Short cuts to lower scores

KEVIN HAIME, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

It's great to see Phil Mickelson back on tour this week.

With all he and his family have been through after wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer, you've got to be happy for the guy.

One thing's for sure: When Mickelson shows up for a tournament, you're guaranteed to see some wild greenside shots.

The guy has better hands than Houdini when it comes to hitting high-risk, flashy shots around the green.

Unfortunately, way too many average players are intrigued by those shots and try to hit them themselves.

That's a problem for two reasons: If you had hands as good as Mickelson's, you'd probably already be shooting in the 70s, and average golfers rarely practise their short game. So the odds of pulling off a Mickelson-type lob shot are less than one in 20.

A better short game is, however, your easiest and best way to shoot lower scores.

In just 24 hours, I guarantee you can cut 5-10 strokes off your game. You'll have to spread those 24 hours over a few weeks, but lower scores are that easy if you just spend some time around the green.

Here's your 24-hour plan:

There are four basic short game shots -- the chip, the bump and run, the pitch and the lob (a watered-down version of Mickelson's super flop).

If you take a one-hour lesson on each of the shots, then practise each for an hour five times, you've got a 24-hour commitment and guaranteed lower scores. Sounds pretty simple because it is, but many players are looking for the answer in the wrong place.

Average players are obsessed and distracted with hitting the ball better. Sure, it's important to develop a consistent swing, but full shots are less than half the game.

While 60% of shots are taken with less than a full swing, few golfers even spend a third of their practice time on their short game. On any given day at my golf centre, I see a 30:1 ratio of long game practice to short game practice -- that's 30 people hitting balls to only person on our short game complex.

Learn how to hit four basic short game shots and practise each shot until you're consistent and happy with the results. If you learn how to hit the basic shots and keep your shots as low risk as possible, the game gets a lot easier.

Here's a quick look at the four staples of the short game:

1. The Chip

This is the simplest short game shot used within five yards of the green. It's basically a putting-type shot with a lofted iron. Make sure the ball is placed back in your stance and keep your hands and weight forward throughout the stroke. Always land the ball on the green and let it roll out to the hole. Different lofted irons will lead to different flight-to-roll ratios.

2. The Bump and Run

This shot is similar to the chip, but requires a little more swing and body rotation. Because you are farther from the green, you'll need to widen your stance and turn your chest back and through as you swing. However, just like a chip shot, your hands and weight need to stay forward to bump the ball and to let it run on the green. Keep your finish low to keep your ball flight low.

3. The Pitch

It's golf most basic shot and the foundation, or blueprint, for your swing. If you can master basic pitch motion, a consistent swing won't be far behind. Better players most often use their 56- and 60-degree lofted wedges to pitch the ball around the green.

4. The Lob

You'll need a lesson for every short game shot, but this is the trickiest. The idea is to cut your club under the ball. The shot requires more motion, wrist hinge and precision. But with a little practice, you can use it when necessary.

KEVIN HAIME IS A TOP-RANKED GOLF TEACHER. HE HOSTS A GOLF TALK SHOW ON TEAM 1200 SATURDAYS AT 10 A.M. E-MAIL KEVIN AT KEVINH@KEVINHAIME.COM


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