As offered in Golfer’s Palette: Preparing for Peak Performance, if our goal is to save strokes on-the-course, it demands that we learn to love putting and the short game: chip, sand and pitch shots. Why? Because putting and the short game account for 60-65% of the strokes we take during a conventional round of 18 holes of golf. Speaking of data, read a couple days ago that the PGA Tour average from 30 yards to the hole is 2.5 stokes. This probably puts an average golfer about 3.5 to 5.5 strokes from 30 yards to the hole; and certainly suggests that if we have limited practice time, the short game needs to be at the top of the practice list. Just yesterday, my putting and short game accounted for six lost strokes: two missed, 3’ putts; and a pitch shot and three chip shots that stopped more than 6’ from the cup. Let’s take a peek at some putting and short game practice guidelines:
1) Learn to quiet the mind and create your own teepee on every putt and shot.
2) For putts and short game shots, master two components: technical elements of the stroke-swing and what will happen to the ball after impact.
3) For good putts master club and body mechanics, routine, ritual and ball position; and green reading for lag putts and putts 6’ feet or less.
4) To be a good short game player master club and body mechanics, routine, ritual and ball position; and know what is going to happen to the ball after it is struck.
5) Practice the three key variables for putts: distance, direction and stroke.
6) Collect player development data to refine your practice needs: score in relation to par; fairways hit; fairways missed, left or right; greens hit in regulation; greens missed in regulation, left or right and club used; ups and downs made; and number of putts. To track improvement, consider computing summary data for a round as follows: score; fairways hit; greens in regulation; ups and downs; % of ups and downs made; total putts; putts per green in regulation; par 3 average; par four average; par five average; and penalty shots.
7) Practice putts of 6’ and less. The probability of sinking putts longer than 6’ is less than 50%. Target for chip, sand and pitch shots to end up in a 6’ circle around the cup.
If improving one’s ability to score is a goal, my experience is that mastering putting and the short game are the means to this end. Moreover, my humble opinion and experience are that learning to quiet the mind to create your own teepee on every putt and shot is a true master’s skill. This unleashes our inner artist to create either the putt or short game shot required and desired.
For those inclined to read and try new practice drills, four nice putting and short game books are:
• Every Shot Must Have a Purpose (2005), Pia Nilsson & Lynn Marriot, New York, NY: Penguin.
• Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible (2000), Dave Pelz, New York, NY: Aurum.
• Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible (1999), Dave Pelz, New York, NY: Aurum.
• Golfer’s Palette: Preparing for Peak Performance (2015), Dr. John Edwin DeVore, New York, NY: Penguin, Chapter 3: Body-Mind Mastery Skills and Chapter 4 Technical Skills.
Trust me, your hard work will show up in better scores on the golf course!