Go back over your last round of golf and add up how many shots you took with your wedges & in … meaning anything from wedge distance and closer, such as wedge shots, pitches, chips, bunker shots and putts. I’m pretty sure it will be close to two-thirds of your total score, certainly at least half. That kind of tells us something, don’t you think? To me the old saying, “Drive for show and putt for dough” is almost correct. I think the ‘putt for dough’ part extends more to wedges & in, because the shorter clubs really do make or break your score.
So it would make sense to spend the majority of our time practising these shots, right? Well, unfortunately, most golf course practice areas don’t seem to think so. Usually I see people whaling away with the longer clubs while the short game area is fairly vacant. During my playing days, I came up with a ratio of 2:1 for the amount of time to spend on wedges & in compared to the longer clubs. If I had three hours to practise, I’d spend two hours on wedges & in and one hour on driver through 9-iron. For most amateurs out there, you may only get an hour now and then to do some practice. If so, try to spend 40 minutes on wedges & in and 20 minutes on the full swing, or at the very least 30 minutes on each. Just through structuring practice this way your scores will come down. You’ll develop the necessary feel and touch with your scoring clubs that translates into saved shots on the course.
Then vary things up during practice. For instance, don’t just hit regular chip shots. Try uphill and downhill ones, bump-n-runs, flop shots, some from the rough and combinations of all these. Same with bunker shots. Practise from uphill and downhill lies. Use different clubs out of the sand, not just your sand wedge. See how the ball reacts with a pitching wedge or even an 8-iron from a greenside bunker.
‘You’ll find shots you probably didn’t know you had
just by experimenting.’
That’s what the practice area is for: to try different things and see what works and what doesn’t. With your full wedge shots, focus on rhythm and timing so you get a consistent distance each time. Knowing how far these clubs go is a great asset to have on the course.
For putting practice I like to spend a little time on technique first to make sure things are on track then play a variety of games to keep it interesting and fun. My favourite of late is to start at any hole on the practice green with a bunch of balls and putt one ball to every available hole on the green. Hole each ball out and then putt back to the hole you started at. If there are six vacant holes, you will have six attempts out and six back, totalling 12 attempts. Every hole is a par 2. Keep score, then switch holes and start again. You’ll encounter a variety of distances, breaks and slopes to help improve your feel and touch, plus by keeping score you make it competitive to see which hole wins.
Structuring your practice like this will not only help you become a short-game whiz, but it’ll take the pressure off your long game too, so you can still whale away on the long ball.