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Short Game Creativity: 3 Tips for Better Approaches

Tiger Woods on the golf course

Guest Post by Brandon DiCroce @ Fairway Approach

When you think of short game creativity, the first names that come to mind are Professional players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Justin Thomas. No matter what situation they find themselves in, they always seem to come up with the right shot when they’re near the green, and nearly always pull it off. Yet, for all the creativity they have, they use the same basic wedges and short irons that we use.

As a serious golfer, any time you have a wedge or short iron in your hand, you should be in a position to score. We see many amateurs struggle with club and shot selection inside of 120 yards because they don’t have enough creativity in how they use their different wedges to get their approach shot close to the pin.

Here are our top 3 tips around to improve your short game through a little bit of creativity.

1.   Stop Making Every Approach Shot a Full Swing

This is something that the Pro Golfers excel at, while many amateurs really struggle with it; not every shot needs to be a full golf swing. Oftentimes with a wedge in their hands, you’ll see players like Justin Thomas take a smooth half swing and add some spin and finesse to their shot, placing it exactly where they want it to be.

At around 100 yards, I have 3 different clubs that I can use to hit that distance, and each of these shots is useful to have. From this distance, my stock club to hit this shot is a 56 degree. That said, I usually prefer to hit a ¾ swing 52 degree or even a ½ swing pitching wedge to produce the same distance. Using these different clubs and experimenting gives you control over your situation; if there’s a lot of wind to contend with, you want to be able to hit a lower trajectory knock down shot to avoid getting held up and coming up 20 yards short.

Experimenting with different clubs at the same distance adds versatility to your bag, and gives you more than one option. Having more options gives you more control over the ball, and will give you a better chance at getting close to the pin.

2.   Be Comfortable with Different Chip Shots

A lot of high handicap players pigeon hole themselves by only having one club they feel comfortable chipping around the green with, and it’s usually a sand wedge or a lob wedge. While these are great clubs to be able to hit a high trajectory chip with, many times you don’t need that shot, and are actually hurting your chances of getting close to the pin. It’s amazing how often we see amateurs that can hit a flop shot, but can’t hit a bump and run or a chip that will run out and settle by the pin.

Our advice here is to use different wedges around the green. Not every chip shot needs to be lofted. These lofted shots are really used best when you have a hazard or an obstacle that you need to cross. If you have more green to work with, try using your gap wedge or pitching wedge to hit a lower trajectory shot; a general rule of thumb on better chip shots is to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible. Learning how to hit a bump and run, or a well executed chip shot gives you options as you read a green and evaluate how to play your shot.

3.   Put Away the Lob Wedge

Seriously, put it away. While it’s smart to carry a good lob wedge like a 58 or a 60 degree wedge, it should stay in your golf bag for most of the round unless you’re a low handicapper. A lob wedge is really the most useful out of the sand, or in do or die situations where you need to get a ton of loft and spin on your approach shot. If you have a pin that is very close to the edge of the green you’re approaching from, that’s your best opportunity to use the club. Other than these situations, you really don’t need to pull this club out. Hitting a lob wedge from the fairway is just asking to hit a fat, chunky shot that doesn’t make the green. I’ve seen this a million times, and it pains me every single time.

So what should you do instead? Use your other wedges, of course! Instead of using your lob wedge, most of the time you’ll get plenty of loft and bite from a lower lofted sand wedge, gap wedge or even a pitching wedge. By using the natural bounce of your wedge, you should be able to produce plenty of loft on a chip or even an approach shot. By using one of these other wedges you’ll be less likely to duff the ball, instead placing it nicely on the green.

Final Thoughts

You have the most opportunities for creativity when you’re within 100 yards of the green, and just around the pin. Experiment with different clubs and trajectories to add more versatility to your golf bag. Being able to choose from a few different shot options will leave you feeling more confident around the green, and give you a better shot at lowering your score. Put more practice into these different shot types on the range, practice green and even during a practice round on the course and you’ll immediately find yourself shooting lower scores consistently.