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Golf Tips: A good short game frees your game and your mind

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PGA Professional Mark Wehrman plays a pitch shot. PHOTO BY GARIN STAUDT

By Mark Wehrman Golf Columnist

As I have been doing more short game clinics recently, I’ve had a little time to practice my own game. Spending time around the green always reminds me of the importance of having a good short game. Being competent on and around the green will free up the rest of your game including the most important part, the mental game we all play while golfing.

When you miss a green in regulation and you don’t have confidence chipping and pitching the ball, you immediately start panicking about the next shot. You will get over the ball and start thinking about the technique versus visualizing the landing area and end result. Knowing you are going to strike the ball crisp and give yourself a putt for par will free up the tension and uncertainty in your mind. Not having that pressure will bring out your best golf.

If you regularly break 90 for 18 holes, more than half of your shots are within 60 yards of the hole. This means if you plan to spend one hour practicing, then more than half your time should be spent on or around the green.

 Here’s a perfect example: Just recently I was talking with one of Big Sky Golf Course’s annual pass holders after his round. He mentioned that he only hit 17 percent of the greens in regulation–or only two of 18 greens–and still shot 75. That means he got up and down for par roughly 70 percent of the time. 

This type of short game proficiency leads to lower scores.

So do yourself a favor and treat the short shots around the green very seriously. Take your time practicing the shots. Use lots of imagination and get creative with club selection. Make sure to always pick a landing area on the green and focus on that spot when making rehearsal swings.  

A good drill for practice is to take 10 balls and chip them from various spots around the green to a hole and then go finish out with the putt or putts. Keep track of your total score. To gauge your performance, consider the tour average for getting up and down is over 60 percent. That means a tour player with 10 balls around the green would average a score of 24. Hitting the ball to the green is fun but getting the ball in the hole from there efficiently is rewarding and way less stressful, which means more fun!

Mark Wehrman is the Head Golf Professional at the Big Sky Resort Golf Course and is the three-time recipient of the RMSPGA Horton Smith Award recognizing PGA Professionals who are model educators of PGA Golf Professionals. Wehrman has also been awarded the RMSPGA Resort Merchandiser of the year.

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