1. Pros don't hit a shot unless they see it.
They picture the trajectory, the landing place, the spin and the roll out. They check out the green for the best place to land it and their goal is predictability. They want to be able to predict how the shot they hit will match the situation. That means they become masters at controlling their variables of speed, trajectory and spin with all of their wedges. In addition to the things they can control, they also look closely at their lie, the surface they will land it on and the slope of the green.
Listen to Jordan Spieth talk through this short game shot. He talks about club choice, landing area, spin, roll out, slide (using bounce), feel of swing and predictability. He even mentions that he is choosing a shot that doesn't have to be perfect, but will provide some room for error.
Within this idea of seeing the shot prior to hitting it is that pros are always working their shots to the hole, while amateurs are often working their shots away from the hole? By that I mean that pros are reading the break on any shot they hit and working the ball into the hole from the high side at the proper speed. Most amateurs are short and low side with their short game shots or even worse, low side and long, so the ball works away from the hole even further.
If you want to improve your short game, work on controlling your variables of speed, trajectory and spin. If you don't know how, take a lesson and learn and then practice, practice, practice. Next, spend time hitting shots that vary so you get better at predicting the outcomes of hitting into hills, hitting into flats, using spin or using low lofted clubs. You can increase your experience if you vary your practice.
2. Pros control the entire club; the handle, the shaft, the head and the face.
How? First, they take enough swing to create momentum. Many amateurs take too little backswing and then hit shots by throwing the club head through the ball to create the speed needed. When you throw the clubhead, the handle of the club stalls or works back. Pros match their back and through swings to resemble pendulums. These swings have beautiful tempo. If you ask a pro, he or she will tell you that they are accelerating and that it's important for the hands and arms to swing, but in fact, their acceleration comes from their turn, their momentum and their arm swing. All of these things match beautifully to create tempo. They all have perfect control of the handle of the club and only slide the club head forward of the handle when they want to hit a shot that flies high and lands soft.
Here is an example of a pro swinging the handle beautifully.
An Byeong-hun hits a pitch shot in super slo-mo.
If you are in control of your club, you will be in control of the bottom of your swing. That might be one of the key components of a good short game. If the bottom of your swing is past the ball, you can use the bounce of the club or the front edge.
If you want to see what it looks like to bottom out before the ball, stop this video at :17 and you will see that even the very best at times lose control of the bottom of their swing.
Amateurs are afraid of the bounce of the club, because the bottom of their swings is generally before the ball and the bounce causes the club to bounce into the ball and creates a bladed shot. If you move the bottom of your swing to a few inches past the ball, you can contact the ground with the bounce instead of the front edge and create soft shots that spin. When you don't want to spin it, use the front edge of the club and create a steeper swing. Learn to use your club as a tool and control the entire club.
Trevino explains how NOT to spin it by using the front edge of the club. Not only was Trevino a master around the greens, he was willing to share his knowledge and talk to amateurs about their tendencies.
Azinger uses the toe of his club to ensure using the bounce of the club. He is in control of the tool.
Here is a great shot in slow motion of Jennifer Song pitching the ball. She uses the bounce of the club and is clearly in control of the entire club. Notice how well she turns through the shot and how she allows the club to open in the backswing and holds it open through to the finish.
3. Pros choose to be shallow or steep based on what is called for from the shot.
The wrists hinge as much as needed based on the lie of the ball. These guys and gals are so good, they can spin either shot through control of the face and bounce. Most shots will be shallow if possible. Deep rough calls for more steepness, as does
Here are some chips and pitches from Tiger. Most are from deep rough and require a lot of hinge in the back swing. All are testaments to his talent. Notice the through swings are controlled.
This is a beautiful shot from Bud Cauley. He is in deep rough and needs to hit it high and stop it fast. He gets the club up steep so he doesn't get a lot of grass between the club and the ball. He uses the bounce of the club by cupping the left wrist and sliding the face under the ball. The conditions created his technique.
4. Pros understand their rotation is the key to success.
5. Pros hinge, but they don't have too much wrist motion after the initial hinge.
Here is a great slow motion clip of Phil Mickleson hitting a wedge. Notice a few things; he isn't wristy, but instead hinges a bit in the back swing and holds it through with solid hands. He rotates through to face the target when finished. His swing length matches back and through. The club head doesn't race ahead of his hands.
6. Pros practice these shots!
I want to give a shout out to RollYourRock on YouTube. This channel posts great video of short game, putting and interesting golf content. I love it and it is a "go to" channel when teaching.