Practice Your Short Game!

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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So, I know most of you don’t have much time to dedicate to practicing your golf game. The fact remains that every golfer wants to get better. I still haven’t met anyone who doesn’t want to improve. Practicing your skills is an essential ingredient to shooting lower scores. That just simply means that the little time most of you have to practice should be done in a prudent and organized fashion.

Research indicates that about 75% of your score occurs from 100 yards and in.  My question is, “Why don’t most golfers practice their short games at least 75% of the time?” I ask this question to my clients often. They give me many answers but the reality is that hitting balls…especially the driver seems to be more entertaining. That might be the case, but you will only hit your driver 12-14 times per round. My advice would be simple – when you do practice, work on your short game!

Putting – Putting can be anywhere from 30%-40% of your total score. This aspect of the game is so important and should be given the most practice time. When practicing your putting, make sure to focus on distance control. Get really good at controlling distance from 30-40 feet and practice making all your putts from 4 feet and in. If you can lag the ball up there close and convert on all the short putts, you will not 3 putt. Imagine how many strokes you will save with substantially less 3 putts.

Chipping – A chip shot is a ball that is low and running. This shot occurs when just off of the green and putting is not an option, practice chipping with your SW-6 iron. As a rule, always land your chip shots 3-5 feet onto the green’s surface, regardless of where the flag is located. The amount of roll you need will be determined by club selection. The more roll, the less loft. Use this system and you will chip better…guaranteed.

Greenside Bunker – This shot is the most misunderstood shot in golf. The pros make it look easy because they understand it. This is the only shot in golf in which the clubface should never make direct contact with the ball. The goal is to hit about 1.5 inches behind the ball and dig about 1.5 inches under the bottom of the ball. If you can be successful with this formula, every bunker shot will get out and onto the green in one try.

Too many shots are wasted around the green by all of us. Practicing the short game can reduce your score immediately. With the little time you have to practice, start using it to improve your short game and you will enjoy the game so much more.

John Stahlschmidt is the Senior Head Instructor for the TOURAcademy TPC Scottsdale. To comment on this column or to book a lesson, email John at