Golf Short Game

The Short Game

So many golfers want to hit the ball 300 yards.  I get it, it is really fun and it impresses all of your buddies.  However, scoring in golf is about getting the ball in the hole.  Not how pretty or ugly it is to get there.  In golf, the short game is king.

Even the best golfers in the world only hit the green in regulation about half of the time.  On top of that, the percentage of putts that are made outside of 10 feet is not very good either.  Therefore, these golfers are relying on strong short games to leave themselves “make-able” putts for par.

The Basic Short Game Shots

We’ve all watched Phil Mickelson hit flop shots, backward shots, and more.  But the truth of the matter, those shots are not the ones you will rely on hole after hole.  Have a few “stock” short game shots and you will get find yourself making more and more pars.

The standard shots that everyone needs to have an adequate short game is:

 You can either click the links above, or below to learn the details of each shot.  So many golfers don’t understand the difference in chipping and pitching, and that knowledge alone is probably worth 10 shots per round.  So if you don’t have time to read anything else, make sure you at least spend some time on that article.

Advanced Short Game Shots

So once you’ve learned the basic “stock” short game shots, you can look at a little more advanced shot.  My guess is that you are probably going to use the basic shots about 80% of the time when you are around the green.

However, you will occasionally miss the green in places that will leave you with some pretty difficult shots.  These shots will probably require you to get the ball up quick and then stop on the green without much roll-out.  These shots will occur when you are short sided and perhaps you need to get over a bunker, you are hitting from a lower elevation, or have some thick grass you need to go over.

For these occasions, you will need the Flop Shot.  

Listen very closely, you should only attempt this shot when you have no other choice.  For most golfers, the flop shot is a very low percentage shot.  Most of the time, you would be much better served using the standard short game shots (chip, pitch, bump & run).  Later in the article, I will link to short game drills.  Please spend a lot of time practicing before attempting the flop shot.


Golf Short Game

The other, more advanced, shot that you may want to carry is something I call the low trajectory – high spinning wedge shot.  Quite honestly, if mastered it is like owning a secret weapon for golf.  It’s a shot that can be used in a variety of situations and distances but you need a nice fairway lie.  The basic premise is that this shot comes in low, takes one or two hops and then stops dead on the green. 

The ideal situation for this shot is that you have a middle or back pin and plenty of room to work with.  If pulled off, this is one of those shots that will have your friends in awe.

When you have advanced to the level of flop shots & the spinning wedge, you need a good understanding of backspin.  Not only “how to put backspin on a golf ball“, but you also need to understand how to limit your backspin when the situation calls for it.  Some players argue that rust will add more spin to wedges, read our full article to find out if true.

On the rare occasion you find yourself needing to hit a lofted shot while on the green, read our article about chipping from the green.

Finally, the dark side of advanced short game shots…  

Sometimes you end up hitting a skull shot when you try to get too fancy!  Before you injure your playing partners on that ill-advised flop shot attempt, read up on how to avoid skulled shots around the green and how to stop thinning your wedges.

Short Game Practice

You didn’t just think you could read about a good short game and magically be Phil Mickelson did you?

That’s right, like everything else in life you have to put in a little bit of work to get the reward.  To have a solid short game, you don’t have to have world-class natural talent.  But you do need to put in the practice, doing short game drills that will enhance your feel and touch around the green while working on fundamentals.  We have this article specifically on chipping drills.

Below is a list of my favorite short game drills over the years.  If you put in the time, these 10 drills can move you up to a reliable short game in no time.  Some of the drills will even help your full swing.

If you find yourself still struggling in the short game, I encourage you to work on your short game tempo.  You’d be shocked just how different tempo should be in the short game versus the full swing.

Must Know Information about Wedges

Most of you are going to be hitting the majority of your short game shots with wedges.  To make life a little bit easier, if you know a little bit about wedges and have the correct one in your hand you are setting yourself up for success. 

First off, you need to understand what “wedge bounce” is and how to use it.   Knowing this is half the battle to stopping skulls and chunks around the green.

Secondly, unless you are a very skilled short game player you don’t need to be playing the same wedge that a tour pro is using.  There is no shame in playing clubs, in this case wedges, that have plenty of forgiveness for a player of your level. 

Once you’ve mastered your short game skills..  Read the two articles below to understand wedge bounce and help select the right wedge for higher handicap players.

The Bottom Line

Having a great short game is about three things:

  • Understanding the Basics
  • Selecting the Correct Shot
  • Having Adequate Equipment

If you can check these off the list, you will find yourself with more pars on the scorecard and collecting money from your friend at the end of the day.