hole. Your task is to make sure the ball stops within 6 inches of the cup. Set-up for 20 foot putts: Same set up as for the short putts. Use the shortest backswing possible.
- Putts 20 feet and longer-lag putts. Set up for lag putting: Same as shorter putts. However, as the putts get longer more wrist action will be necessary. This will come naturally with practice. Here’s how to practice: Go to the practice green. Take 4 balls. Practice long putts. Your task is to learn to ‘read’ the green. You’ll have to learn what gravity will do to the ball as it travels over ‘potato chip’ greens. Learn to study a long putt and determine what the starting line of the putt will be and how hard to strike the ball in order to stop the golf ball close to the hole. In lag putting you want to become a hula-hoop putter, that is, learn to stop the ball within a hula-hoop’s distance from the hole.
- Putting from off the green. If ground conditions permit, putt when you’re not on the green. How far away should you putt when you’re not on the green? As far away as the ground conditions will allow. Thirty yards wouldn’t be too far if the ground is smooth and the ball’s roll is predictable. Learning to putt from off the green is one of the most important skills you can ever develop in golf. Learning to putt from off the green will teach you when to chip and when to pitch. Set up for putting from off the green: Your stance and grip will be much like the stance and grip for any iron shot. When putting from off the green you’ll play the ball closer to your left foot than your right. You want to catch the ball ever so slightly on the upswing to get it running on top of the grass. Here’s how to practice: Go to different practice greens and learn when ground conditions permit putting from off the green and when unpredictable ground conditions prevent putting from off the green. Learn this by practice.
- Chipping. You’ll chip when you can’t putt from off the green. Chipping is a low-trajectory shot that barely gets up into the air. It spends very little time in the air. A chip will roll a much longer distance than it flies. When the golfer is off the green and unpredictable ground conditions prevent putting, the golfer will chip. Set up for chipping: You’ll chip with a mid lofted iron, like a 7 iron. Grip down the 7 iron to the shaft to make it shorter and have more control, play it off the right big toe, weight on the left foot, no weight shift to the right foot, stand close to the ball. You’ll strike the ball with almost the exact same force as if you were going to putt the ball the same distance. The bottom of the 7 iron will bump the ground directly under the ball. The ball will fly over the unpredictable ground conditions knee high or lower and roll to the flag as if it were a putt. A chip will travel a short distance in the air and a long distance on the ground as it rolls to the cup.
- Pitching. Putt from off the green whenever you can. Chip when you can’t putt. Pitch when you can’t chip. Pitching is the most difficult of all short game shots. Pitching is a high trajectory shot with a high lofted wedge that rolls very little when it hits the ground. You’ll use this shot when you have to go over a sand trap or other such intervening problem and stop the ball quickly by the hole. If you’re off the green, your first choice will be putting. If unpredictable ground conditions prevent putting, you’ll chip. If there is an intervening hazard between you and area around the flagstick which prevents chipping, you’ll have to pitch. A pitch shot goes high and stops quickly. Pitching is the last choice in the short game arsenal. When you pitch, the best club to use is a 56° sand wedge or a 60° lob wedge. Never use a pitching wedge to pitch. The modern pitching wedge has about 45° loft. ‘Pitching Wedge’ is the old name for the highest lofted club in the golfer’s bag before the invention of the sand wedge in 1932. Set up for pitching: When you pitch, you’ll play the ball in the middle to middle back of your stance, closer to your right foot than your left. You’ll use a regular swing with quiet feet. Like all shots, you must have a stable table. Important: The bottom of the wedge must disturb the soil at the moment of impact or it won’t work.
- Greenside Bunkers. The technique for getting out of sand traps is simple. Imagine the golf ball lying on a dollar bill. Imagine the golf ball sitting on George’s face. Let your sand wedge remove a layer of sand that would be covered by the dollar bill. The metal of the golf club will not contact the ball. The ball will be thrown out of the sand trap on a layer of sand on the clubface of the sand wedge. Set up for greenside bunker shots: Once you’re ready to take your stance, make certain you have good footing. Screw your shoes into the sand. Play the ball more forward than normal because you’ll strike the sand a couple of inches behind the ball. Open the clubface dramatically. This makes the bottom of the clubhead behave like a sled. The bottom of the clubhead will hit the sand, take a layer of sand but it won’t dig and take too much sand. You’ll have to swing hard enough to get the sand and the ball and get the ball to go far enough. This shot is often called an ‘explosion shot’ because of the explosion of sand that comes when the golfer swings hard and takes the ‘dollar bill’ of sand from under the ball.
The above information is brief. It should get you on the right bus and if you work at it you’ll get to the right place.
Play Often, Have Fun, Respect the Game
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Copyright 2019 Barney Beard Golf. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.
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