7 Golf Short Game Tips to Save 7+ Shots per Round

Golfer Chipping
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The more I play this crazy game, the more I’m convinced the fastest way to drop shots is by working on your short game. I once had a coach say, “Spend twice as much time practicing inside 125 yards as you do your long game and you will be amazed with results.” 

After endless amounts of practice from short range, I can say he was 100% right. In fact, in high school I dropped 50 shots from my game in four years (124 freshmen year to 74 senior year).

So how did I drop that many shots from my game?

Possibly the biggest reason was my short game. Even though I only hit it 230 yards or so off the tee, I always found a way to score. Today, I want to help set you up for success and start shaving strokes off your scorecard… fast. 

7 Short Game Tips for Epic Scrambling 

In my book, Wicked Smart Golf, I outline 111 ways to play better golf without changing your swing. There is an entire section dedicated to putting and another section all about becoming a wedge wizard because short games are that important. 

Improving your short game is the easiest way to drop shots from your scorecard every round. As Paul Runyan said in The Short Way to Lower Scoring, “Within every golfer there is a vast, untapped potential for improving his short game.”

Here are seven of my best tips to help you start scrambling more efficiently. 

1. Get Your Weight Forward

To become a wedge wizard, you need to have solid contact with chips and pitches. One of the easiest ways to improve your strikes from short range is getting more of your weight forward. This will promote a downward strike and it makes it much more likely that you hit the ball in the center of the face.

In the full swing, your weight is about 50-50 at address position. But with chipping and pitching, it should be closer to 60-40 or even 70-30 depending on the lie and shot you need to hit. The extra weight forward will ensure you don’t try to “lift” the ball up and end up sculling it over the green.

This applies not only to shots around the green but any wedge shot inside 75 yards. Shifting your weight forward at address can make a huge impact on hitting the ball, then the turf. This will lead to a better shot with more spin (and better misses). 

Related: How to Buy the Right Wedges 

2. Focus on Short Putts in Practice

Did you know that in the 2021 PGA Tour season, the make rate for an eight-foot putt was only 52%? Pretty crazy to think the most elite golfers on the planet only make about half of putts from eight feet.

So, why do I share this statistic with you?

Because if the best golfers in the world can’t make mid to long range putts consistently, it’s not a good way to spend your precious practice time. Instead, you should spend the majority of your putting practice from short range (inside five feet specifically). 

As Dr. Bob Rotella said, “If you’re solid from, say, two to five feet, it makes it so much easier to make your longer putts. You can stroke them more confidently when you know that if by some misfortune you do miss, you’re a cinch to sink the next one.” 

This will help you avoid 3-putts, keep momentum in your round, and 10X your confidence on the greens. If you can’t make it to the course to practice enough or have to battle with bad weather, invest in an indoor putting green. Working on 3-6 footers is one of the best

ways to improve your scrambling performance. 

3. Spend Two Hours in the Sand

Bunker shots plague most everyday golfers. 

So many of us fear our ball ending up in the sand, which is ironic as the bunker is the only time you don’t hit the ball (well, you shouldn’t hit the ball). Instead, you hit the sand which carries the ball on the green. 

So how do you get better from the bunkers? 

Dedicate a two-hour session to finally conquering your fear of the sand.

As Greg Norman said, “Spend two hours in a bunker. Two hours is all it takes to raise yourself out of the fear-and-doubt group (about 90 percent of all golfers) to the point where you can play from sand with confidence.” 

Yes, two hours sounds like a lot of time to hit bunker shots but it can make a massive difference in your bunker confidence. This skill can help you get the ball up and down more often when you find a trap and keep momentum in your round.

When you commit to this bunker session, here are three things to test out:

  • Ball position – Test out how the ball reacts to a front, front-center, and middle ball position
  • Eye position – Next, don’t change anything except your eye position; remember, in a bunker you don’t hit the ball but the sand, which carries the ball out. So many golfers hit too close to the ball because they focus on the ball like a normal shot. Instead, focus on a spot 1-2 inches behind the ball and see if you make better contact with the sand. 
  • Different wedges – Test out all your wedges to see which ones give you the most confidence. Maybe your SW or LW has a different bounce that could help you get you out of the sand more often.  

Plus, anything else you’ve wondered about when it comes to becoming a more confident bunker player. Don’t forget, this is one big 120 minute experiment! Hopefully, you will walk away with a lot more confidence each time you step into the bunker on the golf course. 

Bunker Shot

4. Trust Your First Instinct

When you’re reading greens, I would bet that your first instinct on the putts breaks is the right one. Think about it, how many times have you second guessed yourself on the greens, only to hit a lackluster, uncommitted putt?

Dave Pelz explained this beautifully in his book, Short Game Bible. He said, “Every shot requires a different line of thinking. But as you make your shot and swing decisions, you must commit to them. You can’t have any doubts when you’re standing over the ball.” 

This is a great short game tip but also for your full swing as well. Before you walk up to address the ball and make your stroke or putt, you should already have 100% clarity on the objective. 

With putting, you need 100% certainty so you can make your best stroke. Otherwise, it’s easy to try and guide the putt to the hole, which often leads to leaving the putt short. 

When you read greens, I challenge you to trust your first instinct more often than not. Trusting your gut should help you hit the putt with more authority and hopefully, find the bottom of the cup more often. 

5. Always Pick a Spot

To become a more consistent scrambler, you need to locate your landing zone when you miss the green. So many golfers look at the hole instead of their landing spot when they’re chipping or pitching. But this is confusing to your mind as you know you need to land it before the hole and plan for the shot to release forward.

Looking at the hole and not your target sends mixed signals and creates indecision.

Instead, make sure you pick the landing spot you think the shot needs to land in order to get close to the cup. Whether it’s an old cup, a divot, or piece of discolored grass, give your mind a clear target.

During practice, set a small washcloth down on the chipping green and try to land the ball on the towel. This will give you a good visual and help you get in the habit of looking at your spot, not the pin. 

6. Putt Whenever Possible 

If you miss the green and aren’t in the rough, what’s your first instinct? To putt or chip the shot?

Here’s the thing, if you want to master the short game, you need to keep things simple and putt more often. The first instinct when you miss the green and aren’t in the rough should be to pull the putter out of the bag. 

Why?

Because it’s the highest percentage shot, especially for amateur golfers. Simply put, less can go wrong with a putter than with chipping. A bad chip shot could lead to a bladed wedge or chunked wedge and still not be on the green.

Plus, not much changes from putting when you’re on the greens in terms of mechanics. Read the putt like normal and hit it slightly harder based on the amount of fringe you need to putt through. 

7. Challenge Yourself in Practice 

When you practice your short game, don’t just practice easy shots. Instead, I challenge you to make sure that you experiment with all kinds of shots. 

Some examples of tough shots can include:

  • Long bunker shots.
  • Short-sided pitches.
  • Bare lies (hard pan).
  • Awkward lies (ball above or below your feet). 
  • Ball near the bunker and have to play it with one foot in and one foot out. 

The harder you can make practice, the better. This will make sure you’re prepared for anything that comes your way on the golf course. 

Wrapping Up

Remember as Paul Runyan said, there is so much potential in your short game. The more you can work on your game inside 125 yards, I bet you’ll see a direct correlation to lower scores.

When your short game is consistent, it’ll turn a good ball striking round into a great score. And on days when the Golf Gods make you seemingly forget how to swing the club, your short game will bail you out and still salvage a decent score.

For tons more tips and tricks to play better without spending hours hitting balls on the range, make sure to buy Wicked Smart Golf

Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate, national sales career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

Now, his mission is simple -- help more golfers play better without swing changes. Learn more about his book, Wicked Smart Golf, to learn 100+ tips to start shooting lower scores tomorrow.

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