Game Planning the Short Game

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

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Did you know that roughly 75% of your score will occur from 100 yards and in? About 40% of your score happens on the green so that leaves 35% that is not putting. I recently wrote about the differences between pitching and chipping. It does surprise me that many golfers don’t know the difference. My goal in writing this month’s column is to give you a 3 step game plan that will help organize your short game.

Step #1-The Lie
As you approach your golf ball, the very first thing you should look at is the lie – is the ball in deep grass or in fairway grass. This will dictate the type of shot you must hit. In general, if the ball is in deep grass your swing will require more wrist hinge. If hitting a shot off fairway grass there is no need to create this wrist hinge.

Step #2-The Landing Spot
Once you determine the lie, you must decide where on the green you want to land the ball. This is a common step that is missed by the recreation golfer. Get very specific on this landing spot. If you are farther from the green pick a zone, and when closer pick an old ball mark or a speck of sand. Establishing this landing spot is important in order to determine the shot trajectory. When there is less room between your landing spot and the hole the shot has to be hit higher. When there is more room between your landing spot and the hole, hit a lower shot.

Step #3-Execution
Once you have determined the lie and established the landing spot, it is now time to execute the shot.

High Shot vs Low Shot
The definition of a high shot is a pitch and a lower shot a chip. When hitting a pitch you must first select a club with more loft, like a lob wedge or a sand wedge, and less club for a lower shot. Once you have selected the club there are 2 ways to control the trajectory. The first is with the club face. By simply rotating the face to the right, you are in effect adding loft. The second is with the shaft. If you lean the shaft to the right, loft is added to the face and vIce versa. Generally, I prefer that most of my clients control the loft with the shaft and not the face but encourage experimenting with both.

As humans we will get better at whatever it is we practice, so bad practice habits won’t help shoot lower scores. Hit practice shots from various lies around the green. Stick a tee in the ground to clearly identify your landing spot and follow the above steps in order to hit high shots and low shots. This is truly the best way to practice your short game. Once able to control the trajectory and get the ball to fly to the landing spot, you will be amazed at how fewer shots are wasted around the greens.

John Stahlschmidt, PGA is the Director of Instruction at the JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ. To comment or to schedule a lesson, visit his website at or email