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8 adjustments you can make right now for a better short game

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There is a big disconnect for many golfers when it comes to their short game. Too frequently, golfers are trying to implement characteristics of their power game for their short shots. I am a firm believer that all golfers need to perfect four different golfing movements to help them maximize their games. They are…

  1. Rolling the golf ball on the ground, or putting.
  2. Maximizing distance when hitting the golf ball off of a tee.   
  3. Maximizing distance when hitting the golf ball off of the ground.
  4. Minimizing distance when hitting the golf ball off of the ground.

What this article hopes to address is some different concepts to help our GolfWRX readers excel at movement No. 4, or minimizing distance when witting the golf ball off of the ground.

To keep things simple, I want my GolfWRX readers to start asking themselves, “Will this concept help me hit the golf ball farther, or shorter?” If you’re not sure, go on out and experiment yourself! Or, let’s take a look at a few variables to help you get a head start.

1) Ball position

Which ball position will hit the golf ball farther; toward the target foot or the back foot? Many golfers are taught to place their ball position towards their back foot for short shots, especially chipping. While this does encourage ball first contact, it also de-lofts the golf club, which typically produces golf shots that launch lower and travel farther. The more you have your ball position starting at the middle of your stance and moving more towards the target, the higher your golf ball wants to launch and the less it wants to travel.  

2) Lower body positioning

Which lower body positioning will hit the golf ball farther; a lower body that is open and facing the target, or facing the golf ball? Many golfers are taught to open their lower body at address, or have their facing the target more than they are facing the golf ball. This is frequently taught because it helps golfers get a head start on returning to a similar impact position that is achieved with your full swing. If we want our hips to be facing the target to maximize distance, starting with our stance in that position seems to be defeating the purpose of hitting a golf ball a shorter distance. Rather, I want you to consider keeping your body facing the golf ball and limit your lower body’s rotation, especially on your down swing. Your lower body should be used more as a resource for stability, not power.

3) Width of stance

Which width of stance will hit the golf farther; a wider stance, or a narrower stance? Many golfers are taught to widen their base to maintain balance and supports lateral motion for full swing shots, or golf shots we want to travel the farthest. Unfortunately, this wider stance really affects the consistency to the bottom of our swing arc for short shots. To add fuel to the fire, a wider stance can encourage lateral motion, which can be an unnecessary source of power for short shots. Therefore, for most short shots, I want to encourage a narrower stance.

4) Club face positioning

Which club face will hit the golf ball farther; a club face that is closed, or a club face that is open? When the club face is open (or pointed to the right of the target for a right handed golfer), there is more loft and less mass behind the golf ball, which produces shots that launch higher but travel shorter distances. When the club face is closed (or pointed to the left of the target for a right handed golfer), there is less loft and more mass behind the golf ball, which produces shots that launch lower but travels greater distances.

5) Grip

Many of us are taught to grab the golf club in a closed face position to help us square up the club face for our full swing shots. This is a characteristic that matches up well for skill sets No. 2 and 3, hitting the golf ball as far as possible. However, to have a better chance of hitting shots a shorter distance, you can choose the grab the golf club with a more open faced grip to help you keep your club face open and hit higher launching, shorter traveling golf shots.

6) Wrist positioning

Which wrist position will hit the golf ball farther; a wrist position in flexion (bowed) or a wrist position in extension (cupped)? When you look at Dustin Johnson’s swing, you see wrists that are in flexion, which is a big component that helps Dustin keep his club face closed throughout his golf swing. Wrists in flexion are a wonderful component to hit the golf ball a long way, but may not be the greatest position to hit the golf ball a short distance.  Consider placing your wrists in extension, which helps open the face through out the strike.

7) Forearm rotation

Will you hit the golf ball farther if you pronate your forearms, or supinate your forearms? If you rotate your forearms counter clockwise, or pronate them (as a right handed golfer), you’re closing the club face. If you rotate your forearms in a clockwise manner, or supinate them (as a right handed golfer), you are opening your club face.

8) Path

Which path will help you hit the golf ball farther; a path that is a draw oriented path, or a path that is a fade oriented path? Assuming you are trying to hit golf shots straight, a draw oriented path matches up more efficiently to a closed club face. Likewise, a fade oriented path always matches up to an open club face position. Per our conversation above regarding club face properties, we want to encourage a fade oriented path to help hit the golf ball a shorter distance.

The big key for all of you GolfWRX golfers reading this article is to now go out and experiment with all of these variables, and see which components work for you! You might find that the extended wrist positioning works well for you with thick rough conditions, but poorly from tight lies. You might find that a square body helps you from tight lies, but maximizes your ability to hit the golf ball with your sand wedge at 30 yards. You might find that playing from more of an open faced grip helps you for all shots inside of 40 yards. Experiment with the variables and find the right components that work for you. Good luck!

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. TheCityGame

    Sep 10, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    There are 256 different combinations of these variables. And that’s if we limit each one to only two options (which isn’t the case).

    I’m almost convinced this is actually a humor piece.

    As instruction, it is probably worse than useless. Like actually harmful in its complexity.

  2. Mike

    Sep 9, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Some decent points made, but, forearm rotation? I’m a 16 index, that’s way above my comprehension level.

  3. Rusty Chambeauner

    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:16 am

    I found this article to be especially helpful, and reminds me not to get sucked into a consistent routine when trying to hit different shots

  4. Bryan

    Sep 8, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Possibly the worst article I’ve read on this site to date. Article is unclear on several fronts and think any of these tips are helpful when witting a golf ball.

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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