Practice Makes Perfect: 10 Short Game Drills to Master Every Shot

Dan Gold
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My Top 10 Short Game Drills

While you can practice one small part of the golf swing for hours, the short game is so physical and so much about feel that drills are useless. Your focus has to be on the feel and not on the mechanics.

Chipping

Chipping is the easiest part of the game that almost everyone can do. Work on the short game on your own. Chipping with a long putter helps to learn to be aggressive with your strokes without being limited by length of your stroke. The more you practice the more confident you become and the more effective you become in knowing when to be aggressive and when to leave it short.

Pitching

Pitching is working on the distance control. Pitching is great for working on the finesse of the short game. Use a wedge and as you improve your pitch, you slow down your back-swing and make it more consistent.

Bunker Shots

Bunker shots are a lot easier to work on and to improve than chip or pitch shots. Simply choose a normal bunker shot and work on it until you can make it time and time again.

Sand Wedge

Using a sand wedge is one of the best ways to get started playing golf. These are low lofted irons that give more loft compared to the other clubs in your bag.

Upright Chipping

Pitching Drill: “Extended Shaft”

Stand up straight and make sure your shoulders are parallel to the target line and squared to the ball when starting. Reach back until your hands are beside the back of the peak of your belt buckle. Keeping this extended shaft position, toss the ball to a target. Once you have reached maximum scoop, bring your arms back to neutral, pause, and throw again.

This drill has you reaching back with a longer swing while hitting shots that fly straight.

Pitching Drill: “Hoola-hoop ladder”

This is a great drill for getting the feel for the right movement of your body. It can help to ingrain the feel of staying balanced and swinging uphill as you pitch. Consider some of these basics as you have fun with this drill.

{1}. Swing the club back on the same plane as the hula-hoop is sitting.
{2}. Swing the club up around the front of the player (hitting between the knees and waist). This can help you learn to swing up to keep the ball up in the air and on a flat line.
{3}. Don’t let the clubhead pass behind the player when you are hitting the ball. You want to hit the ball before the club hits the ground.
{4}. Go as slowly or quickly as you need to feel the right motion for you.

Pitching Drill: “Crisp contact”

This is more of an approach drill than a putting tip. It helps to instil in your mind a very specific move before you ever bring the putter back. Before you get into your set up you need to be thinking about “crisp contact” with the ball.

Start the drill by putting with a putter or pitching wedge on a nice flat spot of turf or whatever makes for a relatively good roll. Emphasis should be on a crisp strike and letting the ball roll as close to the same path as possible.

Keep your address position the same each time. Let me know how it is going for you.

Chipping Drill: “One handed shot”

The chipping drill can actually be performed with both hands. The other way that “one-handed” refers to is that the drill can be performed with one club ‖ like in this segment.

What you’ll need:

One golf ball One club (a wedge is recommended) One towel One club

For this exercise, you’ll need some space in the front yard, a nice, soft, flat area of grass, and the ability to control your distance. I usually use a towel in this segment, to make sure the club doesn’t leave welts or leave a mark on the ground.

This is one of my favorite short game drills, because it’s super easy to accomplish, but also works wonderfully on perfecting your chipping skills.

This drill is performed by chipping the ball with the club and giving yourself distance to chip in real-life scenarios. I’ll be using my wedge for this example. However, if you’re trying to get a bigger shot, feel free to use a higher lofted club.

Chipping Drill: “Front foot”

This is most common shot used for chipping.

Start with the correct set up by laying the ball no closer than two thr covers toward the front foot and adapting the body position as per the situation and club selected to give the ball the highest possible flight hand on top of the club.

The backswing is accomplished with a short backswing then a forward swing with the hands and arms. The wrists must be firm as you make contact with the ball.

At impact the club face must be closed as much as possible without the club turning over and striking the ball too thin.

The putting action is basically the same as that used in chipping.

Chipping Drill: “Distance Control”

Position yourself at least ten yards from the green. Focus on a small target just below the hole…your plant foot. Make three good swings at the ball, noticing the little changes in posture, weight shift, and swing just made to adjust for different ball situations.

(A) Off Your Back Foot. Start with your feet open and your hands about 12” apart. Swing to waist height, turning your hands over through impact to make a low, hot shot. With your hands turned over, pierce the ball with your leading arm and gently finish through the target.

(B) Off Your Front Foot. Start with your hands closer to your body and your feet square. Use a smaller swinging arc and a little more body turn to generate a longer shot. Again, pierce with your leading arm and gently finish through the target.

(C) Full Swing, and Lay Up. Starting with your feet square, open your hands and make a full swing. Feel the difference in distance control in this full swing and then practice a controlled green-side lay-up.

Bunker Shot Drill: “Line in the Sand”

The days of allowing a 50-foot bunker shot to hit the sand, bounce once in the sand and then go out of bounds are over. In fact, these days any bunker shot is inside 100 feet off the fairway is likely to be in the sand and should be played out of it to maximize your scoring opportunities.

So instead of saying, “What can go wrong, will go wrong,” strive for “What can go wrong, will go right.”

Before you tackle any bunker shot, you must take a solid practice swing to get your body going. That’s because it will normally take a wider arc in the sand, so your swing is more likely to cut through the sand and fan it behind the ball.

This is why it’s important to get the line on your first shot. For this drill, imagine a line in the sand on the practice area. The line indicates the line on which you hit the shot and the depth on which it comes to rest.

Also, If the ball is lining up on the line, then the ball should roll up on the line.

As a guide, mark the line on your practice bunker.

The swing is the same as you’d hit a wedge shot but with the clubface slightly open.

Bunker Shot Drill: “Aim the V”

Bunker play is a very important part of the short game. It comes into play a lot on the course.

Most players lash at the ball when they’re in the bunker, but this is not the way it should be done.

Like anything else, you need to practice, practice and practice.

Here’s a very simple bunker drill that works for all players.

Position yourself alongside the bunker with your target a few paces ahead.

Place the clubhead on the ground and look through the flight line of the club.

The sole of the club should touch the sand.

“Aim the V” by lining up the ball to the center of your target in between the ball and the sand.

This helps commit you to the right spot on the swingline.

Next, visualize and make good contact with the ball.

Flop Shot Drill: “Over the Cart”

This drill is designed to help you practice the shot when your ball comes to rest on the cart path or other obstruction in front of the green.

You are aiming to hit the ball immediately in front of a stationary cart. Because the ball is behind the cart, you will not be able to use the bottom of the clubface to make contact with the ball. You will have to place the ball back with the face of the club. The ball should jump up out of the rough and stop by the cart.

The shot will feel very strange at first, so keep working on it. The more reps you get, the more comfortable and confident you will be in this situation.

This particular shot should feel very different than a normal flop shot. Because you are hitting the ball higher than usual, the ball will not make it over the hazards. Keep trying until you can get the ball to stop by the cart.

This drill helps you practice hitting the ball out of the rough when pin is to the right of the cart.

Set up a ball on a cart path and take your stance. Use your sand wedge and take your normal swing, but make sure you contact the ball below the equator with a descending blow. The flop shot should end up near the beginning of the cart path and 10-20 yards from the green.

Flop Shot Drill: “In the bucket”

You can practice the flop shot drill in your yard, your basement, or at a city park, as long as you have enough room. Set up a net with a goal or small target at the end of your space, and try to hit it over again.

Unlike a full-length field, your space is a bit shorter, and the net is taller. This allows you to practice your shot even if your space is limited.

This drill is designed to simulate the mechanics of a real shot, in which the ball is flying and not rolling on the ground. This would be more similar to a short distance sand shot over a bunker or a rock. Use a wedge with more loft than you normally use because you want to make the ball fly up higher to simulate the height of the net.

This drill allows you to increase accuracy and consistency with your shots. Practice your short game in each type of situation, and your game will skyrocket.

Conclusion

The game of golf is beautiful. To be able to consistently make sounds that can draw that beautiful music from your golf clubs is a real joy. As you have read in this book, it is also easy to do.

Swing after swing, shot after shot, you will see and hear improvement. The beauty of it is that you can embrace this improvement on the golf course, with friends and family. Or you could utilize your newfound knowledge and improve at home, where it doesn’t matter if the sound is wonderful.

Just as pianists love to play their instrument with family members or friends, you will love to spend a few moments a day at home enjoying the practice, the music and the improvement.