Method or Feel?
I had an interesting question and conversation last week about the best way to approach your short range scoring shots, particularly those that require something less than a full swing. The golfer I was visiting with was conflicted by things he had read by various instructors regarding approaching these shots with a concise and repeatable "method", versus other instructors who he felt advised that you just have to develop feel for this part of the game.

My take is that you have to have both in order to score better.

There's no question that the more "method-ized" you can make your approach to the in-between and less-than-full shots, the more consistent you will be come. But there are varying degrees of "method-ization" that you can build in, and each degree requires a commitment to learning and practice time. The question you have to ask yourself – and be honest with the answer -- is how much time will you really give it?

For recreational golfers, I think the best approach, at least to begin with, is to work on learning a basic "half swing". To me, that is where the left arm (for RH players) goes back only so far as to where it is parallel to the ground. You want good extension back, and an almost full shoulder turn at this end-of-backswing position. From there, make a rhythmic and smooth turn and pull through the impact zone, and into a full finish. This is not about power, but rather repeatable swing speed, so that you get consistent results.

Once you learn this half swing, experiment hitting shots with all your wedges (or scoring clubs if you have made the SCOR4161 conversion) and even your short irons, to see what distances you get with each, and what kind of ball flight and release each club delivers. What you'll find is that you now have 4-5 new dialed-in distances to take to the course.

Now let's apply feel to the formula. I like to think of feel as it relates to overall swing speed, not just the impact power. Going back to that half swing, I think you can apply three speeds that we'll relate to driving our cars. I call them "Country Road", "City" and "School Zone". Country Road is what you just learned as "full speed", not too powerful, very controlled. Less than a full-swing 7-iron shot for sure.

"City" is throttled back from that to a much more relaxed speed – more precise, more cautious. It will produce a distance result with each club that is measurably less than your Country Road speed, giving you another batch of distances you can dial in. Finally, I like to think of "School Zone" on my pitch shots around the greens. If you will learn to swing your club at this speed with various clubs, you'll have a whole new arsenal of scoring shots to call on. A great practice routine is to actually see how slow you can swing. You'll find that you can move the club in virtual slow motion, and still hit a quality shot.

It's fun to learn new ways of striking the ball, and I hope this exercise gives all of you new shots to learn and perfect to improve your scoring.
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[ comments ]
Anti-Mulligan says:
I prefer not to use this slowing down the club method but actually the other method as I don't get to practice or play as much anymore. I just grip down on the club to get the prescrived distance. Terry you taught me this through your articles. I find me wedge that goes farther than the distance I need and then choke down until I get what I think will cover that distance then make a nice full swing. Much easier to do when you can't practice or play as much.
Matt McGee says:
I guess I mix these together, and choose the approach based on the circumstance. If I have a "half swing" type of shot, with a good lie and plenty of green to work with, I use a "feel" type of swing. It's the most accurate swing I have. If, at that same distance, I have a bad lie, or if I'm short-sided, I resort to mechanics (method) to accomplish my goal. This approach minimizes the damage if the shot goes awry. Nearer to the green, I absolutely agree with the "School Zone" approach. I slow the swing down by trying to make the transition from back swing to front as smooth as possible. It creates an instant slow-motion swing.
Torleif Sorenson says:
I'm definitely going to try this at my earliest opportunity. Thanks, Terry!
DougE says:
I practice what I call pitchip and chipitch shots with my PW, GW, SW, and LW, where my wrists stay relatively unbroken, using swings in which the clubhead moves from 8-4 o'clock, 8:30-3:30 and 9-3. I practice this incessantly and record my averages in a play book. These are PROVEN results. I do the same with less than full-swing pitch shots, where my wrists do break, at 1/2 and 3/4 (and of course full) swings. On top of that, I have different results recorded for ball position, which will greatly affect roll out. This information has been invaluable for my game. Though I use a lot of touch as well, depending on the particular shot need, the pure mechanical aspect I have repeated through practice and continued charting in my playbook has brought a ton of confidence to my short game. I can't tell you how many times I had a shot that my mind told me was a certain length swing, but my playbook said another. 9 times out of 10, my playbook is correct.
GBogey says:
@DougE - the chipitch sounds interesting - how to you set up and how do your distances compare to the standard pitch for a given club? I'm looking for something to help with 50 yrds and in.
jeremyheslop says:
@DougE sounds alot like the Dave Pelz shot game method. I need to document my short game and approach shots. You have now convinced me to start doing that.
DougE says:
GBogey-My "chipitch" is really a long chip, but one that might need to travel at least 10-15 yards in the air before rolling another 10 or 20 on the green. If it is from a tight lie, I expect more check up and less roll. So a 15 yard chipitch from a tight lie, when struck correctly, would typically roll out about 10 yards, whereas from a thicker lie, probably more like 20 yards. Key is to make sure you accelerate through the shot and take a small shallow divot. This will give you some backspin. I typically use a 52* wedge, play the ball off my back foot and don't break my wrists. Swing clubhead back to 8 oclock then forward to 4 oclock. I keep virtually all my weight on my front foot. I finish with my chest at the target. A "pitchip" is just a longer version, maybe where my club face comes back to 9 o'clock. The carry is longer than the roll. To me "chip" shots are more like a putting stroke. They are planned to roll further than their usually short carry, unless you are chipping with a 60-64 degree wedge.
Tim Horan says:
My take on this is that you employ "feel" for what shot you select but employ "method" for how you execute the shot.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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