Beginner’s Guide to Golf Part 6 – Shortgame / 100 Yards And In

Before you can even think about putting the ball, which was described in the last part, you usually have to get it on the green with the so called short game. You can basically consider every shot from a 60 yards in to be a short game shot. Some even say that shots from 100 yards away are short game shots. The basic shots you need to know are the pitch, the chip and the bunker shot. Obviously the closer you are getting to the pin the more accurate your shots have to be. Whereas the tee-shot with the driver can stray to the left or the right a couple of yards without any big problems your short game shots must be exact in distance and direction if you want to score well.

That’s why you shouldn’t neglect your short game especially if you are a beginner. Divide your practice time at least 50/50 between working on your long game and short game. Don’t be one of those golfers who spends a day on the range and wonders why he can’t get the ball on the green from 100 yards in.

The Pitch

Graeme McDowell Pitch Shot

Graeme McDowell hitting a pitch shot.

The pitch shot is basically a shorter/smaller version of the full swing. When you are able to hit the ball good with your pitch shots you’ll be well on you way to produce great iron shots in general. For the pitch shot you should use a high lofted club like the sand wedge. Fall back to your pitching wedge once you are not able to reach the green with just your sand wedge.

The main difference compared to the full swing is mainly the distance of your takeaway. You take the club back until it is parallel to the ground. Otherwise you are still swinging through using a shoulder turn and your lower body. You should be relaxed with your swing but still accelerate through the ball. Almost like your arms are falling through the shot.

This way you should be able to produce a very high but controlled short shot. Take a look at the following video of Tiger Woods pitching  to get a better idea.

The Chip Shot / Chipping

Tiger Woods chipping

Tiger Woods chipping

The chip shot is the shortest shot you should have in your repertoire next to your putting stroke. As a rule of thumb always try to putt when you are able to, next try to pitch if your chip does not suffice and as a last option consider the pitch to get close to the pin.

You always want to use the shot that is easiest to control. With the chip shot you  want to keep the ball low and let it roll towards the pin. You are usually using it when the balls in the fringe but the grass is too high to control the ball or when there are other obstacles in the way.

To perform the chip shot you can use almost any iron. Don’t choose a too lofted club as you want to keep the ball low (Try a 7- to 9-iron to experiment with at first). Grip down on the club and try to brush the ball off the grass keeping your wrists firm. Once you get the hang of it you should experiment with different distances as the length of the shot is the most important factor in this short game area.

Here’s a video of Tiger Woods performing a relatively long chip shot from outside of the green to get the ball near the pin. Note how low he’s keeping the ball and how far it is actually rolling after hitting the ground. This is a relatively long chip which is almost getting into the pitching category. Usually you are facing chip shots that are shorter. Then you have to keep the ball even lower.

Bunker Shots

K.J. Choi splashing it out of the bunker.

K.J. Choi splashing it out of the bunker.

With the bunker shot you hit deliberately into the sand in front of the ball to get it out on a slice of sand. There’s one more catch though! The rules forbid you to touch any part of the sand with your club before you start the swing! So you have to hover the club above the ground in your address position.

For the greenside bunker shots you are using the sandwedge. This club is designed to dig through the sand without getting stuck. The technique is similar to a long pitch shot, with three differences.

The ball is played more towards the left foot to make it easier get the ball out on top of a slice of sand.

The clubface is kept deliberately open. This way the club will lead with the thick edge of the club face (the bounce) and it won’t get stuck in the sand.

Because the sand will slow down the club and subsequently the ball you have to swing three times as fast compared to a shot made from grass. The swing itself is similar to the pitch shot controlling the distance with the length of your backswing. You can find a more detailed description in the following blog post (The Golf Bunker – How to Get Out in Eight Easy Steps).

Here’s a video of Rory McIlroy splashing the ball out of a greenside bunker. Take note as how he’s cutting a slice of sand beneath the ball to get it out.

That’s all the shortgame technique you need to know and practise for now. Go and play some golf! In the last part we’ll take a closer look at the neccesary equipment you’ll need to get started with golf. You may be surprised that a good set of clubs doesn’t have to be expensive (contrary to what all the golf marketing is trying to tell you) especially if you are just starting out.: read on → (coming soon)