More On Short Game Tempo
On our recent golf trip to Alabama, Ralph (my EIDOLON partner) and I played 90 holes of golf in three days (yes, we’re nuts that way). One of my favorite things about doing that is that I get to meet new people and make new friends. But I also get to observe golfers that are not in my group of close friends at my home club. Kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

And one thing I notice more than just about anything is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing, and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery. Why?

If we are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I am a fast player, and despise five hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a minute extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball”. We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So here’s a practice drill for you.

Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time. My bet is that you find a place where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.
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[ comments ]
klangdon says:
I often read that amateurs usually have too much backswing for short pitches. It sounds like your saying the opposite and that we should be taking even more backswing, am I reading that correct?

As soon as temperatures get back up into the 40s in North East I will be sure to try your drill.
BMcDonald says:
I agree with this, and many of your blogs. I recently started trying to use the same swing through out my rounds. Just using different tempo, slower for closer shots and my comfortable full speed swing. It had my game going up and down for weeks and weeks. It was really tough to get used to, But my last round I posted a 89, with a 40 back 9(par is 34). That Back nine i was hitting GIR and really reduced my errors in going over the green. I want to say thank you, for giving your insight into the golf game of others. It takes a long while to feel right but I now believe it. I might not be considered a "good" golfer but I feel I can become a better golfer using this approach.

Thanks again!
wedgeguy says:

In my observation, I see just as many, if not more, who don't take enough backswing to have a nice rhythm. But I do see the "too long" backswing as well. Most of the time, that backswing ends with very lazy hands, too, which is a killer in the short game. I am a believer that rather firm wrists in the entire swing leads to better short game success for almost all golfers.
Hacker2 says:
I read your post yesterday morning and then went to the practice green. It took about 20 minutes to find the correct postion of the ball but then it all came together very nicely. I was very pleased with how much better my pitch shots were running toward the pin. I will try it out on the course today and let you know how it comes out. Thanks.
Michael Ehmke says:
I like the article again. I find that the first thing to go in the pressure of getting up and down is tempo. I find that counting 2 numbers in succession in my head during the swing helps. I use 15 on the backswing and 16 on the downswing. I use this for almost all shots. I have also observed how well this works if I get people to try it if they are struggling with their swing during the round. No swing advice. Just getting their head in a different place.
JWHpurist says:
All of the points you discussed are very valid and important. It took me ten years and substantial practice in the late 50's and early 60's, with clubs of that vintage, to acquire that level of finesse and related confidence to produce consistant shots. The other important point is that a player must practice these shots from all terrain conditions on a consistant basis to maintain confidence and repeatability that will produce lower net scores and a reduction of 16 to 20 shots per round! JWHpurist
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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