How to Improve a Golf Short Game

By Steve Silverman

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Golfers quickly learn that the key to scoring well is doing a good job in the short game. Golfers can learn how to drive the ball and hit their long clubs in relatively short order. However, the short game is always evolving and golfers can improve this area of play throughout their career. The short game involves the nine-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and the putter. Some players also use their seven-iron to convert a "bump-and-run" approach shot.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
  1. Use your nine-iron when you are 90 to 110 yards away from the hole. The nine-iron is lofted to fly high in the air and land softly when struck correctly. It should allow a golfer to put the ball within 15 feet of the hole when the aim is correct and the execution is true. Take a full swing but do not rush it.
  2. Use your pitching wedge when you are less than 90 yards from the hole. The angle on the face of the pitching wedge allows you to send the ball high and allow to come down on the green softly or with backspin. Top professional golfers can get a ball to come within 10 feet of the hole on a regular basis. The key to great wedge play is touch. You cannot grip the club too tight and you must not swing it too hard. New golfers will either over swing or baby their shots, so in order to hit the wedge properly you must take a medium grip and swing through the ball at a slow pace. Make sure you complete your follow-through in order to get backspin and accuracy.
  3. Take your sand wedge into a green side bunker and swing down behind the ball and make sure you follow through. You are not hitting the ball. You are hitting the sand behind the ball. Strike the sand about an inch or an inch and a half behind the ball. The sand will explode into the ball and force into the air and on the green. Practice hitting behind the ball and letting the sand get the ball moving.
  4. Use your seven-iron when you are 80 to 100 yards from the green and you have a straight shot that will not be altered by a bunker or another hazard. On a hot day that has left the ground sun-baked, take your seven-iron and close the head so that you can barely see its loft. Hit your ball as if it were an elongated putt with a firm, hard stroke. The ball should run up to the green as it bounces off the ground.
  5. Work on your putting when you go to the practice green. Instead of trying for spectacular results or trick shots, take five balls and line them up close to each other. Putt them all at the first practice hole. You should be able to get a much better idea on how your ball will roll and how to read greens. That will make you a more effective putter.

Tips & Warnings

  • Read as much as you can about the short game in golfing periodicals.

About the Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.