Instruction: A foolproof method to getting up-and-down

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Ian Poulter in 2013 was No. 1 in scrambling on the PGA TOUR from 10-20 yards.
December 17, 2013
By Dave Myers, Staff Instructor, TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass

According to statistics from TOURCaddie (www.pgatourcaddie.com), the average golfer (10- to 19-handicapper) makes a par only 25 percent of the time. That number drops even farther for the high handicapper (20+ handicap), to 13 percent.

In most instances, poor strategy and a lack of execution in the short game is to blame for the low number of pars. When faced with a rather straightforward chip, the average golfer makes it more difficult on himself than it has to be, often reaching for the most-lofted club in his bag and attempting to fly the ball all the way to the hole. That requires a longer backswing and more feel and timing, which most recreational golfers struggle with.

What every golfer needs is a go-to shot around the green that they can execute with a variety of clubs and only ONE swing, utilizing the different lofts to control the carry distance and how much the ball rolls out. That’s how you build more consistency in your short game and put up more pars on your scorecard. Stick to one swing motion and switch clubs, and it will become a whole lot easier to get the ball up-and-down from around the green.

SHORTEN YOUR SHORT GAME SWING

By far the No. 1 mistake I see with amateurs in the short game is that they take the club too far back. Because they have so much loft (i.e., a sand wedge) and are trying to fly the ball to the hole, they have to increase the length of their swing to produce the necessary height and distance. The problem with taking so much swing so close to the hole is that it causes most golfers to apply the brakes on the downswing. They know that if they catch the ball solid they’re going to airmail the green, so they slow everything down and decelerate coming into impact. This leads to a variety of mis-hits and bad scores.

Here’s a high-percentage shot from 10 to 30 yards out that’s easy to execute and doesn’t require any guesswork on the backswing. There’s no hinging or setting of the wrists. Best of all, you can mis-hit the shot just a little bit and still wind up with a fairly manageable putt at par. It’s a great shot to use when you come up just short of the green in the fairway or moderate rough, and you don’t have a bunker or any other major obstacle to carry. Here’s how it works.

First, step off the yardage to the front of the green, or where you want to land the ball (1 to 2 paces on), and from the landing area to the hole. If it’s 4 yards to the landing area and then another 12 to the hole, a ratio of 1 part carry, 3 parts roll (1:3), then you want to choose a lower-lofted club, such as an 8-iron, which will produce a lot of roll. If you have to carry it farther with less roll—say, 8 yards on and only 4 to the hole (a 2:1 carry-to-roll ratio), then you want a more lofted club, such as your sand wedge. The farther you have to carry the ball, the more lofted club you use, and vice versa. The pitching wedge has a carry-to-roll ratio of 1:1, a 9-iron 1:2, an 8-iron 1:3, and so on. Always use this process to choose a club.

Once you’ve pulled a club, stand with your heels relatively close together and set the clubface down perpendicular, or square, to your target line. Next, step in with your body, elevating the handle up 3 inches so that the clubhead is resting on its toe. This takes the sharpest part of the club, the heel, out of play so that you can be more aggressive with the turf and not have to worry about digging. Move the handle forward 3 inches to deloft the face some, and then stand to the handle so the butt end of the club points to the middle of your body. This will establish the correct ball position, off the back foot. Finally, to complete the setup, grip down on the club 3 inches, which will put you more over the ball and encourage a shorter, more compact backswing. To summarize: Elevate the handle 3 inches; move the handle forward 3 inches; and grip down 3 inches—3 + 3 + 3.

As for the swing, it should be similar to that of a long putt, with no wrist hinge. The shorter the swing, the easier it is to make solid contact with the center of the clubface, and control your distance. To create the clubhead speed and power necessary to carry the ball the required distance, turn your body through so that your eyes, shirt buttons, belt buckle, and club all face the target at the completion of your swing. There should be a little air under your right heel, which is a sign that your hips are turning toward the target. If you keep your feet flat on the ground, it restricts you from turning, and then your arms get disconnected from your body and you wind up pushing the ball weakly toward the hole. Don’t hit at the ball; rather, have the feeling that your body is turning to the target and the ball is just getting in the way of your swing. Your turn will create enough power to chip the ball the required distance.

Dave Myers is a Staff Instructor at TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.  For more game-improvement tips from the TOURAcademy instructors, on-the-spot club recommendations and 3D previews of each hole you play, download the TOURCaddie PRO app at www.pgatourcaddie.com.

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