Your golf success… or failure depends on your short game
Written by John Jackson. Most amateurs fail to recognize the importance of the short game and therefore is never included in their practice routine. Incredibly, players spend time hitting balls after balls with their driver and fairway woods, but rarely spend time practicing their short shots around the green.
Fact is, if you can improve your short game, your scores will improve. Even the best ball strikers in the world need to rely on their short game at some point during a round to keep their round going. The short game is where tournaments are won and lost. Great ball strikers miss out on winning tournaments because their short game is not leveled with the rest of their game. Players like Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are two great examples: Sergio struggles with his putting and Lee struggles with his pitching. If Sergio and Lee were to improve these areas of their game, they would definitely be two forces to be reckoned with and would probably win their first majors.
Tips to help you improve your pitching around the green and hopefully lowering your scores:
Before playing any pitch shot, it is important that you evaluate the shot at hand. Ask yourself how is the ball lying? Is it a good lie? Is the ball sitting up or is it buried? Do I have anything to carry? Do I need to loft this shot or could I bump and run it along the ground?
When faced with any chip shot try and keep the shot as simple as possible. If you have nothing in the way or anything to go over, then use a club with as little loft as possible. This way you can treat the ball like a putt, and get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.
When faced with a shot which requires loft, choose a club which has enough loft on it to carry whatever it is you need to carry, but will then run out to the pin like a putt.
Once you have decided on which club you are going to use for the shot, it is then important to picture a specific landing spot. This really helps to focus the mind and helps you to really see the shot before it happens. Picture the shot in your mind of how you see the ball flying, how the ball will react as it lands, and how it will roll out.
From here, it is then important to adopt the correct set up position. The correct set up will help you to create a descending blow into the back of the ball and help to impart some backspin onto the shot.
First of all, set up with your feet just inside shoulder width apart. This will give you a nice solid base to swing. From here, open your left foot slightly, with 60% of your weight favoring the left side. Opening the left foot slightly will help you to turn through the shot nicely in the follow through. The ball should be positioned slightly back of center with the hands positioned slightly ahead, as shown in the picture. With the weight positioned mainly on the front foot and the ball slightly back of center, this will help you to increase the angle of attack and give that descending blow into the back of the ball.
One common fault I see with a lot of players on pitch shots is that they decelerate into the ball. They slow down and quit on the shot, resulting in a shot, which finishes well short of the target. When playing this pitch shot, try to control the length of your backswing. By controlling the length of the backswing, this will allow you to accelerate through the ball with speed. It is this speed, which will create the spin and help control the ball as it hits the ground. A simple thought is to try and keep the backswing as short as possible without the swing becoming ‘jabby’.
A good way to work on your pitching and develop good feel in your short shots is practice landing the ball in specific areas. Use an umbrella or a practice circle, and try to land the ball into the target. Practice from different distances and try putting different objects in the way to make you hit the ball higher to get over the hazards. Try to make your practice realistic by using just one ball. You will see a lot of players practice using a bag full of balls hitting one after the other, but actually what they are doing isn’t going to benefit them at all. It is all about quality not quantity. Remember you only get one shot on the golf course so practice with just one ball and you will soon start to see a difference in your pitching’
John Jackson is an assistant golf professional at Henbury Golf Club in Bristol, England his facebook page here www.facebook.com/johnjacksongolf