BooksMarch 7, 2015

What you probably thought would help improve your short game might not really be the case

GolfDigest.com regularly highlights golf books we find of interest to readers. This week is:

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By James Sieckmann (foreword by Dr. Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute), Gotham Books, $27.95, hardback, 171 pages

Not only are golfers bombing it longer off the tee than decades ago, the distances at which they can be proficient with the short game seem to be increasing as well. That's if you use the 30-year evolution of short-game books as a measuring stick.

First was Tom Watson's 1983 classic, Getting Up and Down: How to Save Strokes from 40 Yards and In. Within the decade in 1989 came Raymond Floyd's From 60 Yards In: How to Master Golf's Short Game, and in the years after Floyd there were a few books that said you could be a short-game expert from 100 yards in. With James Sieckmann's new book, you can be good with the short game from 120 yards in; but he was beaten to 120 by Ted Hunt in his 2010 book, Ben Hogan's Short Game Simplified: The Secret to Hogan's Game from 120 Yards and In.

Related: Catch up on other Golf Digest book reviews

Watson and Floyd wrote from their careers as World Golf Hall of Fame players with a pair of the best short games in history. Sieckmann played professionally, and also soaked in playing knowledge from older brother Tom, a 17-year tour player with one victory. But James Sieckmann, who lists several dozen tour players as students of his, gathered his knowledge from studying great players -- including Seve Ballesteros and Floyd -- and devising a methodology he says takes the best features of great short-game players while going against some of the long-standing beliefs about short-game technique. He disagrees with such common thoughts as "don't let the club head pass the hands" and "lean toward the target at address." The operator of an academy at Shadow Ridge Country Club in Omaha, Neb., and prior to that a Dave Pelz School staff member, Sieckmann is insistent that hard work and diligence be a part of the learning process or improvement can't be achieved.

The focus of Sieckmann's method, which he professes to have been teaching since 1994, is the "finesse wedge system," which can be used for any wedge and for any shot situation. The system is a way to practice and learn based on what he observed from short-game artists. Some shots are named after a player, such as "The Raymond Floyd" for shots on an upslope. With its many charts, journal assignments and training plans, Short Game Solution reads more like a textbook or manual than a step-by-step, large-photo instruction book.

Being proficient at short shots is not a quick fix, it's a serious all-out effort, and Sieckmann's book gives you the blueprint to short-game proficiency if you're as serious as he is to learn. (Interestingly, Sieckmann presents the short-game swing as a different swing than the full swing, something that contrasts with what Tiger Woods has referred to with the recent work he has done with swing consultant Chris Como, where Woods says he is having trouble trying to match his short-game release patterns and impact points to those of his full swing.)

I particularly liked: The healthy number of drills spotted throughout. A good drill is often an amateur's best chance to understanding a technique and then master it. Also, many of the black-and-white sequence photos are run thumbnail size, making it tough to see details at times. An eight-page section of color sequences is a nice break from the smaller images and makes you wish every image was in color.

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