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Golf Tips from a Pro: Different shots brings different expectations

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The author receiving the Horton Smith Award from the Rocky Mountain Section PGA. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KASTNER / PGA


The past couple of weeks in the weekly Ladies and Saturday clinics have been spent working on the short game. The short game refers to chipping, pitching, putting and bunker shots. In other words, these shots are all played with what is commonly referred to as the “scoring clubs,” short irons and wedges. Throughout the series of these clinics, I have been preaching to my students the importance of the short game and the impact it has on your score. I am also very vocal about having the proper expectations for each type of shot.

The chip shot, better known as a “bump and run” type of shot is a very efficient shot around the green. The shot is played with a short iron, 7, 8, or 9 iron, and can be played with other clubs too like a 5 iron or wedge. The shot spends very little time in the air but spends most of the time rolling its way to the hole on the green. Because of its nature you should have high expectations for this shot and be looking to settle the ball within a 10-foot radius around the hole.  This gives you a very good chance of making the putt, hence getting “up and down.”

The pitch shot on the other hand has a higher degree of difficulty. This shot is played with a more lofted club, usually a wedge of some sort. Because it is played with a higher lofted club and slightly larger swing than the chip shot, the ball will spend more time in the air than on the ground.  Due to its nature our expectations for this shot should be to just get it on the green.  Even if you are left with a long putt over 30 feet, you don’t want to have to chip or pitch it again so just make sure you get it on the green, without worrying about how far it settles from the hole.

This current week we are working on putting, which might be the most boring part of the game to some, but is crucial when it comes to lowering your score. When we are putting, our goal should always be two putts or less. We always want to avoid the dreaded three-putt. When we three-putt, it is not because we miss our second putt. The three-putt has to do more with not lagging our first putt closer to the hole so we have a “tap-in” for our second putt. If you want to be a better putter and avoid those three-putts in the future you should spend your time on the practice green working on speed control. It is important to mention that we miss putts because of distance, not direction.

Finally, we have the bunker shot. The fundamentals and technique for the bunker shot defy everything we have learned in golf. It is a very difficult shot that is usually always played with a sand wedge. Because of the difficulty of the shot our expectations should be to just get it out of the bunker. You don’t want to have to hit it more than once out of the sand. Open up the face of the club head, lean in to your forward leg, aim 1-2 inches behind the ball and take a big swing back and through trying to push as much sand out of the bunker as you can.

So, in summary, when you are playing your shot around the green make sure you have clear expectations of what you want the end result to be. This will help you choose the right club, pick a landing area, and hopefully execute the shot to the best of your ability.

Mark Wehrman is the Head Golf Professional at the Big Sky Resort Golf Course and has been awarded the PGA Horton Smith Award recognizing PGA Professionals who are model educators of PGA Golf Professionals.

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