Phil Mickelson's Short-Game Clinic

April 2009

EDITOR'S NOTE: The happy golfer is the one who's getting better. Fortunately, there are many ways to boost your game, from practicing harder to making a swing change to finding the one tip that makes everything click. On the following pages -- our annual Make Me Better package -- we'll give you plenty to get happy about.

Leading the charge this year is Phil Mickelson. Phil has been a Golf Digest playing editor for more than 15 years, so he knows a thing or two about how we try to help golfers like you.

He's also pretty keen around the greens, so we asked him to reveal the short-game secrets that have made him a guy the other pros watch. Phil's coach, Golf Digest Teaching Professional Butch Harmon, adds his favorite full-swing tips.

Then we turn to stats whiz Peter Sanders, who calculates based on skill level how many greens you should hit and putts you should make from various distances. Golf Digest Teaching Professional Dean Reinmuth gives advice on both.

Finally, we asked PGA Tour players to tell us how they improved in areas the stats said were holding them back. (Track your own stats at What worked for them might be just what you need. Remember you have to find the best route for you to improve your game. And be happy.

TIP+VIDEO: Phil's Putting Routine

Basic concepts come first

A solid game from 50 yards and in is all about following a small set of basic principles. Excel at them, and you'll be able to pull off almost any shot.

The first principle is what I call "hinge and hold." For crisp contact and good distance control on all greenside shots, hinge your wrists very early on the backswing (left) and avoid swinging your lead arm back more than necessary. On the downswing, feel like you maintain the hinge, so your hands remain ahead of the clubhead for a descending strike (lower photo).

Butch on ball position

The average golfer plays the ball too far forward with the driver. This causes the shoulders and hips to shift open, and the right arm to get too straight. From there, the player swings the club back steeply and to the outside. Plus, the backswing turn is restricted. To position the ball correctly with the driver, line it up with the breast logo on your shirt, or just inside your left heel.

Keep the hands moving

Another key principle is to accelerate your hands on the downswing and keep accelerating them toward the target until well after the ball is gone (below). Slowing your hands is a killer because it ruins your release, changes impact conditions and often causes you to hit the shot fat.

A related concept is to maintain the loft of your wedge through impact and beyond, the face aimed at the sky for as long as possible (far right). Note how I haven't allowed my wrists to roll over. I want to keep the same clubface loft I established at address.

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