Just How Good Can Your Short Game Get?
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The story of Phil Mickelson's play on the last hole at Torrey Pines has drawn tons of criticism. "He should have gone for it" being the most common criticism of his decision to lay up on his second shot. If you read the explanation he gave, his lie was not good enough for a 3-wood, and his hybrid would not have cleared the water from that lie with the grass laying against him. So, Phil opted to lay up to a range where he was confident he could have a chance to hole out from the fairway. And he nearly did. Wouldn’t that have been a fabulous ending??!!
In other words, Phil had more confidence in his ability to hole out from 72 yards, than he did on pulling off a “hero” shot with a 3-wood or hybrid from a nasty lie. Why? Because he practices his wedges religiously and knows how to hit a precise wedge from nearly any distance. And that’s because he hits 1,500 shots a month at towels on the ground at various distances. And he’s done that for seven years! You can bet for sure that he doesn’t practice that many shots in a lifetime with a wood or hybrid from a similar nasty lie.
To me, there are several lessons to be learned here. Phil is unquestionably one of the finest short game practitioners to ever play the game. He is skilled, has a surgeon’s touch and knows how to get a ball from ‘A’ to ‘B’ in more ways than probably anyone. Is that God-given talent? There has to be that element. But in my opinion, it’s more about drive, ambition, dedication and fun. And because it’s fun, Phil practices his short game more than most others out there . . . maybe anyone else out there.
Another short game wizard of his time, Tom Watson, wrote a wonderful book on the short game called “Getting Up and Down”. I highly recommend it to you as a great read. In it, he explains that his father introduced him to golf when he was just a tyke, with a putter and ball on the practice green. He got the biggest thrill, he said, when that ball would go in the hole. And from that very beginning, he said he rarely rakes a ball away from the hole, as that final act is the entire objective of any golf hole.
So if the sight of the ball going in the hole, regardless of the distance, is the most enjoyable thing . . . the closer you get to the hole . . . the better your chances of seeing that payoff . . . the more fun the shot has to be. Right? But how many of us play that way? In your last round of golf, on how many of the 18 holes did you actually get to reach down and get your ball out of the hole, rather than have your buddy knock it back to you from a foot or two away? In Watson’s world, and I would imagine Phil’s as well, that would be denying you the ultimate pleasure of having traversed the 4-600 yards to get to that point.
My point today is that if you want to score, have Phil’s dedication to the short game be your guide and inspiration. Few of us have the physical skills, nor the time, to even come close to matching the PGA Tour players’ shotmaking and power. But if we spent an hour or two a week on and around the practice green, or even at the local school yard, working on our wedge play techniques and skills, it would pay off in multiples every time you tee it up.
I’m just sayin . . . . .
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
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Terry, I agree 100% with you. I have struggled with my wedges but I have practiced, and it has paid off. I bought a wedge from you and the book that you sent me has really helped me get more out of my wedges. With the skycaddie It is really easy to measure your distance. George White
I think it was the right decision to lay up. He got the birdie. What were his chances of getting an eagle? I love the way Phil plays the game. Nobody is more exciting than Phil.
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