Our regular readers will know that my shoddy long game forced me to master the art of scrambling and my short game. Had I failed to succeed in those departments, I would never have played at the level I did as a youngster. So, in this guide, I introduce you to the 9 best short game drills to help lower your handicap.
Since we already have a guide on the 8 best putting drills, this review will focus more on pitching and chipping. In addition to providing drills, I will teach beginners and high handicappers how to play different types of chip shots.
1. Posture And Ball Positioning Drill
The first drill to undertake when you reach the practice green is arranging your posture and ball position. Your short game drills will not improve your chipping skills if you get this part wrong.
This drill requires 2 alignment sticks. Place one on the ground and then connect the second one at a 45-degree angle.
The ball should be just ahead of the vertex, and your nose should align with it. Next, the toes of your back foot should be 2 inches from the alignment stick pointing towards you. Conversely, the heel of your front foot should remain a couple inches from the same stick on the other side.
When you are in this position, your body positions the weight forward to allow your clubhead to get under the body and generate spin. If your nose is not above the vertex, your weight distribution is off, and it will impact the low point of your chip.
You can read our detailed guide on how to improve your stance for added consistency in all areas of your game.
2. Swing Path
The second drill to execute before hitting a few balls is your swing path. An in to out or out to in swing will cause your ball to curve away from the target. It is vital to square the face at impact for optimal accuracy.
James Sieckman from Titleist recommends employing 2 alignment sticks to undertake this task. Position one stick on the floor, aiming parallel to your target. Then set up the other three-quarters back of the first stick, and angle it parallel to your shaft:
Take 10 practice swings without striking the ball, and focus on not hitting the second alignment stick. Once you have had 10 practice swings, start chipping or pitching without touching the angled alignment stick. You will notice a big difference in the accuracy.
3. One hand shots
Your short game often revolves around feel. There are no distance markers around or on the green, meaning you need to rely on your feel and experience for optimal distance control.
Over the years, I have found one-handed shots to be a great way to warm up and get a feel for your clubhead, the turf, and the conditions. In addition, one-handed shots help you understand the bounce of your wedges and how it enables you to get under the ball and generate optimal spin.
Besides learning to trust the bounce of your wedge, this chipping drill helps you improve your ball striking ability. The cleaner that you strike a chip shot, the higher the spin, control, and accuracy will be.
4. Coin chipping drill
Staying with ball striking, we turn attention to the coin chipping drill. The purpose of this exercise is to understand where your clubface should be at the low point of your swing. If your low point is too early, it could cause your club to take a chunk of turf, resulting in a fluffed chip.
Conversely, if your low point is too late in your swing, you may struggle to launch your ball and optimize your spin. Leading to a loss of control and accuracy.
The solution involves a coin, and it is one of the great chipping drills. Place a coin slightly in front of your ball, and take a swing. You want to catch the ball cleanly but get under it enough to generate spin. If you execute the swing successfully, the coin should launch into the air with the ball.
If you miss the coin and there is a divot behind your ball, your low point is too early. Conversely, if you touched the coin, but did not get it airborne, you reached your low point late.
5. Hula Hoop Chipping Drill
This is one of the fun chipping games for amateurs to undertake and reminds me of the mobile game Golf Clash. The idea is to get as many shots as possible into a hula hoop, which helps you master where to land chip and pitch shots.
Identify various locations on the green where you would like to land the ball and place hula hoops on the ground. This drill also helps enhance your muscle memory to know how hard to hit each shot. Increasing your chance of landing the ball in the desired zone, when you are on the golf course.
You can even make it into a challenge with a golf buddy. Each player hits 10 shots, and you get a point for every ball that remains in the hula hoop. Naturally, the player with the most points after 5 attempts wins whatever you are willing to wager.
My golf coaches were less forgiving and made me practice a similar drill. However, they placed a 1.02-inch South African five Rand coin on a spot and made me attempt to hit it as many times as I could. If I did it 20 times in 50 shots, I got a sleeve of Maxfli Noodles.
6. Lines In The Sand
A Bunker shot is the worst enemy of many amateur golfers. For example, my playing partner. He was a scratch golfer in his youth, now he struggles out of the sand. As a junior, I spent hours working on my bunker play, and I love the challenge of these shots.
A drill that worked for me was a combination of lines in the sand and the hula-hoop practice routine. European Tour Pro Matt Nixon demonstrates how to set up for this drill, but I will take you through the steps:
Firstly, draw 2 parallel lines in the practice bunker, spaced one to 2 inches apart. The front line is where you place your ball, and the backline is where the low point of your downswing occurs. You need to catch the sand first and allow the bounce to push it through the dirt and connect cleanly with your ball.
Once the lines in the sand are drawn, corkscrew your feet into the sand. That increases your traction and enables you to lower your center of gravity to get your sand wedge under the ball.
Next, ensure that you open your clubface to increase your chance of getting the ball airborne and aim a yard left of your target. An open clubface is likely to start the ball right of where you were aiming. That is why you need to shift your feet left slightly to compensate.
7. Square face drill
I mentioned the importance of keeping your face square on-chip and pitch shot. Now, let me show you how to improve this aspect of your swing. Follow the steps provided in the one-hand shots drill, but focus on striking the ball with a square face.
Grip the club with your strongest hand, take an easy backswing, and follow-through. Don’t worry about the distance. Pay attention instead to the position of your clubface at impact. As well as where the leading edge is facing on your upswing.
If you execute this drill successfully your ball will launch straight at the target. Plus, the leading edge should face the pin after your upswing. Basically, the aim is to avoid turning your clubhead over at impact for a straighter launch.
8. Prevent Fall Back
No guide to short game drills would be complete without including the wise teachings of Butch Harmon. The legendary coach has mentored some of the world’s best golfers and knows his way around a short game drill.
He advises that you work on positioning weight on your front foot to prompt the clubface to strike the ball at the low point of your downswing. If your weight is on your back leg, it becomes difficult to attack the ball and generate sufficient clubhead speed to prompt supreme spin.
Harmon recommends that you place a ball under your back foot, forcing you to position more weight on your front foot. Therefore, it sets you up for an aggressive impact, which will deliver the spin, apex, and control you desire.
This exercise helps you optimize shots off tight grass, such as from the fairway. Placing your weight forward enables you to drive the clubface under the ball to get it up in the air. When you play a shot off of fluffy ground, this position causes the clubface to connect too far beneath the ball, leading to a whiff.
9. Master the grain
Drill 8 focused on preventing fall back to get under the ball. In this final drill, the aim is to adjust your weight depending on the grain of grass you hit from.
When you play from a tight lie in the fairway, you must keep your weight on the front foot to get under the ball and launch it.
Conversely, when you are on a fluffy lie, you need to reposition the weight to your back foot.
Placing your weight on your trail leg prompts the club’s bounce to take over at the bottom of your swing arc. That propels the face towards the ball to induce a clean strike for consistent spin and distance.
To practice this drill, employ Harmon’s golf ball under the necessary foot to get used to the feeling of forward and back mass.
If you execute this drill successfully your ball will launch straight at the target. Plus, the leading edge should face the pin at the completion of your upswing. Basically, the aim is to avoid turning your clubhead over at impact for a straighter launch.