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Proof That Short Shots Make the Difference? Try This Test



I’d like to invite any of my readers to try this experiment: Play a round with your club pro, a scratch, or near-scratch player in your club. On the par-3s, you hit only the tee shot. On the par 4s, you hit the tee shot and the second shot. And on the par 5s, you hit the tee shot, the second shot, and the third shot. After that, you’re going to let the pro or scratch player finish your holes from wherever the ball lies. And at the end of the round, you’re going to add up the combined score.

It would be best if you get the highly skilled player to play maybe 3-5 rounds with you, but even if you can do only do it for ONE round, give it a shot and let me know your score. I’m going wager that, depending on your handicap or skill level, your score(s) will be significantly lower. I have done this with several of my students, and I can attest to the results.

Ninety percent of the people who come to me for a lesson do so for a full-swing lesson, but I believe the real key to better golf lies more in the short shots than the full ones. I am not saying you can learn short shots to a professional level, but I am suggesting that you can make more progress and take a bigger step to lower scores by learning how to pitch, chip, play bunker shots and putt better than you do now.

Again, I don’t mean to say you can learn to play short shots as well as the really skilled players, but you can make more progress in this area than your full swing. And the benefits will more directly affect your game.

I welcome your results, and I hope it leads to more golfers asking for short-game lessons. And to me that’s a great thing, because who doesn’t want to play more golf when they’re shooting their lowest scores ever?

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .



  1. TexasSnowman

    Sep 7, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Short Game is Not the most important part of the game per se. GIR is King as has been proven by Broadie and others; and GIR is a combo of Driving and Iron Play (full swing!) but a great or above average short game is certainly a great asset. Short game has always been a weakness for me, but I recently played and shot 72 and it was All about the short game… 8 GIR, 1 birdie; Up&down 9 of 10 = 72 Strange Game. Note: My BALLSTRIKING was good enough that I was in position to scramble for Pars from relatively close range on every hole where I missed the GIR….I didn’t need to be a wizard around the greens playing from some weird spots. Again, thats why ball striking is more the key to getting to single digit handicap even if you are above average in the short game. You gotta hit the ball well enough to be in a decent position consistently to give yourself a good chance to get up/down.

    • Greg

      Sep 7, 2017 at 7:22 am

      While that’s partially true, scrambling can also be king. If you’re around the green with your 3rd shot, you can save a lot of pars by chipping and putting well. I’ve seen so many people on the edge of the green hit a bad chip and two-three putt for bogey/double when they could just make a good chip and have a kick in par.

    • Hatch

      Sep 11, 2017 at 11:15 am

      I think the point Dennis is trying to make here is that the “average” golfer has a better chance of improving their game by working on the short game more often. I think it’s easier to improve the short game than it is improving ball striking. I don’t believe he’s saying that short game is more important. I have worked with several buddies who were in the 15-30 handicap range, while all of them need to improve their ball striking, it’s been more efficient to work on the short game more often with the limited amount of practice time they have.

  2. GMR

    Sep 6, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Sure, it’s easy to knock strokes off your score by tidying up a sloppy short game, clearly. Once you have a decent short game, however (i.e. never taking more than 3 strokes from inside 100, eliminating 3-putts, and getting up and down 25%+ of the time around the green), you will much more quickly hit the point of diminishing returns. It takes a LOT of effort to get your wedges crisp enough to consistently get up/down from 50, 60, 70 yards…

    If I’m trying to improve for the short term (match or tournament in the coming week), you’ll see me almost exclusively on or around the practice green. If I’m trying to really improve long-term, though, you’d better believe you are going to see me working on my swing.

    • GMR

      Sep 6, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Actually my comment reminded me of a guy at our club who sandbags by spending all season working on his swing without bothering keeping his short game crisp. 3-putts a lot and never gets up and down. Then come the end of the season when we have some of the championships you’ll see him out there every day chipping and putting. Funny how he always seems to finish near the top…

      • Chopper

        Sep 6, 2017 at 10:34 am

        We play all of our “majors” off twelve month low. Takes care of that guy.

  3. Tommy

    Sep 6, 2017 at 1:04 am

    The author is correct. The chances of a recreational golfer improving his short game is MUCH better than for him to improve his long game. Most spend 80% of their practice time hitting driver and it doesn’t seem to make much difference. That much time and effort on chips and pitches, with some good instruction, will be a difference THAT’S ACTUALLY POSSIBLE. Bringing the pro along is just object confirmation, nothing more. Sure, it works in the inverse too, but that’s not the point.

    • ChrisK

      Sep 6, 2017 at 1:11 am

      So if rec golfers reduce their driver practice their drives will deteriorate even further to the point of redundancy.
      Might as well not even carry a driver and just use a higher lofted fairway like a 3-wood.
      Of course that’s not macho and golf is a game of macho for high handicappers who brag (lie) “I hit a drive that must have gone 280 yards with my new driver.. I love it!”… or some such BeeEss.

  4. 8thehardway

    Sep 5, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    No need to bother a pro… move up one or two sets of tees and see how many strokes you shave off your typical score; I guess a 90s golfer would only save 5 strokes playing 700 yards less (about 40 yards less per hole).

    • Bruce Hart

      Sep 6, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      when i play from the ladies tees i suddenly have makeable putts for birdie and even eagle. whereas from the whites on a “real” (not executive) course i usually have to make a long putt or chip it in for a birdie. for me it has been all about finding/using the right equipment (using a 3 wood instead of driver, ditching the hybrids for a 5 and 7 wood, using a long counterbalanced putter, finding the right bounce on a 54 degree wedge and so on).

      • Chris K

        Sep 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm

        CONGRATULATIONS, Bruce Hart, you are a sane, intelligent golfer who plays within his reasonable capabilities, just as I do.
        Those who play from the ‘tips’ to get their money’s worth and then can’t break 100 honestly are the one’s who buy the latest and greatest new model drivers promising distance and dialing out your swing flaws.
        You, and I, are gentlemen golfers who play a controlled game from the forward tees and mostly stay out of the rough and OBs. Macho golfers plug up the course searching for lost balls because their swing is forever flawed and they try to repair it on the golf course. That’s why we have 5 hour rounds.
        You don’t learn a swing on the course, unless you are an incompetent clown oblivious to others.

  5. Chris K

    Sep 5, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    That’s an unnecessary exercise and a waste of time for the club pro or low capper just to demonstrate the obvious. If you do this, all you need do is take the club pro to the landing area and let him show you how accurate he can be from various distances using say 3 balls into the green. If you want to try another hole do the same thing and the point is proven. End of lesson.

    A better solution is to stop with your futile driver practice and use the time and money to walk the course during cheaper twilight play when there are few to no players and carrying a 7 or 8 iron, a wedge and hit a pile of balls into the greens. Play 9 holes with say 4 balls and that’s the equivalent of playing 36 holes of approach shots. Fix your ball marks.
    Of course this should only be done after you have practiced and trained at the range with short irons before you venture on to the course. You don’t learn the golf swing on the golf course; the course is a test of your practiced golf swing.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Sep 6, 2017 at 10:17 am

      Just make sure to repair all those pitch marks. 🙂

      • Chris K

        Sep 6, 2017 at 2:09 pm

        Yes I do, but I also practice ‘bump & run’ shots and intentional bunker shots as part of my short game, and that reduces the number of pitch marks. I also repair the ball marks left over from the afternoon players who do a bad job on their marks.

      • Bruce Hart

        Sep 6, 2017 at 2:12 pm

        i was chewed out by a marshal once for hitting two balls into a green. some courses are less relaxed than others.

        • Chris K

          Sep 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm

          Yes, but if you play a solo golf round in the evening twilight when there is no traffic or marshals there is no problem playing multiple balls. If somebody is coming just let them through by clearing your balls off the greens and let them through. On the fairway they can play through your many balls.
          Sometimes I just play with two clubs, an 8 iron and a sand wedge for bunker practice, and even putt with them. You don’t really need to practice putting if you are practicing your short game.

  6. Buckets

    Sep 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    An 18 handicap hitting tee shots and approach with tour pro hitting the rest would shoot way higher then a Tour Pro hitting all tee shots and approach shots and 18 handicap hitting the short shots.

    Even if guy averaged 2.5 putts per hole and duff a couple chips still be like 80

  7. Buckets

    Sep 5, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Not really. The top 20 in world are filled with poor, relative to peers putters.
    Im a +2 handicap and there is defiantly better putters than me that are like 15 handicaps.
    Hitting 15 greens per round is a lot harder than being a good putter.
    Kinda like any average joe can hit 80% free throws better than half of nba players, but could still never score like them.
    You can deftiently have a poor short game and be a +4 or even tour pro.
    Tim Clark… had chipping yips, couldn’t do it
    Vijay sinch chips crosshanded putts all kinds of ways.
    proximity is key even bad putters make will conver 2 0r 3 out of 14 not to mention 2 putt or tap in birdies.

    • Chris K

      Sep 5, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Could you hit 15 greens per round only using a 12-13º 2-wood or a 14-15º 3-wood?
      Of course this would put the stress on your mid to long iron play on approach shots.
      It’s a trade-off between using your big dog 9º driver and spraying balls all over the place for recovery shots, or, controlling your drives with a 2 or 3-wood and working for more greens in regulation.
      Choose yer poison.

      • Buckets

        Sep 5, 2017 at 6:08 pm

        for example in Woods epic years he was about 55% fairways and 73% greens

        his strokes gained approach was 2

        putting plus around green was 1.3

        Its all about hitting greens, hitting fairways helps that but not as much as you’d think.

        most 18 handicaps i play with hit almost every fairway and almost no greens and some have pretty good short games. Usually not bunker play because they never get enough speed.

        • ChrisK

          Sep 6, 2017 at 1:17 am

          You say: – “most 18 handicaps i play with hit almost every fairway and almost no greens and some have pretty good short games.”
          So if “some have pretty good short games” why are they not getting on the greens?
          Most 18 handicappers I play with may have a few pars but blow up wildly on other holes and cannot recover. Their game is chaotic.

  8. TR1PTIK

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    I can agree with this. I think a lot of people are missing the point, but between the title and the article itself it’s difficult to tell if you’re trying to argue statistical facts about the long game or simply emphasize that the short game is still a critical component of low scoring. I believe you are simply doing the latter and based on that I would absolutely agree. Even on my worst days off the tee, I can still get around the course well enough to break 90 without sweating about it – assuming no more than maybe 3 penalty strokes – if my short game is working. Likewise, I can cruise below 80 when all cylinders are firing. BUT when my short game is off, it quickly becomes a struggle to keep it under 90 as I just seem to compound issues around the green. I can also agree with those that have said it’s simply more fun to hit the long ball well, but it’s also REALLY fun to wow your playing partners with a good short game – especially when you hole out from off the green a time or two.

    • Buckets

      Sep 5, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      but really it’s not

      Jack Nicklaus always said why practice chipping, when i can practice hitting the green.

      I’ve seen rounds played where a player hit 16 greens. Had two 2 putt birdies a couple kick ins missed every other putt and failed to get up and down both times still shoots under par.

  9. Bob Jones

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Anybody who shoots 95 needs a better swing to get to 85. Anyone who shoots 85 needs a better short game to get to 80. Not the other way around. Hale Irwin said, “The shortest route to improvement is to get on the green in fewer strokes.” Percy Boomer said, “Good scores are only made possible by good play up to the green.” The major responsibility for that lies with the swing.

  10. Butch

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Excellent advice, thanks!

  11. Travis

    Sep 5, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    “Proof that scratch players are better than 10-handicap” test.

  12. EHK

    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I get your point and agree, but as far as an enlightening experience, I think the inverse would be more impactful. If you took the pro’s shots from tee to green (par – 2) and had the higher handicap player finish it off, I would think you would highlight just how many strokes are being lost to short game. Hopefully it wouldnt be too discouraging, but the anticipated thought was – IF I had the game of a scratch player from tee to green, Im still not close to par because my short game doesnt hold up.

  13. Bob

    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Dennis, what you forget is that all the golfers here are WRXer’s. They all hit 300+ drives and hit their approach shots to within 3 feet. They have no concept of what you are trying to say.

  14. Philip

    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    It all depends on the golfer in question … I lose about 6-8 off the tee (lost balls, awful position), 2-3 from my approach (and often due to bad recovery off the tee) and 3-4 from a mishit or miss read on and around the green – just enough to reduce my chances of making the next putt. Now, if you were to ask me the same question over the last two months it would definitely be true as I was trying to get my overall swing under control so much that my short game and putting had gotten so bad that I was missing 2 footers for par (almost gave myself the yips). A couple of weeks, focusing on my short game, got them back on track and now I am back onto my full swing – which is finally clicking and my pars/birdies are increasing.

  15. Chris K

    Sep 5, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I brought my aged game under control with a 300+ yard duo-drive.
    I don’t carry a driver, only 3-5-7 fairways plus a hybrid, a few short irons and several wedges. I aim for a straight 200 yard drive off the tee with my 3-wood and then another fairway wood or iron as needed. I cover the first 300+ yards totally under control and then I play my approach shot with deadly accuracy.
    To perfect my short game I played solo golf in the evenings when the course is empty and I carry a 6, 7 or 8 iron and a wedge plus 10 balls which I sprinkle around for approach shots. From 150 yards in I’m a PGA pro. I love splashing the ball out of the sand too.
    The solution to the game for rec players is to abandon the expensive, useless, difficult driver and start with a 15º 3-wood, and you will have a pleasant and controlled game, but you must practice by yourself on the range and then the course. Only then can you present yourself to other decent players and avoid playing with the clowns and hackers.
    I will never conquer the driver and I refuse to get suckered into buying a driver that promises distance and dialing in the shot trajectories, because the problem is in the big swing and not the driver.
    As for playing a round with a pro player, that’s just a fantasy trip for the rec players who don’t have full control of their clubs; and only time and practice will solve that inadequacy.

  16. Chopper

    Sep 5, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I remember reading a story of Tom Kite doing this very thing with a couple of UT golfers (maybe in The Little Red Book?) with the exact results that Mr. Clark describes. As I remember it they played the front 9 and could not understand how he was drubbing them as they hit as well as Kite. They played the back nine with Kite hitting the short game shots only and shot nothing. Sorry if I messed up some of the particulars as it has been ages since I read it.

  17. Daniel

    Sep 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I feel like some people are missing the author’s point a bit.

    He is NOT saying that a bogey golfer would score better having a scratch player hit his pitches, chips & putts than he would having the scratch player hit his drives and approaches. Of course his score would be lower this way. The scratch would hit way more GIRs and Mr. Bogey would have way more birdies and 2-putt pars.

    All he is saying is that a Mr. Bogey, who thinks he teeters around 90 because he only hits 4-5 GIRs, would be surprised how much lower a scratch can go with Mr. Bogey’s drives and approaches than Mr. Bogey can.

    • DD

      Sep 5, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      I have tremendous trouble off the tee. Using equitable stroke control I had 3 rounds this summer of 101 losing 15 balls, 88 losing 8 balls and 85 losing 5 balls. The 101 would have been more like a 110 if I didn’t use ESC, I made 4 birds on the 88, and I made par on 3 of the lost balls for the 85 (red stakes). No one on God’s green Earth is going to convince me I’d improve more by focusing on my short game than my full swing. I’m a 12.5 btw.

  18. Jim Maron

    Sep 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I read a rule of thumb about scores and greens in regulation. The rule is 95-(2*gir) = avg score.

    My scores are typically about 3-4 shots higher than that formula would suggest. I also looked at the at Mark Broadie strokes gained putting and found my putting doesn’t stack up to my handicap level. So I’m pretty sure working on my short game is what’s required.

    But yet, I don’t practice it much. Partly because I don’t have access to proper facilities to do so, but also because I just don’t find the putting and chipping in golf much fun. If I made my own course and made all the rules – the hole would be 5 feet in diameter and there would be no greens.

    • Steve

      Sep 5, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Try comparing this formula to your avg score:

      58 – ((4/3) * GIR) + Putts

  19. Dennis's clark

    Sep 5, 2017 at 10:04 am

    If you are currently a single digit cap, hitting say 7-8 GIRS (scratch players hit 10.5 I believe) and you make a dramatic swing improvement you MAY go to 8-9 GIRs and be closer on missed greens. You’ll still be be chipping, pitching or hitting bunker shots 9-10 times a round. My teaching center is situated in view of the 1st and 10th greens at our facilty. I can’t tell you how many times i see members turn 2 shots into 3, 3 into four etc….and then come for a full swing lesson. When most people come for a lesson they are asking to hit the ball better, not lower their scores. The relationship between the two is much less direct than one might think. Thx for reading

  20. M.S.

    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:51 am

    I don’t know if the statement that “The short shots make the difference” is completely accurate, what with Mark Broadie data and whatnot – but I do think that perhaps the “ROI” or Return-On-Investment is higher for short game practise, i.e. an hour spent properly training chipping/pitching would take more strokes of your score than say hitting a bucket of balls with the the mid irons.
    1. Learn to hit tee shots decently, without resulting penalty
    2. Learn to scramble
    3. Profit

  21. birdy

    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Willing to bet a bogey golfer would score better if they let Phil Mickelson hit the tee shot and approach on every hole vs letting phil hit the chips and putts.

    • Daniel

      Sep 5, 2017 at 10:22 am

      This statement is completely irrelevant to the argument he is making. The point is that a scratch could do better with your shots.

      • Buckets

        Sep 5, 2017 at 6:14 pm

        nah guy is trying to say short game is important differnce between pro and high handicap, its not it the long game, ball striking..

        No great ball strikers are 18 handicaps are, some great putters are.

  22. SoonerSlim

    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:12 am


    I’ve never done this with a Pro, but I have dedicated 4 weeks before, 3-4 times a week in the eve to nothing but the short game. I took three balls, three different clubs, 6,8, SW and putter. I would hit the three balls to the same pin from different lies and locations, then make the putts if I did not hole out. Also, borrowing a page from Mickey Wright, I would also play to six holes with the three balls, putt them out and see how many times I could get up and down for the 18 holes. After this one month of practice, I dropped my average score from avg 79 to avg 75, par 72. I know this works!


  23. 8thehardway

    Sep 5, 2017 at 8:12 am

    If you take a direct flight to Myrtle Beach but have to walk to your resort it takes longer than a connecting flight and a taxi.

  24. Oppai

    Sep 5, 2017 at 2:18 am

    This will only work with a fairly decent and reliable shooter who can get off the tee somewhat, on an open muni course with no OB. Take a poor player to any tricked out course with OB and forced tee-shot carries and tight tunnel-like shot off the tees – it won’t really matter because more than likely you are hitting 3 on most of those holes, and then hitting 5 or even 7 from the fairway.

  25. Denny Jones

    Sep 4, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I have to disagree to some extent. I realize the pro can do wonders in the short game area but the score would be lower if the pro hit all of the long shots.

    Pro tees off on a 400 yard par 4 and hits the ball in the fairway 320 yards leaving me an 80 yard shot to the green. The statistics prove that my game is closer to the professionals from 80 yards than from 400 yards.

    The average player from the same tee isn’t gong to hit the ball 320, maybe 220 leaving 180 yards to the green. What are the percentages of the pro hitting the green closer to the pin from his 180 than my 80 yards. I’d take those odds all day long.

    I believe Mark Broadie in his book “Every Shot Counts” verifies this.

    • Scott

      Sep 5, 2017 at 9:13 am


    • Daniel

      Sep 5, 2017 at 10:24 am

      This argument is completely irrelevant to the point he is making.

      He isn’t saying that a bogey golfer wouldn’t be better if the pro hits his long shots. Of course he would.

      He is saying that a bogey golfer who thinks he scores poorly because he misses the green by 10 yards would be surprised at how low he could still go by having a scratch chip & putt for him.

  26. Hans

    Sep 4, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Yes as some have said if you reversed the pro/am here youd see a big score difference too (probably more), but I think the point of this is just to show you can improve your game more than you might guess via the short game. While there are a lot of stats to suggest the long game is more important, for the avg guy without a lot of practice time (and/or talent) its a lot easier to get better at the short game than the long game so showing golfers that big score changes can he made via short game is a way to get them to focus on a part of the game they are more likely to be able to make big improvements in. A pro could show you how valuable a 300y drive is, doesnt mean you can strive for that, but showing you how much good chipping or lag putting helps gives you sthg most people could strive for.

    • Steve

      Sep 4, 2017 at 7:08 pm

      Excellent point Hans. IMO the reason pros preach about the short game so much is because that’s the easiest area for am’s to improve. The full swing takes a great deal more time and technique to realize improvement.

  27. Chris B

    Sep 4, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    It sounds sensible to me, it’s just going to show you what is possible scoring wise from the long game you have. Just because a scratch golfer might take 10 less shots than you doesn’t mean that’s the goal. If you can improve by 2-3 shots that will make a big difference.

    If you think that most golfers at any level are going to take between 30-45 shots from on and around the green…

  28. TigerMom

    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I think you need a better test to make a comparison:

    1. You hit all the shots (you probably already know this)
    2. Pro hits all the shots
    3. You hit full shots and pro hits short game shots
    4. Pro hits full shots and you hit short game shots

  29. Dennis Clark

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:53 am

    The reverse for me would be hypothetical because I’ve never done it that way. Those who have would know better than I. In any case my advice remains the same: we can improve short game a LOT more than full swing.

  30. larrybud

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Try the opposite, as a pro, play your student’s shots from 150 and out and see where that gets you. Tough to make par when your student is reloading 4 times from the tee!

  31. Rano

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:24 am

    I know what you are trying to say, but you need to rethink this “test”, because at the moment all it proves is that your scores will drop significantly if you let a much better player take 25-50% of your shots, which err… is not exactly revolutionary.

    My scores would also drop dramatically if a scratch player took all of my tee shots.

  32. Jimal

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Have to disagree with the fun part. If I’m scrambling almost every hole and shoot even that is a frustrating no fun round, but if i hit the ball great and hit almost every green and shoot 80 then I enjoyed my day a lot more. Hitting the ball bad isn’t fun at all no matter your score.

    • Christian Wagner

      Sep 4, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. You are saying scrambling for pars and shooting even is less fun than three putting all day?! If the only thing you think is fun about golf is hitting it long stick to the game. At the end of the day the SCORE is what counts, and the lower the better. 72 is < 80.

    • justin case

      Sep 5, 2017 at 9:21 am

      i agree. bad hitting is no fun. if you hit good, prob not gonna shoot 80 anyway.

    • Jim Maron

      Sep 5, 2017 at 10:40 am

      I’m with you – just posted as much below. I understand why people love the challenge of getting a ball in a tiny little hole, but I think the majority of people find hitting full shots a lot more fun.

  33. msg21

    Sep 4, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I had one game last year that opened up my mind with the importance of the short game. I broke 80 last year at a fairly difficult course. My driver was duck
    hooking all day. Resulting in shots
    going as far as 170 yards all to the left. But my irons were decent and my chipping and putting caught fire. I realized that even with a faulty driver, I can break 80
    or shoot in the low 80’s. After that game, I rarely practiced at the
    driving range my full shots.
    I concentrated on my putting and chipping and saw my handicap drop to single digits.


      Sep 4, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Any course that allows 170 yard misses off the tee is made significantly easier because of that fact. If you take that game on the road to a course with tree lined holes and OB you will be posting monster scores. Short game will only do some much for you when your missing to that degree of the tee.

    • Scott

      Sep 5, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Must not have been that difficult of a course

  34. Steve

    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:35 am

    If you reversed the shots the pro and the student hit the results would be the same.

  35. biguns123

    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Yes short game makes a huge difference. My best rounds are the rounds I putt and chip well. On the course I play I am going to hit 12-13 greens each round as its a short course. My best rounds are the ones where I get up and down. <– Captain obvious there.

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



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



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)



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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