In our schools, camps and clinics (and pretty much anytime you’re around me), you will continually hear how important the short game is for scoring. In this article I’m going to compare the long game vs. short game then give you my 4 Cs that you must follow to have a great short game.

First, you must be convinced that the short game is the most important part of scoring. Here are a couple facts about the short game.

Fact: The difference between a 30 handicap golfer and a scratch golfer (0 handicaps) is associated with 7 to 10 shots in the long game (shots over 50 yards) and 20 to 23 shots in the short game (shots under 50 yards). Meaning, if you are a 30 handicap golfer and only work on your long game you will only improve 7 to 10 shots toward scratch golf. The best you will ever reach is a 20 handicap. The difference between a 15 handicap golfer and scratch golfer is associated with 3 to 5 shots in the long game, and 10 to 12 shots in the short game. In other words, if you are a 15 handicap golfer wanting to reach scratch, if you only work on the long game, you will basically never improve beyond a 10 handicap.

Fact: No professional, not even Tiger Woods, has an advantage in their short game over yours. In other words, the short game is not associated with strength, working out or athletic ability. It is a part of the game that is associated with practicing the correct fundamentals and putting those fundamentals into play at the right time. Ever notice how many young players (talking about 10, 11, 12-year-old juniors) have a great short game. In fact, many compare to the professional’s short games. Don’t you wonder how someone who is 75 pounds soaking wet can compete with the best players in the world? This shows it is not strength, but rather what matters are things like finesse and feel. This is what I call the 4 Cs to the short game: Creativity, Confidence, Commitment, and Critique.

CREATIVITY: The first thing you must do when confronted with a short game shot (pitch, chip, etc.) is create the shot. Part of the teaching we give our students during their on course instruction is to pick a shot around the green and ask the group to name 5 different ways to play the shot. Most of the time the group is able to name 2 or 3, but almost never 5. An example would be a shot that is 20 to 25 yards off the green with minimal rough between the ball and the hole.

You could:

  1. Pitch the shot to the hole,
  2. Chip the shot into the fringe around the green and roll to the hole,
  3. Putt through the entire rough and fringe,
  4. Hit a flop shot all the way to the hole, or
  5. Hit a 3 wood chip that will have more over spin and roll to the hole???

The point here is you need to be creative over the shot. I like to call it the “artistic” part of the game.

A good rule of thumb: “Putt when you can, Chip when you can’t putt, Pitch when you have too…” Yes, this is a very basic “rule”, but a good one to fall back on.

COMMITMENT: Once you have created the shot, you must commit to the shot that is the lowest risk for error FOR YOU. If you have a good pitch shot and feel it is the most likely to get the ball close to the hole with the least room for error, hit the pitch shot. Many will feel the chip from the fringe or even the putt will be their lowest risk shot. DON’T think you have to hit a shot in a particular manner because the pros on TV hit it that way, but rather execute the shot YOU feel you can hit with the most confidence.

CONFIDENCE: So now that you have created and committed to the shot, you must play the shot with confidence. This means that if you have chosen to chip the shot, tell yourself you will chip it close, pick your spot you want to hit, use good fundamentals, and with 100% confidence, hit the shot. If you don’t feel confident over the shot, BACK OFF and commit to something different or swing a couple practice swings/chips until you have gained the confidence back. The last of the 4 Cs are:

CRITIQUE: You must critique your short game shots after you have executed them. This is not to say, “I can’t hit a particular shot”, but rather “I had 4 chip and run shots today and only hit 1 good. Therefore, I need to put more practice in the chip and run shot”. Look back at each shot and determine if you need more practice in that area. Here’s a question you can ask yourself and see how well you currently critique your short game: How many of you practice chipping short of the green (maybe into the fringe) and then roll the ball onto the green close to the hole or how many of you when practicing putting, putt balls from off the green (from the fringe or low rough) to the green? I believe that these are the shots that, after you critique your short game, will probably be the shots that need the most practice.

Finally, I believe that EVERYONE can have a GREAT short game. In fact, everyone can have a short game that is as good or better than any professional. But, to get this GREAT short game, you must first learn the proper fundamentals and practice these fundamentals. Then you can use the 4 Cs – Creativity, Commitment, and Confidence and then Critique to bring that short game to the course.

For those interested in reviewing the proper fundamentals and drills of chipping, pitching and putting (intermediate instruction), please review our “Total Game Overview” Instructional Material. For more advanced work, Volume #3 and #4 of our 7 Principles Series is recommended.