Genesis Invitational

Riviera Country Club

Short Game

5-Minute Clinic: Up & Down For Par

By Alex Fisher Photos by J.D. Cuban
May 25, 2016

Putting the time in to improve your full swing is important, but for pure return on practice investment, the short game is where you'll get the quickest deduction from your scores. You hit more of these kinds of shots than any other, and the fixes and adjustments required are things any player can handle physically. Make these changes to your pitching and chipping and spend an hour at the short-game practice area at your course, and you'll be hitting it closer to the hole more consistently by this weekend. Best of all, you can do it with the clubs you already have in your bag.—With Matthew Rudy

Focus on the Thumb

Controlling the height and spin of your pitch shots is a crucial skill if you want to consistently leave yourself makable putts. Keying on your right thumb will give you an easy focal point to switch from hitting high shots to low shots.

For a high shot with backspin, swing through impact and hold off the rotation of your hands so that your right thumb stays on the right side of the handle. To produce a lower shot that has some run, make the same swing but let your hands rotate through naturally. Your right thumb will end up on the left side of the grip.


Stand Like a One-legged Pirate

Hanging back is a death move in pitching. You've probably heard that you need to keep your weight on your lead leg, but that can be hard to feel. To make it happen, set up in your normal pitching stance, then pull your trailing foot back from the target line and lift its heel off the ground. Now hit regular shots from this one-legged-pirate stance. It's impossible to hang back when you don't have any way to support that weight. Now you can say goodbye to hitting it fat.


Follow It With Your Chest

Many players make the same mistakes in pitching. They freeze their bodies and swing with only their arms, or they make too much of a body turn for the size of the shot. The ideal motion is in the middle. Keep your chest facing the ball and make a backswing with your arms only, then let the chest turn slightly through impact, as if it were following the trajectory of the shot. If you don't add this chest rotation, your body will tilt away from the target at impact, and that's a recipe for fat or bladed shots.


Eliminate The Wrist Lever In Chipping

The fundamentals of chipping and pitching are very similar, with one major exception: On a chip shot, you don't need the wrists to work as an additional lever because you're not hitting the shot as high or as far as a pitch. To do it, move your hands down to the end of the grip, and swing back and through with firm (but not locked) wrists.