The fastest way of cutting strokes from your golf handicap, once you’ve learned the basics, is by improving your short game. Whether it’s saving par on a tough hole or just cutting strokes off your overall score, becoming a better short game player boosts the level of your game. If your not convinced, look at the pros. Almost everyone on the tour is a great short game player.
But even great short game players develop bad habits. That’s when it helps to have a swing coach, who can help you correct bad habits. Unfortunately, weekend golfers can’t afford swing coaches. The closest they can come is taking a golf lesson or two from a club pro. But they can’t take a lesson while playing a round. So they must rely on themselves to find and correct swing errors when playing.
Below are some of the most common short game errors weekend golfers commit. Being aware of these errors, and knowing how to correct them, enables you to make mid-course changes during a round. That, in turn, saves strokes.
Check Your Chipping Mechanics
Weekend players commit three common errors when chipping. They play the ball too far back in their stance, they flip their hands over to get the ball airborne, and/or they rest their weight on their back feet. Committing one or more of these errors simultaneously scuttles the shot. Instead, play the ball in the middle of a slightly open stance, avoid letting your wrists break down during the swing, and place your weight on your forward foot. If your shaft remains perpendicular to the ground after impact, you’re mechanics are correct.
This drill teaches accuracy and distance control. Pick out a flat area on the green. Then through trial and error find the spot on the green you must hit to get the ball close to the hole. Mark this area by creating a six-foot circle with golf balls or string around the spot. In theory, if you choose the proper zone and land the ball within a six-foot area, you’ll always be three feet from the hole. Practice landing your shots in this circle using a 7-iron, a 9-iron, a pitching wedge, and a 60-degree wedge, and you’ll improve.
Review Your Pitching Mechanics
The weekend golfer’s biggest mistake in pitching is trying to scoop the ball off the ground, as I’ve explained in my golf tips. Players who scoop the ball hamper their club’s built-in capabilities. In other words, they don’t trust their clubs. The loft of the pitching wedge or the sand wedge gets the ball airborne. If you swing down on the ball, you’ll get it airborne. Remember golf is a game of opposites. To hit the ball up, you must swing down. The combination of loft and downward angle pops the ball up. So if you find yourself leaning back on a pitch shot, your mechanics are probably faulty.
This drill teaches distance control and achieving the correct flight path. Take your normal chipping stance. Place the clubface of any chipping club squarely behind the ball and perpendicular to the hole, about 20 to 25 feet away. Now, turn your head and look at the hole. Maintain your head position and make a smooth chipping stroke. Hit about 10 shots, watching how the ball reacts in the air and on the ground. Now take your normal chipping stance again. Keep your head focused on the ball and hit 10 shots while looking at the ball. Repeat several times.
Rotate Through Bunker Shots
Two of the biggest mistakes weekend golfers make when it hitting bunker shots is placing their weight on their back feet and not rotating through their shots. Placing your body weight on your back foot causes you to release the club too early in the swing. You’ll hit it fat or you’ll blade it. By not rotating your body, your hands reach the impact zone too soon. By the time they reach the ball, they’ll be hitting too much on the upswing. Instead, place the ball slightly back in your stance with plenty of shaft lean, keep the hands “on top” of the front foot, and rotate through impact. Don’t leave your weight on your back foot.
This drill provides a mental key for hitting a normal greenside bunker. It also teaches you to rotate through the ball. Imagine a four-inch ruler stretching back from behind the ball. The one-inch mark is closest to the ball, while the four-inch mark is farthest away. At the same time, imagine a four-inch ruler in front of the ball. Now hit away. Keep in mind that the bounce of the club must enter the sand about an inch away from the ball and drive through four-inches in the sand. You must have your weight leaning forward and rotate through the shot to accomplish this. Visualize this set up each time you practice or when you’re on the course and your bunker play will improve.
Keeping these common short game mistakes in mind when you’re playing enables you to make mid-course corrections and saves you strokes. When not on the course, practice the drills we’ve detailed here. Together, they’ll help slash strokes off your golf handicap.