Simple is always good in golf. The simpler a shot is to make, the easier it is to explain during golf lessons or in golf tips, and the easier it is for the player to understand and duplicate. More importantly, the simpler a shot is to make, the easier it is for a player to achieve consistency and make adjustments when needed.
Below are several short game drills. They’re all relatively simple and easy to make. Adopting one, two, or all of them will improve your chipping and pitching, which in turn will chop several strokes off your scores. Improving your short game is also a great way to reduce your golf handicap.
1. Change Clubs, Not Swing
It’s easier changing clubs, than altering your swing for different short game shots. Work on adopting a basic chipping stance, one that you can use whether you’re hitting a 5-iron, 7-iron, or pitching wedge. Here’s one approach.
1. Address the ball with a narrow slightly open stance, with your weight mainly on your left side (for right-handers)
2. Position your head almost directly over the ball, with your hands slightly ahead of the ball.
3. Grip down on the club as far as you can, right to the bottom of the grip itself.
4. Make a pendulum like stroke using just your arms and shoulders
5. Let the loft of the club and the pace of the swing control distance and trajectory.
This technique is easy to learn and use, and it holds up well under pressure. Just remember to keep you hands ahead of the ball throughout the stroke, which prevents you from trying to scoop it, and keep your stance narrow, which shifts your weight to the left side where it should be.
2. Hinge the Wrist
You can use the same stance and approach for pitching the ball, but remember to cock your wrists slightly before coming forward with the stroke. Use a sand wedge for most pitch shots and make two adjustments. Since you need to strike the ball with a crisp, descending blow (1) position the ball at your stance’s midpoint and (2) make sure that the club’s shaft and your left arm (for right-handers) are in a straight line, ensuring ball-then-turf contact. In addition, get a 60-degree wedge or a lob wedge and learn to hit either or both. They make getting up and over a mound or bunker easier, enabling you to get up and down more often.
3. Expand Your Shotmaking Capability
In addition to making the above adjustments, work on expanding your arsenal of shots. Practice shots like the short uphill/downhill shot, the dead lob shot, and the check-up shot. They will help you in pressure situations.
The uphill/downhill shot is tricky. The key is setting your spine at right angles to the slope, whether you’re hitting uphill or downhill. Your weight in these shots is always on your lower foot—the back foot for uphill shots and the front for downhill shots. With an uphill shot use a club with less loft. With a downhill club use a club with more loft.
The lob shot is great for overcoming a bunker or deep rough. It’s a cut shot that you can hit with a 60-degree wedge or a sand wedge. When the ball comes down, it lands really softly on the green and dies. Swing along your bodyline, which is slightly open, so the path of the stroke should be outside to inside, and take a steep swing. With this shot, you’ll have the feeling of coming across the ball.
The check-up is a little pitch shot that hits, hops, and checks. Use it with middle and back pin placements. Take a sand iron, set-up with your hands in front of the ball and your weight slightly forward, and hit down on the ball sharply. You want to hit the ball not the turf first. This is not a cut shot and there is little body movement.
These three shots take a little practice to master, so practice them when you’re on the range. They will pay enormous dividends. Also, use the basic stance we covered in the beginning of the article. And remember, keep things as simple as possible. Simplicity in golf makes things easier to learn and duplicate, achieve consistency, and execute changes when necessary.