The Top 7 Short Game Mistakes
I've written about lots of topics here over the past few years, but my goal is always to help you score better. And in the reality of golf, that means hitting more fairways (regardless of distance), keeping your approach shots on the safe side of the hole or green and sharpening your short game. Today, I'll share with you what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevents them from optimizing their scoring.
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Here's what I see even more than the quick "jabby" stroke. The golfer takes a lonnnng backswing, then decelerates into the ball, creating a "Charles Barkley-esque" looking move. The result is rarley good.
My mental picture is opening or closing the sliding door in my kitchen. It takes a smooth motion; too hard and the door slams, too soft and it gets stuck in the track. And to do it smoothly, you do use your chest, shoulders and hips. Pay attention next time you close a sliding door, you'll notice that you've turned your hips and shoulders by the time the door is closed.
It's amazing how we lose the ability to perform instinctive motions when we're holding a golf club...
Number One... not enough practice. Seriously though, many of us don't have the right facilities to really practice our short game.
When I was in Oakland CA, they had a little practice green in the middle of the city you could just walk up to and practice, free. However, it was so shaggy you couldn't really practice properly. Many other facilities have the same problem (a dome we went to in the winter had a sand trap with sand so dry and fluffy the ball would sink 4 inches down). And it seems like every empty field has NO GOLFING signs.
I work on the nine shot types at the range, and use half of the balls for chipping. Those green mats repel the club so easily, that it doesn't really simulate real grass and having the club "go through the dirt."
For us public/muni players, spending extra time at a course during a paying round is what we need; there are often grass practice areas, and even a real bunker, and a green. But then time is an issue: Perhaps pay for 9, and practice for 2 hrs?
Good article Terry. Another key is ball position. I see too many people using a SW with bounce that moves the ball too far back in their stance, thus eliminating that one thing that helps - bounce!
@rmetz any post with the word "Barkleyesque" gets top honors! And what an indelible image, no?
When I began to really score is when I began to really care about scoring, and focused exclusively on the short game. Sincerely investing in the short game is priority #1 at a certain point. Once you can get the ball down the fairway reliably (Tee to 100yds or so), the whole game changes: you've really got to get the damn ball in the hole with only 2 or 3 chances. We used an alternate scoring system to reflect that: (Linear footage of the shot sunk, +10 for par, +20 for birdie. You can use +5 for bogie for players at 15 hdcp or more). A tap in for par=11pts, a 12-footer for birdie=32pts, a tap in for bogie=1 pt. So you see the swing in scoring for clutch shots. 9 tap-ins for par=99pts. A good round is 100pts/9holes. Another one was to play each hole as a par 3 once you crossed the 150 marker (except if it was already a par 3). Reorienting your mind, your strategy, and your limited attention is key!
Biggest issue I see in technique is using way too much arms and not enough rotation, which also leads to trying to "lift" the shot or slowing down and letting the clubhead pass the hands. Tactically, I see far too many players trying to "fly" the ball to the hole which is far more difficult than letting it run to the green (and even if they fly the ball to the hole the roll then takes them too far past the hole to make the putt). But they see the pros fly the ball so they think they should too.
@onedollarwed - Your comment hit it for me. The course I play in my town used to have an executive 9-hole course next to the 27 hole regular golf course. Some years back they lost the lease on most of the property that the exec course was built on, but they retained two holes (the first and the ninth) and turned them into a practice facility, you could bring your shag bag out there and really work on all aspects of your short game. Two months ago they let those go and now there's just the driving range where you hit from mats. I bought the new SCOR wedges right about the time they closed the practice greens. My only choice is to pay for nine holes and work on my wedge game there. $25 to practice isn't cheap but it's the only way I'm going to get any real practice in. I can't seem to hit a good bunker shot we my new wedges --I dig in too deep every time! I know they're good clubs but need to adjust to hit them right.
Bryan K says:
Two things that I have found very important are body core rotation and hand position. I've been working on staying inside because I get better control of the target line of the shot that way. If my hands get too far away from my body, I lose control. And body rotation...if I properly rotate my body, it helps the clubhead get through the impact zone on those occasions where I hit just a tiny bit fat.
But the one thing not mentioned here is weight distribution and transfer. I have to keep reminding myself to *not* transfer my weight when I'm hitting my wedges.
Tim Horan says:
@Bryan K - here is a drill that will get the weight transfer and rotation into context for you. Take two clubs in hand take a quarter to a third length back swing and then accellerate them through the impact zone and to a full high finish. the theory here is that the additional weight(two clubs)make you transfer enough of your weight to balance you and quieten your hands down and then forces you to throw your weight forward into the impact and finish. Taking this into a full swing you need to ensure that you maintain flex in the right (back) leg resist at the hips but rotate your upper body.
Tim Horan says:
Another drill to promote the rotation is to set up as normal and then draw your back leg back off the target line say 4 inches and keep your heel of the deck. This puts the weight on your front foot and assists rotation in the back swing.
#2 could use some clarification. "Getting down to the ball" might be misconstrued as bending more from the waist. Maintain good posture while increasing knee flex in addition to choking down on the club in order to improve consistency and accuracy.
When I refer to "getting down to the ball", I mean gripping down further on the club, facilitated by slightly more flexing of the knees, and slightly more bending from the hips (not the waist, actually). Hope that clears that up.
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