Any time your ball gets inside that red 100-yard plate in the middle of the fairway, you've entered the scoring zone. Unless you have a truly horrible lie, make it your mind-set to get it in the hole in two strokes--certainly no more than three--from here. A proficient short game is the fastest way to lower your scores--period. Here I'm going to show you how to hit better shots and get up and down from five crucial spots inside the scoring zone.
FINISH THE TWO SIDES
On average, PGA Tour pros hit the ball inside 20 feet from this distance. Amateurs aren't nearly as good because they usually don't take enough club and then make a wild swing. To find the green more often, pick a club that allows you to comfortably hit the ball 100 yards, not a club that has a maximum range of 100 yards. Make a long, rhythmic swing, completing the backswing and then swinging all the way to a full finish. Short and quick will never be consistent.
POINT THE GRIP BACK AT YOU
Many golfers make poor contact or come up short on a wedge shot from less than the club's full distance. Typically, they're afraid of hitting the ball too far so they make a weak, handsy swing with little body rotation. To hit this shot, let your body rotate. The butt end of the club should point at your belt buckle as you start back and again as you swing through the ball (right). This keeps your body rotating for solid contact.
If you struggle from greenside bunkers or your shots routinely stop short of the hole, it's probably because you're not making a big enough swing. The most important thing to remember is that the sand moves the ball. To get the ball to the hole, think about splashing the sand that's under the ball onto the green (above). This requires a longer swing than you might think for a greenside shot. If you focus on hitting the sand, instead of the ball, you'll have more success getting these shots to the hole because you won't stop the club at impact.
Chipping effectively, especially off of tight lies, is a skill you can master if you focus on the grip end of the club--instead of the clubhead. Feel what your hands are doing when you chip the ball solidly. For example, your right wrist should stay cupped, or bent back, with the handle leading the clubhead throughout the stroke. To help groove this critical position, practice making right-hand-only swings with a ball wedged between your wrist and the grip.
LOOK AT THE LAST FEW FEET
On long lags or even putts in the 15- or 20-foot range, walk up to the hole and read the last three feet. This is where most of the break will occur, because slope and grain affect the ball most when it loses speed. Remember, the ball doesn't travel at the same pace for the entire putt, so consider how it will roll when it begins to slow down. And then allow for that extra break in your overall read.
Ranked by his peers among Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers in America, REINMUTH runs the Dean Reinmuth Golf School in San Diego and also teaches at the nearby Santaluz Club. He works with several tour players, including Ricky Barnes.