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Father & Son Golfing

Short Game Tips for Beginners

Distance Control Drills to Help Any Golfer

Beginning golfers have a chance to improve quickly at the game, particularly if they start with the right fundamentals. In golf, the best way for a beginner (or anyone, for that matter) to improve is to work on their short game. Most golf pros will tell you that the skills required for a good short game can translate to your entire game and improve your efficiency.

Chris Foley of Cragun’s Legacy Courses in Brainerd also owns and operates Chris Foley Golf Schools, and he agrees that short game proficiency leads to overall performance.

“You have to cover all aspects of the game,” Foleys says. “Kids, especially, love to hit driver. But you have to come to the realization that the short game – let’s say inside 50 yards – is about 60 percent of our score or more. So if you want to score well, you have to spend some time in that area of your game.”

“I always stress, especially with kids, that you’re short game swing is really just a miniature version of your full swing. And the better you get at those shorter shots, it’s going to carry over into your full swing. It’s really difficult to become a good ball striker if you can’t hit a 20 yard pitch.”

Distance Matters

Foley says that distance control is the most important aspect of the short game to conquer. Whether you are chipping, pitching, or putting, controlling your distance is a great way to reduce strokes.

“Distance control on the putting green is the first thing we teach,” he said. “Because if you don’t have good distance control, if you can’t control the speed of the putt, it’s very difficult to get it close enough to make your second putt. If you don’t have good speed control, you don’t get many makeable putts inside of 10 feet.”

Foley says that putting distance control comes from making your backswing the same as it is going forward.

“We control distance with the length and pace of our stroke,” he said. “And the best putters have very symmetrical strokes. So if you swing back eight inches, your forward stroke should also be eight inches. That leads to more consistency and it’s easier to control distances that way.”

Distance Control Drills

For putting distance, Foley suggests the following drill:

“Put a golf club about 18 inches behind the hole and then drop balls at intervals of 10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet, and about 40 feet. Hit the short putt first, and try to get it in that zone between the hole and the golf club, and then move to the other balls. You have to think about the distance on each one, and vary the stroke lengths based on each distance.”

For chipping, Foley says the number one priority is solid contact, because you can’t control distance without it. He maintains that solid contact comes from the low point of the swing being in front of the golf ball, and most missed short game shots are missed because the low point of the club is behind the ball.

“So you end up either hitting the ball fat or the club is hitting the ball on the upswing and you hit it thin,” Foley said. “Whatever you can do to get that low point of the swing in front of the golf ball is going to encourage more solid contact–ball, then turf contact.”

For solid chipping contact, Foley says to start with a setup that puts a little more weight on the front (or target side) foot, and align the sternum and nose evenly or slightly ahead of the golf ball.

He suggests a chipping distance control drill designed to help you hit your landing point.

“For a chip shot, take a towel and put it on the green (starting from the edge) one-fourth of the way to the hole,” he said. “Then from five paces off the green, hit chip shots trying to land the ball on the towel and letting roll to the hole.

Working on your short game for solid contact and distance will help you develop touch and feel for all your clubs, and it will help your game immensely.

“The sooner beginners can learn to develop a sense of feel and touch, the better their game is going to be,” Foley said.


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