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Learning Golf- The Seven Foundations

Foundation 2: Perfect Your Short Game

by Dr. Ron Cruickshank

After many years of teaching people the game of golf, we have found that it is best to start by presenting the Fundamental Foundations which must be learned and mastered to competently play the game. By presenting these Foundations in sequential and manageable parts, the new golfer can set about the task of learning the game with confidence. The experienced golfer can have a template for getting better.

We teach these fundamentals as the SEVEN FOUNDATIONS of GOLF.  This article will just focus on Foundation 2.

Foundation 2 Perfect Your Short Game

If you want to improve your golf game quickly there are two important reasons to perfect your short game early. First, the short game shots make up between 60%-70% of all shots in the game. Second, it will give you the confidence to go play even if your full swing is not perfected yet. It makes a big difference when missing a green to know you will get up and down (in two shots) 3/4 of the time. This keeps your momentum going.

The Short Game is made up of pitching, chipping and bunker shots. We include putting in the short game also, but the physical movement is so fundamentally different that we treat putting as a separate skill.

Insights on Short Game Decision Making

  • First, you must understand your options so you can make good decisions. After assessing your lie and any barriers (like a bunker, rough or water) you must decide to hit the ball low or high. This is the time to visualize what kind of shot will get you closest to the hole.  If you can putt with no obstructions or tall grass in the way, we suggest this as your highest percentage shot. Your first goal is to ALWAYS get it on the green so your next shot will be a putt.
  • If you choose to hit it high: This will be a pitch The pitch shot has a high trajectory and is meant to stop quickly. Generally we say a pitch shot should fly in the air over 60% of the distance to the hole. Today’s modern clubs give you several types of club to choose from ranging from a Pitching Wedge, a Sand Wedge or a Lob Wedge that is designed to make the ball fly in a very high trajectory with enough backspin to have it check quickly on the green.
  • If you choose to hit it low: This will be a chip This shot is designed to fly about 20% of the total distance to the hole and then roll. We always recommend you hit it low and get the ball rolling on the green if possible because it is easier to control and predict.  You may use any club in your bag for a chip shot and should select the club based on how far the ball needs to roll after landing.

For example, if the flag is near you then a wedge or nine iron is a good choice. However, if the flag is all the way across the green it is often necessary to use a less lofted club like a 5 iron.

  • If your ball is in the greenside depression it is called a bunker (sand or grass). This is a specialized shot that many people are afraid of. In reality, it is not a hard shot because you don’t actually hit the ball, but rather the sand first. Given a little practice this shot will quickly be mastered.

We have used Foundation 2 to guide thousands of students in getting started. If you wish to become good at the game, simply adopt these Foundations as a roadmap to your learning process. It will guide your introduction to golf and you will soon begin to improve.  In future articles, I will give you insights about the other six Foundations.

The Seven Foundations of Learning Golf: An Overview

Foundation 1 Become a Consistent Ball Striker

Foundation 2 Perfect your Short Game

Foundation 3 Become a Good Putter

Foundation 4 Have Clubs that FIT your body, swing and game

Foundation 5 Become Confident at Course Management Skills

Foundation 6 Practice with Purpose

Foundation 7 Learn to Manage Your Mind and Emotions on the Course