11 Golf Short Game Tips Every Golfer Needs For Lower Scores

golf short game tips

Most players want to shoot lower scores, yet they practice parts of the game that don’t make a difference in scoring. 

Think about it, when you go to the golf course, chances are most people are hitting drivers or 7 irons at the driving range. Meanwhile, the putting green might have a few people mindlessly putting, and the short game area is almost always empty.

When in reality, what you do from 125 yards and in is the most crucial part of the game. This will separate you from most golfers and speed up your success more than any new club or lesson can.

When you master these short game tips you can improve dramatically!

11 Best Golf Short Game Tips 

Here are our 11 best short game tips to help you play more consistently every single round. Whether you want to break 100, 90, or 80, these tips can help your game tremendously. 

1. Practice Wisely 

If you want to improve your short game, practice it more often than your long game. For example, if you have an hour after work to spend on your golf game, spend it like this:

  • 20 minutes on putting. Focus mainly on short putts but also 30–40 footers to work on distance control.
  • 20 minutes on chipping/pitching. Spend time on the most common greenside shots and strive to get them inside a three-foot circle.
  • 20 minutes on the driving range. Save a few bucks and get a small bucket instead of a large one and focus on hitting quality shots. During this time, spend 8–10 minutes on wedges, a few irons, and the rest with your driver or 3 wood. 

By practicing your short game 2:1, you’ll improve the part of the game that accounts for the most shots – inside 125 yards! I think it’s the fastest way to start shooting lower scores without changing your swing. 

2. Play the Right Clubs

One of the easiest ways to get better from inside 125 yards is to play the right clubs for your skill level. Specifically look at your wedges and putter to ensure they’re giving you confidence on and around the greens. 

  • Wedges. So many amateur golfers play wedges that aren’t suited for their game. Instead, try to make your wedges similar to your irons based on weight, shaft flex, and forgiveness. This will make it easier to hit it close from short range. You want to have 3–4 wedges to minimize distance gaps and be prepared for all types of shots. 
  • Putter. If you’re playing the wrong putter for your natural stroke, good luck shooting low scores. You want to find a putter head that is easy to align, the proper hosel, putter length, and right type of grip. When you find one that gives you confidence and matches your stroke it’s a true game-changer. 

Related: Golf Wedge Buying Guide 

3. Create a Pre-Shot Routine

If you’re like most golfers, chances are you have a full-shot and putting routine. But do you have a routine for chips and pitches around the green? If not, you’re losing strokes every single round.

A pre-shot routine around the greens is key to getting the ball up and down more often. A good pre-shot routine for chipping/pitching includes:

  • Assessing the lie and imagining the shot needed.
  • Reading the green to find the correct landing spot to play the break. 
  • Taking 2-3 practice swings to understand the type of grass and swing required.

Then, take a final look at your landing spot and commit to the shot! 

4. Master Short Putts 

Did you know that according to Golf.com, PGA Tour players make an astonishing 99.4% of three-foot putts? And 91.43% of 4 footers and 80% of 5 footers?

But by the time they’re at 8 feet, they only make 52.6% of putts? And these are the best guys in the world! 

So what’s the point? Practice your 3–5 footers relentlessly. 

Don’t even waste time practicing 8–30 footers because if the pros can’t make them consistently, normal golfers can’t either. Instead, master short putts so that you do not give up stupid shots and keep momentum in your round.

Related: Best Putters Buying Guide

5. Learn the Bump and Run 

Let’s face it, the bump and run isn’t a sexy shot, but it is incredibly dependable. While most of us want to hit high flop shots like Phil, this is a very difficult shot for 90% or more golfers. Sure, the occasion might call on it from time to time but use it sparingly.

Instead, master a bump and run with a pitching wedge or short iron. It’s simple, easy to hit, and should help get you closer to the hole. 

Here are the basics:

  • Choke up on the club 1–2 inches. 
  • Stand closer to the golf ball at address.
  • Raise your hands, so it’s almost like you’re putting.
  • Put 70% of your weight on your front foot to create a downward strike.
  • Keep your wrists locked and make a simple back and through movement.

When done correctly, the ball should pop off the club and roll like a putt.

6. Putt More Often 

Maybe the best and easiest way to improve your short game? 

Putt when you’re off the green instead of chipping. So many golfers try to use a high lofted wedge when they should putt, which can lead to big mistakes. 

Here’s a good rule of thumb: putt if you can, chip using a bump, and run if you can’t putt, and as a last resort, hit a higher pitch shot. The more you can keep the ball rolling like a putt on the green, the higher likelihood you’ll get it closer and save shots around the green. 

7. Quit Fearing the Sand  

If you’re like most amateur golfers, you hate hitting in the sand. When you see your ball roll in the bunker from the fairway, panic, anxiety, and fear strikes.

But in reality, there is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, I think most golfers fear the sand because they don’t practice it enough and don’t understand it. When you do, though, it becomes just like a regular shot.  

Dedicate time to understand the fundamentals and practice until you learn to think of the sand like any other shot. 

8. Make Practice Difficult 

To play your best on the golf course you need to make practice difficult. Most golfers skip short game entirely (or barely practice) and when they do, it’s simple shots. 

While you do need to master the basic chip, pitch, and bunker shots you also want to challenge yourself. Because on the course the Golf Gods love to test you with all kinds of challenging shots. 

During short game practice, try out all kinds of shots including:

  • 30-50 yard shots.
  • High flops over bunkers.
  • Uphill, downhill, side hill chips.
  • Ball sitting down in the rough from different distances.
  • Plugged bunker shots and “fried egg” lies in the bunker. 

The more challenging you make practice, the easier it will be to go low when you’re out on the golf course. 

9. Speed Up Your Tempo

Tempo is a big part of golf but did you know that short game tempo is different from full swing tempo? According to extensive research in the book Tour Tempo 2, you need to speed your timing for shorter shots.

Here’s what the author said, “World-class players, when they are playing their best, adhere to a 2-to-1 tempo constant on shots from 60 yards in. However, the time it takes a given player to execute those shots is not necessarily linked to the player’s full-swing tempo.”

By speeding up your short game tempo you will make better contact and create more spin on short game shots. Plus, you won’t decelerate which is one of the most common short game mistakes by most golfers. I’d also suggest downloading the app Tour Tempo (made by the same company) so you can easily learn the right timing for long and short game shots. 

10. Use a Putting Mirror

When you practice putting it’s a good idea to use a putting mirror occasionally. While you don’t need to use it every time – as you’ll likely get too dependent – it can help with your eye position. 

Too many golfers get their eyes over the ball which messes with your stroke and ability to see the break of the putt. A putting mirror is cheap, easy to keep in your bag, and provides instant feedback on your eyes being over the ball (or slightly underneath).

Plus, some mirrors like the Back to Basics Putting Mirror can also check shoulder alignment too. Having your eyes and shoulders in the right spot at address can do wonders to your putting. 

11. Learn the Knockdown 

Finally, make sure you work on your wedges at the driving range. Ideally, you want to have two distances with each wedge to help you hit any shot that you might need on the course.

You want a full swing distance and a “knockdown” distance. The knockdown is a ¾ swing that flies lower, goes 5-10 yards less, has less spin, and is generally easier to hit. This type of shot is great if you’re playing in windy conditions or are in between clubs. 

Here’s how to hit the knockdown:

  • Choke up one-two inches on the grip.
  • Place the ball middle to slightly back of center.
  • Then, swing your normal backswing but hold off the follow-through. Try to stop the follow-through at your rib cage instead of finishing high. 

This shot is an excellent addition to your bag and makes scoring much easier. 

Top Questions 

Have more questions about becoming a short wedge wizard? Make sure to keep reading to get answers to the most common questions about your short game.

How do I get better at chipping?

Chipping is much easier than pitching or bunker shots but it comes down to the right setup. Most golfers try to play these shots like a full swing and it kills their chances of making solid contact. 

Once you nail the setup the rest of the chipping motion becomes pretty easy. Master this simple shot sooner rather than later to have a go-to shot from around the green. 

How many wedges should I carry?

It’s best to carry 3–4 wedges in your bag. Two wedges (a pitching wedge and sand wedge) aren’t enough if you’re a semi-serious golfer who wants to lower your handicap. 

Every golfer can benefit from a gap wedge to fill the distance gap between a PW and SW. Not to mention you can use it for all types of shots inside 100 yards.

While more advanced golfers should also add a lob wedge too. Having more loft (58–64 degrees) can help with tricky short-sided shots and/or shots inside 50 yards. 

How can I improve my short game at home?

The easiest way to improve your short game at home is to buy an indoor putting green. Most greens are 6–10 feet so you can work on the most important length putts without going to the golf course.

If you have a backyard it’s also a good idea to buy some chipping buckets as well. Even 10–15 minutes a day can help drastically improve your game. 

Wrapping Up 

Remember, quality practice is better than the quantity of practice. 

Working on your short game for 30 quality minutes is likely to help your game more than bashing a jumbo bucket of 7 irons over and over again.

Don’t forget, most shots happen inside 125 yards, so you should spend the majority of your time practicing them. I’m confident that when you use these eight tips, you’ll drop shots faster than ever and have more confidence than ever before. 

Because when you love your short game and aren’t worried about missing fairways or greens, anything is possible. 

Do you like practicing your short game? 

Let us know in the comments below! 

Picture of 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 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.

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