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Game of the Weekend: Chipping Median

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While much has been rightly made of the importance of distance off the tee, you still can’t get through a round of golf without your wedges. It’s inevitable that your short game is going to be put to test when you play. This Game of the Weekend will help you easily see how close you’re hitting your chips from the hole. Give it a go and see how low you can make your Chipping Median.

Game of the Weekend: Chipping Median

  • Gear needed: 15 golf balls and your chipping clubs.
  • Time needed: 5-7 minutes.

Rules: The closer you hit your chips to the hole, the greater your odds become of making the putt. That said, this game called Chipping Median will help you do a quick measure of the median distance you hit your chips from the hole.

From within 5 yards of the green, hit 15 shots to three different holes in the following manner: one ball to the closest hole, one ball to the hole in the middle, and one ball to the hole farthest away. Repeating this series a total of five times will give you 15 chip shots.

Once you have hit all 15 shots, walk up to the green and, taking all three holes into consideration, remove the seven closest shots you have hit to your targets. Find the next closest shot (which would have been the eighth), and step off how far away it is from the hole rounded to the nearest foot and record that number into our interactive practice website www.golfscrimmages.com.

The eighth closest shot is your median, and is significant because there are seven shots closer to the hole and seven shots that are farther away. Improving your median is a neat way to monitor your short game progress to help you improve the likelihood of making more putts. See the video below for more. 

Benefits: Here’s what this game helps you with.

  • Even the top players in the world don’t hit every green in regulation, so getting your chips as close to the hole as possible will obviously make for easier up-and-downs. This quick and easy way to measure the effectiveness of your short game shots creates a competitive environment in which you can easily chart your progress.
  • Remember to take note of your bad shots, too. You can have a fairly low median, say 4 feet, but if you hit several stray shots that roll 20 feet away from the hole they will end up costing you when you’re on the course.
  • Concentrate on every shot so that all 15 end up close!

Practice well to play well, and enjoy this Labor Day weekend!

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Trent Wearner is the No. 1-rated teacher in Colorado by Golf Digest Magazine, as well as a two-time Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year (2004, 2014). Along the way, he has been recognized as a Top 20 Teacher Under Age 40 by Golf Digest, a Top 50 Kids Teacher in America by U.S. Kids Golf and a Top Teacher in the Southwestern U.S. by GOLF Magazine. Trent is also the author of the book Golf Scrimmages and creator of the website GolfScrimmages.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. joshuaplaysgolf

    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Agreed, but what I do think is that by progressing to each hole after one ball, you are forcing yourself to think through each shot and not just repeating the same 5 shots consecutively. Yes you would make adjustments after each shot, but it’s similar to having a 10 yard chip on the 2nd hole, and then having another on the 5th…you would take the information from the first chip and make an adjustment as necessary for the next one.

    They pretty much laid this out in last weeks, 18 holes of up and down…but to really simulate what you would come across in a round, I like to take 9 balls and put them all around the green. Different lies, different distances, different shots. You get one go at it as you would during your rounds, and adds a little pressure to your practice. After putting those 9 out, repeat and see what your score is. Obviously, you don’t want to be the jerk putting on the chipping green, so either find somewhere with a large chipping green or wait until no one else is chipping…usually in the evening/twilight. Personally, I don’t like chipping more than 10 balls onto the green at a time…I don’t feel that hitting balls into a pile of balls around a hole does anything for you, and is inconsiderate of other people who are practicing. There is value in muscle memory, but standing in one place hitting 100 balls is not very effective (see this ALL the time). You learn a lot more a lot quicker by forcing your brain to adapt to a wide variety of conditions and swings. For example, if you want to work on 20 yarders, hit a handful of balls from that spot, hit a few other types of shots, and come back. It’s the same principle of only hitting 3-5 balls on the range with one club and cycling back to it to keep your brain from going into autopilot.

    • Bo B. Jammin

      Sep 5, 2015 at 10:11 am

      You’ve got it right Joshua. I know several guys that always practice their chipping by unloading a shag bag and piling up balls around one hole. Half way through the bag of balls their shots are colliding into the previous balls that they have hit so they have absolutely no clue as to the quality of their ball striking and how much the ball checks up when it hits the green, but they just keep chipping away at the same spot like some zombie in a golf trance. What amazes me even more is that almost invariably, they will then collect up all of their balls and repeat the exact same thing from the exact same spot a few times before they finally come out of their clueless trance, collect up their balls and then walk away apparently content that they have somehow miraculously improved their game.

      The reason I know that this way of practicing doesn’t work is that I often play a round with several guys who practice like that and on the course, their short game is severely lacking. You can see the fear in their eyes because that have absolutely no idea how hard to even strike the ball much less what loft / backspin they want or can put on the ball based on they lie they are confronted with.

      They always give me compliments on my short game but on the practice green they seem to feel sorry for me when they see me practicing with only three balls. . . (Several of them have actually offered to give me one of their old shag bags.)

      I firmly believe that if you don’t practice with the intensity and at the tempo, pace and the randomness of lies, slopes and distances that occurs during an actual round of golf, you are, for the most part, wasting your time.

      In golf, every shot is a puzzle that must be solved, but nowhere is that more true than around the green. Personally, if I have to get up and down and my chip shot isn’t either in the hole, or within 18 inches of the hole and positioned where the putt will be a no-brainer, I feel as though I have failed the task at hand. I don’t get down on myself, it just makes me want to get better and fortunately I really enjoy practicing the short game. It is a whole lot of fun!

      • Joshuaplaysgolf

        Sep 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm

        Hahaha, zombie golfers is a wonderful analogy. I’m glad I’m not the only one who practices that way. I had to stop using the chopping green at my home course because they put 200 range balls out for people to use. Most people seem to like to hit as many as possible onto the green and just walk away as if they were the only one who wanted to practice there. I play golf, not billiards. And why in the world would you practice using range balls? Do you play with the anime practice ball? I also love the guys who stand literally 5 feet off the green to hit their 10 million identical shots. Really? How often do you miss the green by 5 feet, and in the fringe? It just isn’t practical, and I don’t understand where the perception that this is effective comes from. Fortunately I have found a close by course with easily the best short game facility I’ve ever seen…and they don’t put range balls out. I agree that the short game is a ton of fun to practice. There’s so much room for creativity and mental stimulus to figure out how to get yourself up and down…but you actually have to utilize that opportunity.

  2. btv

    Sep 4, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I still don’t think this accurately represents your “median” ability when it comes to the course. Even with hitting 5 shots to 3 targets… once you hit one you will naturally compensate with the next one. I think this may be a viable activity for skills training but not measuring your ability to get up and down.

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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