For a lot of amateur golfers, the short game is the most difficult part of the game. It seems like it should be the easiest because it’s the shortest, but it’s definitely not.
The short game requires “touch,” or the ability to hit the golf ball the right distance, height, and with the correct amount of spin. All of that together makes these shots incredibly intimidating as well.
There are four main short game shots;
- Pitch shot
- Chip shot
- Bunker shot
- Flop shots
In this article, we’re going to discuss a few drills for each shot to help you improve your overall short game. I know that if you spend some time working on these drills, you’ll soon see your scores drop fairly quickly. (If you are looking for short game fundamentals, click here.)
My Top 10 Short Game Drills
Pitching Drill: “Extended Shaft”
One of the biggest mistakes amateur golfers make, when it comes to hitting pitch shots is that they use too much wrist. They try to lift the ball in the air by flicking, or bending their wrists right around impact. This move, in most people’s minds, will get the club face moving up at impact and cause the ball to fly in the air.
The problem with that is that it doesn’t work that way. In order to accomplish that, you’d have to be absolutely perfect, every single time, and that’s just not possible. Plus, it wouldn’t lead to a solid shot even if done perfectly.
Instead, you need to keep your wrists fairly straight and hit down on the ball. This downward impact position with stable wrists creates more consistency, spin, and better control.
- So, grab an alignment pole (a snow pole or old shaft will also work well)
- Stick it in the butt of the grip, so that it acts like an extended shaft. It should extend past your front side at address.
- Then, hit some shots with this. If you keep your wrists straight through impact, you should hit some good pitches. If your wrists bend, then you’ll feel the pole hit your front side after impact.
Pitching Drill: “Hoola-hoop ladder”
Distance is something that is super important for the pitch shot. In order to play really well, you’ll need to learn how to hit each of your wedges different distances. This drill will help you work your wedges back and forth with consistency.
- Get three or four hoola-hoops and place them at different distances in front of you. For example, start with 40, 50, and 60 yards.
- Then, grab one of your wedges to start practicing. You’ll start by trying to hit a shot in the short hoop, then the middle hoop, and finally, the long hoop. Being able to do this on-queue will be a great skill to develop and bring to the course.
- Take some time to change the distances and club with this drill. Your goal is to consistently hit each wedge, three different distances.
- Then, depending on how many wedges you carry, you should have 6-12 different pitches that you can pull out of your bag at any moment in your round.
Pitching Drill: “Crisp contact”
When hitting a pitch shot, it’s important to make solid contact; hitting the ball first and then the ground. This descending blow allows for the ball to elevate into the air with backspin. Backspin and height are two elements of the pitch shot that are key to playing them well.
The height allows you to fly the ball over ground obstacles to the hole and the backspin gives you a chance to stop the ball fairly quickly after the ball lands on the green.
In order to practice making crisp contact,
- Grab a handful of golf tees and line up a few golf balls in a row on the driving range or practice green area.
- Then, take a tee and push it almost all the way in to the ground directly in front of the golf ball.
- Then, start hitting some pitch shots with the goal of hitting the ball first and the tee second. You should hear a clear “click” noise when you hit the tee after impact.
- Use the tee as a focal point during your swing. This will also cause you to shift your weight slightly forward, improving your contact on each pitch.
Chipping Drill: “One handed shot”
The chip shot is probably the easiest short game shot of them all, but again, still can be a little tricky. The biggest problem that amateur golfers have with the chip shot is that they decelerate through impact. Decelerating through impact does a lot of different things, none of them good.
You want to allow gravity to naturally let the club fall through impact. This will improve contact, consistency, spin, and control.
So, in order to get a good feel for letting the club accelerate through the ball, try hitting some chip shots with only one hand. You can try hitting these shots with each hand on its own.
- The point here is that, with only one hand, you won’t have the strength to slow down the club through impact.
- Instead, you’ll be forced to let gravity take the club naturally through the impact zone.
- Be sure to relax your hand and not hold the grip too tightly.
The point of this drill is to practice the right tempo and force through impact. You should be able to hit some good chip shots even with one hand on the club.
Chipping Drill: “Front foot”
Again, one of the big mistakes that amateur golfers make when chipping is that they let their weight get too far back on their back foot. This position causes them to lift at the ball. It can result in a skulled or chucked chip shot.
What you want to do is have your weight forward on your front foot. This will help the club travel down and through the ball at impact; leading to better chip shots.
In order to get the right feel for having your weight forward in the right position,
- Simply lift your back foot off the ground. If you want, you can rest it on your toe only. Either way, you’ll have a significant percentage of your weight on the front foot.
- Then, hit some practice shots on a practice green like this.
- You should focus on hitting down on the ball and through the ground.
This will give you a good feel for where your weight should be distributed when you come to a chip shot on the golf course.
Chipping Drill: “Distance Control”
When it comes to chipping, controlling your distance is incredibly important. Compared to other shots, you’re hoping for quite a bit of roll. So, you need to know how hard to hit a shot in order to get it to roll out the right amount.
There are two main ways to control your distance;
- The length of your swing
- Your club selection
For this drill:
- Set up three targets at different distances on a practice green; a short distance, medium length, and long.
- Then, grab a couple clubs that you like to chip with. I’d recommend a short, mid, and long iron. (ex: 9, 7, and 5)
- Then, practice three different back swing lengths, simply by taking practice swings.
- You’ll probably want one that goes back a couple inches past your back foot, one that is 4-6 inches past your foot, and another that’s about a foot past your back toe.
- Then, rotate through your three clubs with your three swings.
Make note of how far each one travels, so that when you take them to the course, you’ll feel confident you can hit the shot the right distance with the correct amount of roll.
Bunker Shot Drill: “Line in the Sand”
The first bunker drill helps a golfer to learn how much sand they actually need to hit in order to get the ball to fly the right distance. This can be a little difficult for a lot of players because each bunker seems to have a different depth, or amount, of sand.
The depth of sand in a bunker actually matters a lot when hitting a bunker shot. The more sand there is, the farther behind the ball you’ll need to enter the sand. Also, the farther you hit behind the ball, the harder you’ll need to swing.
So, in order to get the right feel for how far behind the ball you need to enter the sand,
- Find a practice bunker on a local driving range.
- Then, draw a line in the sand with your club.
- Then, line up a bunch of golf balls parallel to the line an inch or two in front (closer to the hole) of it.
- Practice hitting shots and having your club enter the sand right on the line you’ve drawn.
- Then, once you finish the line of balls, rake the area and create a lie with more or less sand than the previous line.
You’ll soon get a feel for how much sand to take based on the sand thickness.
Bunker Shot Drill: “Aim the V”
The bunker shot can be another shot that is difficult to aim. In a normal, full-swing, your feet, shoulders, and club face help to get you lined up and hitting the ball in the right direction. Well, in the bunker shot, all those points are going in different directions, so there isn’t a common thread to focus on when you’re aiming.
When you hit a bunker shot, the feet are flared open, pointing way left of the target (for a right-handed player). The club face is also open, so it’s facing the opposite direction of the feet.
If you can imagine this, it creates an imaginary “V” between your feet line and club face line.
- Similar to the first bunker drill, start by drawing a line in the sand down your feet line.
- Then, draw a line where you club face is pointing. This “V” will help you visualize where different parts of your body are facing.
- Then, hit a few shots and draw a line wherever the ball flies. So, you’ll have a feet line, club face line, and ball flight line.
This visual of three different lines will be something you can take to the course to help line up and hit the ball where you want it to go.
Flop Shot Drill: “Over the Cart”
A flop shot is one of those, almost cartoon-ish shots that every golfer likes to try from time-to-time, just for fun. It requires a huge swing, a club with a lot of loft, and results in a high, short shot.
Most golfers don’t hit it very much, but it’s nice to know what you’re doing when the opportunity presents itself. So, try these next few drills to train your skills.
First of all, a little disclaimer, I’ll talk about using a golf cart in this drill. That’s not a requirement. In fact, please don’t use something that you’re worried about damaging. A golf cart provides a nice challenge, but, as you’ll soon see, everyone fails at this drill sometimes and you don’t want to use something that will be expensive to fix.
- So, park a golf cart in between you and the practice green you’re aiming towards. This will provide a visual for what you need to hit the ball over.
- Then, grab your most lofted club, a bag of golf balls, and start trying to hit the ball over the golf cart and on to the green.
This drill will teach you how fast and high you can get the ball in the air, as well as how fast you can get it to stop on the green. Move forward and backwards until you get a good feel for where your skills start and end. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to manipulate the ball over different obstacles.
Flop Shot Drill: “In the bucket”
Another thing about the flop shot is that it can be really difficult to aim. Once you’ve learned how to get the ball up in the air and flying the right distance, you may find that it’s still hard to get it to land in the right spot. Similar to the bunker shot, most people address a flop shot with an open club face and stance, so these things can make aim hard to learn.
- The next thing you can do is grab a couple 5 gallon buckets and bring them to the practice green with you.
- Scatter them around the green in different areas and distances. These will be your targets.
- Then, start hitting some flop shots, trying to get them to land in each of the buckets.
This will help you learn where the ball is coming off the face and how to align your body, so you hit shots in the right direction.
Try each one of these drills, or just select one from each type of shot. If you give each one a couple minutes of practice each time you hit the range, there’s no doubt that your short game will improve dramatically.
You’ll develop a confidence that you have the ability to hit any shot that comes your way in a round of golf.