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Improve your short game with the three-ball drill

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Every golfer has probably heard the terms “chip” and “pitch” before but sometimes the distinction about what differentiates those shots can be tough to figure out. Typically the answer relates to what happens with the ball during these shots, most notably whether it stays on the ground for the most part (chip) or flies through the air (pitch). What is similar about both shots, however, is that they are key to having a strong short game and often times both require short swings, something many golfers don’t practice enough.

Through my experience as an instructor, I have watched countless students have difficulty executing short swings on the course when they are called for, and the lack of understanding of how to execute such swings when it comes to the short game, especially as it relates to distance, leads to too many wasted shots. Here is a good, simple tool to use on distance control for your short game that we call the three-ball drill.

The 3-ball drill is effective because it will show you three different distances and trajectories that one club will produce based on three different swings. Choose a sand wedge to start and then move to the other wedges or short irons in your set and proceed as follows:

1. Small swing: With your first ball in this drill, keep your feet close together and position the ball in the middle of your stance. From here, take what is little more than a putting stroke and take note of the distance the ball travels in the air, as well as the distance it rolls. Remember: Small stance + Small swing = Small Shot.

2. Medium swing: With your second ball in this drill, widen your stance slightly and position the ball in the middle of your stance. From here, try to form an “L” shape with the club and your arms on both the backswing and follow through,and take note of the distance the ball travels in the air and how far it rolls out. Remember: Medium stance + Medium swing = Medium Shot.

3. Large swing: With your final ball in this drill, take your normal stance for an iron shot and position the ball in the middle of your stance. From here, take a full swing and once again take note of the distance the ball travels in the air, as well as the distance it rolls.

Practice this drill often at your course and experiment with different clubs. It will help you decide what shot you need to play when you’re around the green, as well as what club you should choose to execute the shot. The result should be a more effective short game and lower scores.