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Tips for taking your short game to the golf course

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“It’s so easy to look at the captains and say it’s their fault, but at the end of the day we didn’t play well enough. The Europeans played exponentially better than we did – that’s why they beat us as bad as they did." - on the U.S. loss in the Ryder Cup  - 

How many times have you finished a short game practice session feeling really confident only to have your newfound confidence crushed when you go out to the course?

It has happened to me and I’ve had several students complain that it happens to them.

So I decided to dig deeper and find the reason why some students have a difficult time transferring confidence from the short-game area to the golf course.

The answer, I found, lies in how they practice.

The most common mistake I see players make when they are working on their short game is they park themselves in one spot and hit the same shot over and over.

For each shot you hit, try to simulate different shots and lies that you might encounter on the golf course. It’s tempting to give yourself a perfect lie each time, but avoid the temptation and challenge yourself.

The more often you practice hitting from lies you’ll get on the course, the more comfortable you’ll be when you see those lies when you play.

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There are two basic types of practice. Technique practice, where you focus on the mechanics of your swing, and simulation practice, where you simply try to practice like you play. Most players spend way too much time in technique practice mode.

I recommend spending at least 50 percent of your practice time simulating a round of golf. When practicing your short game, that means hitting from a random location around the green, then taking a putter and finishing the hole.

Try setting a par score for yourself and keep track of your progress, and finding a partner to create some competition also will help you experience how you feel on the course when practicing.

You must have a purpose for each shot, even when you practice. Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott wrote a fantastic book called “Every Shot Must Have A Purpose” that explains why you must adopt this mentality.

For the short game, analyze your lie, choose a trajectory and landing area, make practice swings to judge the distance, then hit the shot. Do this every time and you will feel more confident on the course.

My final recommendation is to experiment using different clubs in different situations. Most players already do this, but unfortunately they only do it throughout the course of a round. Spend practice time experimenting and you will come up with some “go-to” shots to use on the course.