Walk up to the training facilities at any golf course and what I think you’ll find is this: most people are hitting balls on the range, and a few people are chipping or putting around the greens.
I’ve always been a firm believer in the value of practicing putting and the impact it can have on your game. But rather than me going on about the importance of putting again, let’s include chipping and bunker shots to the equation and speak about the short game as a whole. The reason being – I think we should all invest most of our time on the golf course (apart from actually playing) around the greens, practicing our short games.
When I went to practice the other day (for the first time in 2021 may I add) I was accompanied by my boyfriend, who hasn’t played golf for very long. He got his green card back in 2018 after practicing and playing just a bit that summer, but he hasn’t played too many rounds since.
As we got back out on the course the other day, we discussed the differences between hitting balls and practicing chipping and putting. And he said something that made me, as a putting enthusiast, very happy. He explained how although he likes hitting balls on the range, he thinks that the short game is the part of his game that he’ll need to spend most of his time practicing if he wants to get better. How far or how good I hit the ball won’t necessarily differ so much from other players, he said, but the way I’m able to get it up and down around the greens will. He also said that after not playing or practicing for months, he didn’t think he had lost that much in terms of his swing. But in terms of chipping and putting, he felt those parts of the game were the most difficult to get back into. And I agree. I do think that the short game requires another type of touch than the long game and that it’s more of a perishable skill.
So why do so many golfers spend almost all of their time trying to perfect their swings on the course? I think there might be two answers. Either they don’t think that the short game is as important (and definitely not more important) than the long game. Or maybe they know the importance of being good around the greens, but they simply don’t enjoy practicing their short game so therefore simply opt for hitting balls on the range instead.
And I’m not trying to throw stones in a glass house here, because I do too, enjoy hitting balls on the range. But despite that, I think it’s important to recognize the impact that spending a bit more time around the greens can have. Putting alone makes up for approximately 40% of a golf score, at essentially all levels. I think I’ve mentioned this statistic before but it’s so powerful it can’t be said enough times.
Think about how many greens you hit per round and how often you’re faced with a short game shot to try and save par. All together – putts, chip shots, bunker shots – make up a huge portion of our score. And that’s why the easiest way to see our scores drop, is to spend more time practicing those shots around the greens.
Another way to look at it is through the games of the pros. If you turn on the TV any given week and watch the LPGA Tour or the PGA Tour, I’m sure you’ll find that there isn’t too big of a difference between how the pros hit the ball. Sure, some of them hit it further and some of them hit it straighter. Their swings also look different. But overall, they all hit the ball well and they all know how to play a golf course from tee to green. Where you can see the real difference in their games, however, is in their short games. Those who do very well during a week on the tour, are typically those who putt well and are able to get themselves out of demanding situations around the greens. It’s all about the short game. Championships are won on the greens.
Let’s be clear that I’m not saying that you should give up your sessions on the range completely. Getting the ball in play and being able to reach the greens on the correct number of shots is important. And to do that you have to practice your swing. However, if you find yourself spending the majority of your practice time on the range rather than around the greens, you might want to rethink your practice structure. Especially if you only have a limited amount of time to spend at the course. And even if you belong to the group of golfers who don’t enjoy practicing their short game right now, I’m sure you’ll change your mind once you start seeing your scores drop. Because like I said before, improving your short game is the easiest way to shave strokes of your score. And the first step to improve your short game, is spending more time around the greens.
This certainly applies to me too, and as I’m starting to return to the golf course for this upcoming season, you’ll know where to find me when I’m not out playing… around the greens, practicing my short game.