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Golf Tips: Keep it simple around the greens

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Mark Wehrman, head golf pro at the Big Sky Golf Course, demonstrates proper chipping and pitching setup. PHOTO BY WILL SCHIRCLIFF


It’s no secret that the key to lower scores in golf is to have a proficient short game. The old adage of “drive for show and putt for dough” couldn’t be more true. So, if you are someone that tends to “throw away” strokes around the green I hope you have set a goal to work on that part of your game.

Why is it important to improve our game around the greens? Because every golfer I talk to will agree that they have more fun on the course the better they play. So, how can we improve this part of our game without complicating the process too much? We can do this by keeping our technique simple and sticking to the basics.

First, when deciding what type of shot to play around the green follow this one simple guideline: putt whenever you can. Your average putt is going to be better than your average chip. If you are on the fringe around the green and caught between a putt and a chip you should go with the higher percentage shot, which is the putt. 

If your ball is in the rough, now you have to either chip or pitch it. 

There are two factors to consider when choosing which shot to play: how far do you need to fly the ball to land it on the green and, how much green do you have to work with once it starts rolling. If the shot consists of less time in the air and more time rolling on the ground, it means you should chip it, which is the higher percentage shot. This shot, the chip, is played with a less lofted club like a 7 or 8 iron. If the ball will spend more time in the air and less time on the ground it means you are pitching the ball, using a more lofted club to execute the shot.

When executing either one of these shots it is important to keep the technique simple. Make sure your ball placement is in the back of your stance, keep your weight forward, and make sure your hands are tilted ahead of the ball with the butt of the club pointed at your left pocket. This setup process is referred to as “BLT.” Following these three simple setup rules, make a short backswing while not breaking your wrists and always accelerate through towards the target. Do not try to help or lift the ball in the air, instead make sure to hit down through the shot enabling the loft of the club to propel the ball in the air.

In summary, remember, putt whenever you can, chip when you can’t putt and pitch the ball only when you have to.  

If you follow these rules, and don’t try to complicate the technique, keeping it simple by not breaking your wrists you will find success with whatever type of shot you are faced with when playing around the greens.

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