Saturday, 16 February 2019

Short Game Strategy

  • February 16, 2019

Golf Skills for Beginners

Written by PGA Pro, Tom Huttunen

Take a look at the following image…

What type of shot would you attempt to play from each of the 3 positions? This is a question which often leads to confusion for new golfers. Maybe you’ve heard of some of the terms for shots played around the green from a simple putt to a chip & run or even a pitch shot. Maybe you haven’t quite gotten your head around the differences between these shots and why a certain situation would suit playing one over the other.

*this article does not go into detail on the various techniques you can use to play these shots

What are the options?

Let’s take a closer look at the different shots and when you should be playing them. We will go through them in order of difficulty. This is something you will need to consider when weighing up your options…

The Putt:

A putt is, technically speaking, the simplest shot in golf. There should really be no question in the players mind if they are going to strike the ball correctly. So long as you avoid contacting the ground with the putter then you’ll be fine! The question is simply if you can guess the correct direction and speed that is required to get the ball to the hole.

It is for this reason that you should ask yourself, before even considering a different shot, “could I putt this?” Most of the time the answer will be “well I guess I could!” Even top professionals will tend to reach for the putter as soon as their ball gets close to the green. This would include the fringe area (short cut of grass surrounding the green) and even the fairway provided the course is well maintained.

The difficulty arises when you are unable to make a clean contact (no grass between the putter and ball) due to a poor lie or that you have some form of obstacle in your way (sprinkler, divot, bunker etc.). Experienced golfers will then go for a more lofted club in order to lift the ball out of the longer grass or over the obstacle and roll out towards the hole.

The Chip & Run:

The name does a great job in describing this shot. The goal is to chip the ball into the air for a short distance before landing and running out towards the intended target. The benefit being that the ball will jump over any immediate obstacles and allow for a better judge of speed when the ball starts to roll on the green.

This shot is slightly more difficult than a putt in terms of execution. It demands a lower point of contact on the golf ball in order to propel the ball upwards. Many beginners struggle with the precision of their strike and end up colliding with the ground or hitting towards the top of the ball resulting in a poor shot. With a little practise you will be able to groove your contact point and put this shot into play.

It is worth mentioning here that there is no set club that you should use for your chip shots. This really depends on the amount of green you have between your ball and the hole. Logic dictates that chipping a ball with less loft (e.g. 7 iron) will result in more roll out than when chipping with a more lofted club (e.g. sand wedge). Practising with different clubs will enable you to get better at guessing which club would suit certain chip & run situations.

The Pitch Shot:

As we attempt to launch the ball higher and carry more distance through the air, the shot becomes known as a pitch shot. As with the chip & run, the level of precision is more demanding as we need to ensure we strike the bottom of the ball. The added speed required to hit the ball further only serves to exacerbate the difficulty. Being able to play this shot is a huge advantage as we are often faced with situations like that pictured above.

The choice of club for a pitch shot is reduced as we need plenty of loft to get the ball to stop quickly when it lands on the green. You would be forgiven when faced with a pitch shot to reach straight for the pitching wedge given the name of the club. However, in modern times, clubs have generally become stronger in lofts to seduce golfers into thinking they are hitting the ball further. Therefore, a sand wedge or even a lob wedge will do a better job of stopping the ball quickly once it lands.

Make sure you get plenty of practise hitting this shot from a variety of lies to get a good sense for how much speed is required to get the ball to fly the desired distance. This shot should generally be used as a last resort for new golfers until you develop the skill and confidence to play it properly.

Think back to the original image with the 3 situations. You should now have a better understanding of the different shots available to you and which would be more suited to each scenario…

Practice Game:

Now that you know which shot to play, why not have a go and test yourself? Go down to your local short game practice area with a variety of clubs. Drop 4 balls down in random positions around the green from the fringe up to 20 yards away and play them out to a hole. A good starting point to aim for would be to get all 4 balls in the hole in a total of 12 shots. See how you get on!

Hopefully you found this article useful. Please get in contact should you have any questions or would like to arrange any tuition. If you are new to golf, then check out our new StartGolf beginner program where we take you from complete beginner to ‘course-ready’ in just 10 hours!

Tom Huttunen (B.A. Hons)
PGA Professional
Oulton Hall Golf Academy
Tel: 07393351211

I am a fully qualified AA PGA Professional with a BA Hons degree in Applied Golf Management Studies from the highly acclaimed University of Birmingham (UK). This degree is widely recognised to be at the forefront of golf education and provides a holistic approach to golf instruction and the wider golf industry. I am a lover of learning and it is my greatest pleasure to see clients transform their golf games under my tuition!


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About Me

I'mTom Huttunen

Professional Golfer and Golf Coach

"I am a fully qualified AA PGA Professional with a BA Hons degree in Applied Golf Management Studies from the highly acclaimed University of Birmingham (UK). This degree is widely recognised to be at the forefront of golf education and provides a holistic approach to golf instruction and the wider golf industry.

I am a lover of learning and it is my greatest pleasure to see clients transform their golf games under my tuition!"

Teaching Philosophy 👨‍🎓

"I'm a big believer in training golfers to become skillful rather than obsessing too much over technique, especially at the beginning...

I have seen too many golfers spending countless hours trying to 'perfect' their technique and lose sight of the bigger picture of what it takes to play this brilliant game. Once a player is presented with the basic skillsets that are needed to play good golf and a clear understanding of how to train them it still amazes me how quickly improvements can be made that are built to last!"

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Oulton Hall Golf Academy

Rothwell Lane, Oulton, Leeds LS26 8HN

Phone number

Tel: 07393351211