Photographs by John O’Donnell
During my years of working with thousands of golfers—from rank beginners to PGA Tour pros—I’ve learned one important lesson myself: the player with the best short game wins all the money. The key is taking fewer of those shots around and on the green that account for most of the ones you mark on your scorecard. Here are three ways to get the ball to the bottom of the cup in fewer strokes.
Michael Breed is Head Professional at Sunningdale Golf Club in Scarsdale. He also hosts The Golf Fix on the Golf Channel and was named Met PGA Teacher Of The Year in 2000 and 2009.
1. The One-Putt Chip
Didn’t make it to the green in regulation? Not to worry. Just follow these steps to chip it close.
• Choose a club from six iron to sand wedge that will put the ball three to five feet onto the green with enough energy to roll it the rest of the way to the hole.
• Align the ball off your back toe and open your stance a little so your body can turn with the stroke. Think about your next shot like a billiard player when you aim so you leave yourself a straight uphill putt.
• Grip the club lightly with the face slightly open so the club head doesn’t dig into the turf when you make your swing and lean the shaft forward so the grip is in line with your front pocket.
• Keeping your weight over your forward foot, swing smoothly so the club just brushes the turf under the ball. Now go tap in your two-footer.
2. The Rough Escape
Not every approach shot ends in the fairway, even for the pros. It’s a little tougher to get up and down from greenside rough, but not nearly as hard as most players make it. Use the four steps for the chip shot with a few simple adjustments.
• You’ll probably want to choose a higher lofted club and plan on swinging a little harder to get through the long grass. Pick your landing spot accordingly.
• Take a slightly wider stance and align the ball according to how deep it sits down in the rough. The deeper the lie, the farther back in your stance the ball should be. Open your stance a bit more, too.
• Open the club face and keep it open through-out the swing. It will be as if you are cutting across the ball, which will get it into the air—and out of the long grass—a lot quicker.
3. The Money Stroke
Putting is the part of the game I like the most because that’s where everyone playing the game is absolutely equal. When you and I stand over the same putt, we have to basically play the same break at the same speed. If it breaks left to right, I can’t make it go right to left and neither can you.
• If you want to drain more putts, you need to overcome two simple mistakes. First is your grip. Most people create an angle between their arms and the club shaft, which makes it harder to keep the putter head on line. Instead, the putter should form a straight line with your front forearm. If you hold the grip so it runs up toward the heel of the hand instead of across the base of your fingers, you’ll encourage that angle.
• The second mistake is swinging the putter so the built-in loft lifts the ball slightly off the grass, creating backspin that sends the ball in directions you don’t want it to go. The best putting stroke uses a slight forward press (think Phil Mickelson winning the 2009 Tour Championship). This puts top- spin on the ball, which makes it track true and straight.