Over the past year or so, with Rory McIlroy performing so well and hitting it so far, a lot has been said about the importance of power in the modern game. But the reality is, you can’t worry about what anyone else is doing and how they are playing. Rory has a power game because that’s the way he does it. You have to play to your own strengths, whatever they may be. But regardless of whether you can hit the ball a long way or your pitching is a real strength or your fairway wood play is solid, one thing is important for all of us - the short game. This is vital because when you’re not playing very well, this is what turns an average day into a good one.
A typical short-game practice session for me involves going around the green in different positions with three balls, playing to different flags. The point here is that every position I go to gives me a different shot to play. I don’t just stand there with a lot of balls chipping to the same hole, practising the same shot and the same technique over and over again. By changing your position it forces you to constantly adapt and adjust your approach, which is exactly what you need on the course. Sometimes you need to stop the ball faster so you go a bit higher, and vice versa. This gives you a really good feel for the different techniques required in the short game.
Obviously, we play on courses all over the world with different grasses that require you to hit different short-game shots. I would say the same applies if you play regularly away from your home club - you have to adapt to the different ground conditions. Sometimes you hit your short-game shots a little harder and others softer. Sometimes it’s more of a bunker shot that’s required, sometimes you just need to smash it. Sometimes you just don’t have a clue!
Improving Your Short Game
Getting a better short game is all about practice, but one simple piece of advice I would offer is the faster you can get the ball on the ground running, the better. It’s harder to fly the ball the whole way there and get it to stop, as you need to make perfect contact every time. For amateurs, the quicker you can get it on the ground running, the better - you have more margin for error on the strike and the results will be more consistent. Also, don’t be afraid to get the putter out 10 yards away from the green, especially when it’s damp and wet underfoot and difficult to get a consistent strike. Ultimately, it’s about getting the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible and that’s the best way to do it.