The first thing I always look at when arriving at a new course is how the players are practicing. I like to take note of the number of players on the range versus the players around the practice greens.
It never fails – every course has a large amount of players hitting full shots, sometimes for hours at a time, and hardly anyone chipping, pitching or putting.
Statistically, the top ball-strikers on the PGA Tour hit 65-70 percent of greens in regulation, and there are a lot of players below that.
Those with average, or less-than-average, short games struggle to keep their cards. The players with good short games can still make a lot of money, even though they may not hit as many greens as they’d like to per round.
?If you want to improve, it’s time for you to flip the switch and change how you practice. The short game, from 100 yards in, equates for just under 70 percent of golf shots. Why would anyone looking to improve neglect it?
Sure, it’s not as sexy as hitting 300-yard drives. It may not be as fun as beating balls all day, either. But there’s no doubt improving your short game is the quickest way to lowering your handicap.
I want you to work on your short game a minimum of 60 percent of the time.
When doing so, make sure you prioritize putting first. Begin with making 20 putts in a row from inside of 5 feet. Tour players make 85 percent of putts from 3-5 feet. If you can make this a strength, it will take pressure off of your lag putting.
As you become solid around the hole, work your way back to 20 feet. Hit another 20 putts in a row and make sure you two-putt everything. If you three-putt, start over. This will help you become a better speed putter, which will lead to lower scores.
As you become a better putter, it will make chipping and pitching easier. The stress of knocking it close decreases as your confidence in the ability to make putts increases.
?The rest of your time around the greens should be devoted to your chipping and pitching technique. The chip shot has minimal air time and maximum roll, while the pitch shot has maximum air time and minimal roll. Let the course dictate which shot you play.
If you have green to work with, pull out a less lofted club and chip. Get the ball rolling as soon as possible, and it will help your consistency. Only pitch the ball when it’s your last option, as the pitch shot is a more difficult shot to play.
I always like to give my students this short game stat: The average golfer throws away eight to 12 shots per round due to a poor short game. If you just cut those errors in half, your handicap would drop dramatically.
It’s no secret that the most successful players on the PGA Tour typically have the best short games, so if you want to lower your handicap, it’s time to spend less time hitting balls and more time around the practice green.