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5 Ways To Improve Your Short Game

Golf Care, 1st June 2021

how to improve your short game in golf

Forget what Bryson DeChambeau is doing for a moment – hitting 250 drives a day at maximum speed – and remember that a strong short game is the key to shooting lower score. Most amateur golfers would be better off working on those more delicate shots.

Mastering the basics will go a long way to improving your performance on and around the greens – but what are they and how else can you become more proficient in this crucial area of the game?

PGA Master Professional Keith Williams offers five ways to improve your short game.

1. Nail the fundamentals

For distances of 25-40 yards, remember that a smooth, co-ordinated swing action is key to gaining both the distance and direction control needed to get the ball close.

Generally speaking, the backswing and follow through distances should be approximately equal, and the speed of the swing one of smooth acceleration. In other words, there should be no panic and sudden effort to try and hit the ball.

Set up with the weight slightly favouring the lead foot and retain this position throughout the swing. You should feel that the hands, arms, and upper torso work together and that you turn through impact to face the pin. I like to see players standing ‘tall’ and balanced on the forward foot, with the hands and arms positioned opposite the middle of the body.

2. Use less loft pitching from fluffy rough

Assuming you’re fairly close to the green, shots out of the fluffy rough can be quite intimidating. In this situation, you require elevation and distance control of both the airborne and roll aspects of the shot.

My advice would be to not always choose your most lofted wedge. Instead, use a mid wedge (50-54 degrees). Position the ball off the inside of the back foot, with your weight slightly favouring the lead foot.

Next, open the clubface slightly so that the bounce of the sole of the club is more exposed. You want to execute a smooth, simple pitching swing – approximately waist-high back will be enough.

Avoid trying to help the ball out of the grass. Instead, allow the clubhead to descend smoothly and contact the grass fractionally behind the ball – yes, behind it!

If you make contact with the ball first, you’re likely to thin or top it. The idea is to allow the club to move down under the ball. What you’re looking to do is ‘gather it up’, to send the ball up softly and control its route to the flag.

Watch the pros and you’ll see they have this wonderful smooth swing action, with the hands, arms, and body working in harmony.

3. Work on your bunker basics

If you have a decent lie in a bunker, you should have nothing to fear.

Select your most lofted wedge (usually 56-60 degrees). Your stance must be wider than normal, and the knees should be more flexed to help you feel you’re slightly squatting down into the ground. Get a good footing in the sand itself. Now ‘open’ (left for right-hander) your stance just a little and position the club ever so slightly opposite (to the right).

Get your weight towards the front foot and keep the ball forwards in your stance (inside forward heel). You want to use the bounce of the club correctly so that it travels down, under the ball, and through the sand efficiently to help elevate the ball softly upwards and on its way towards the flag.

You’ll need a longer swing than for a pitch shot, as the impact into the sand will slow down the speed of the club. Think of the hands as swinging from shoulder height back to shoulder height through.

It requires smooth acceleration, and you should keep your weight forwards and turn the body to face the flagstick as you swing through.

4. Groove a centred strike  

It’s crucial to strike your putts from of the centre of the clubface, as this will impact distance and direction. To improve your strike, I recommend trying this drill.

Start three feet away from the hole with three balls. Before hitting the first putt, position two tee pegs, one on each side of the putter head, just wide enough for the club to pass through during the stroke.

Then, position each ball in the centre of the putter face and make your normal stroke. If you hit the ball cleanly, then you’ve struck the ball in the sweet spot of your putter. If you catch a tee peg on either the heel or toe of the putter, your stroke is incorrect. In this instance, you won’t get the best roll and you’ll lose control of the ball.

Carry on moving away from the hole in three-foot increments up to 15 foot, each time marking out the putting gate with your tees. It can come as a surprise to learn how your strike is sometimes off-centre. However, this drill is really effective in helping you to groove a better stroke. Give it a go and you’ll soon start holing more putts.

5. Putt from the apron

It’s almost always a safer and more reliable strategy to use a putter from the apron, assuming it’s a decent grass surface.

In this situation, try to make a longer and smoother putting stroke to allow for the grass on the apron being a few millimetres longer than the green itself. Employing this strategy can have a dramatic effect on your putt speed if you have quite a length of apron to go over.

This is something you need to practise, as getting the knack of judging the two speeds –

apron and green – is the secret. However, you should find it to be a more consistent and reliable way to get down in two.

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