Ten of the Best: Short game tips

Ten golf short game tips and practice our drills from our latest instruction piece

Charlie Lemay's picture
By Charlie Lemay on Fri, 20 Sep 2013 - 10:09

Tip 1 . Keep it simple

When our short game ‘goes off’ and we lose confidence, we tend to rely too heavily on the putter from off the green to get us out of trouble.

Especially during the winter months when the ground is wet, it rarely pays off.

So start experimenting with medium irons around the green or even a rescue club for chipping if you want to try something new..

The 5-, 6-, or 7-iron has enough loft to lift the ball on to the green and get it rolling, so grip down the club with a putting grip, hands slightly ahead of the ball and with a slightly open stance, make a firm stroke with the arms.

Tip 2. Wood you believe it!

Faced with a long putt from the fringe with the hole cut on the top step of a tiered green, don’t always reach for the putter. It’s hard to control with a long swing.

Try one of your lofted woods. Ball back in a slightly open stance, grip down the shaft and play with hands just ahead of the ball.

The thin face of the club will tend to make the ball come off the clubface with a little more fire than you’re used to but with practice you will impress your mates as you consistently ‘putt’ with a wood stone dead every time.

Tip 3. Cure for the shank

Many of us have suffered with the ‘unmentionable’, the ‘J-Arthur’, the ‘Lucy Lockett’, when trying to play a chip with finesse around the green.

Here’s a cure for those embarrassing times when the ball scoots off the hosel at a sharp angle…the shank.

Set up with the ball positioned as close to the neck of the club as you dare. Concentrate on ensuring in the downswing that your path to the ball is ‘in-to-out’, rather than ‘out-to-in.’

Otherwise, ex-Tour professional Simon Garner has a great tip to ensure you avoid the dreaded shot.

Tip 4. Relax for the best flop results

Many leading players carry as many as four wedges but it’s not a necessity for handicap golfers. However, one key club is the versatile 60 degree lob wedge – useful if you continually find yourself with a bunker between you and the hole demanding a high flop shot.

The secret is to relax and play it with full commitment and a full swing and follow through.

Position the ball opposite the inside of your left heel (for a right-hander) and make a full swing, concentrating on nipping the ball off the surface rather than trying to slice or scoop under it. Let the loft do the work but ensure you follow through to a high finish.

Tip 5. Chipping from a downslope

To avoid ‘thinning’ your shot from an uneven lie, club selection and stance are vital, so you could try a downhill chip and run but it depends completely on the lie and pin position.

The gradient of the ground will tend to de-loft the club so pick a sand or lob wedge and with a slightly wider stance for extra balance, position your shoulders parallel to the ground, the ball just back of centre.

You will tend to ‘thin’ the shot if weight is on your back foot, so keep your weight on the front foot and hit down the slope so the club head chases the ball through impact.

Tip 6. Less loft for the upslope

An upslope around the green adds loft to the club so leave the wedge in the bag and use a 8- or 9-iron. It’s easier to control the distance the ball will travel through the air.

Position your spine at right-angles to the slope with shoulders and knees parallel to the gradient.

Don’t lean into the slope, but keep most of your weight on the lower foot and follow through from impact to a high finish.

Tip 7. Belly the wedge

With so many courses so well manicured, chances are the greenkeeper will keep the semi-rough around the fringe clearly defined.

It’s tough to get a putter behind the ball so take a putting grip with the heaviest club in your bag – the sand wedge like a few of the professionals do on the Evian Ladies European Tour.

Position the ball in the centre of your stance, hover the leading edge of the wedge over the grass and with a low, slow back swing, strike the ball at its equator and watch it roll like a putt.

Tip 8. Soft hands for finesse shots

Around the green, we are usually so determined to achieve length and direction that we tend to tense our bodies.

Relieve that tension by gripping the club lightly with ‘soft hands.’

Asked what the best tip he could give club golfers, Bernhard Langer always says concentrate on grip pressure. That means a light touch for finesse shots, then it’s easier to imagine you are merely tossing the ball on to the green with an under-hand throwing action.

Tip 9. In the groove

For shots around the green clean your grooves of mud and debris to make a better contact with the ball from the clubface and achieve a little check spin.

You can buy special tools to clean the grooves or you can simply use the sharp end of your tee to get rid of anything stuck on the face of the club.

An increase in spin will give you greater control around the greens and is key in developing a solid chipping game.

Tip 10. Flag up your wedges

How many times have you lost or left behind a wedge after chipping on to the green and leaving it where you played your last shot? Most of us will have to admit we have.

A good tip before putting out is to lay your wedge on or beside the flagstick when it’s removed from the hole. You can’t avoid picking it up before replacing the flagstick.

Article first published November 2001, updated September 2013

Want anymore tips? Check out our top instructional guides to

Golf’s Toughest Shots
Golf Practice Drills