Whether you dream of becoming a scratch golfer or just want to break 90 more consistently, nothing is going to help you shoot lower scores in the game of golf than dialing in your short game. So in this top golf short game tips and drills article you are going to learn some awesome short game tips to help your game.
Sure, the golf equipment companies are going to push longer drivers and farther flying balls more often than anything else – but the old adage that you “drive for show and putt for dough” still remains true today.
Get your short game right and you’ll be able to take 10 or 15 strokes off of your game almost immediately. Really dial this part of your game in and you’ll start putting up scores lower than you ever thought possible.
To help you hit the ground running, we put together a quick breakdown of golf short game tips and drills you want to zero in on.
All of these golf short game tips and drills have the potential to change your game for the better almost overnight. Practice them religiously – focusing on form more than anything else at first – and you’ll start penciling in a lot more birdies than bogies for sure.
Let’s jump right in!
Table of Contents
Short Game Mindset Tips
Mastering your short game (and the game of golf in general, really) comes down to what you have between your ears more than what you have in your golf bag 99.99% of the time.
You could have the best equipment in the world, perfectly fitted to you and your swing specifically, and the most scientifically overengineered golf ball on the planet, and you’d still play terribly if your mind wasn’t sharp.
This is especially true when you are reaching for shorter irons, wedges, and your putter.
The closer you get to the pin the more you have to think, the less you can rely on pure athleticism, and the more strategic you have to be with your shots. This is when the pressure starts to mount when things are most likely to go a little haywire, and when you need to rely on mental training most.
The first thing you’ll want to do is come up with a pre-shot routine for approach shots to the green, chip shots, and putts that you cement every time you play these kinds of shots.
Your pre-shot routine can be unique and specific to you (and it probably should be), but it’s not a bad idea to run through these key checkpoints:
- Where are you on the course and what kind of lie are you working with?
- Where is the pin and where do you need the ball to land and finish?
- What kinds of obstacles do you have to overcome to get the ball where you need it to go?
- What environmental factors do you need to figure in (wind, elevation, slope, etc.)?
- How’s your breathing?
- Where is your focus?
Those mental checkpoints going to lock you into your next shot, giving you a significant advantage over the short game “chunkers” that grab a wedge, grip, and rip, and just sort of hope for the best.
You’ll want to run through a couple of quick practice swings after you mentally layout how you want your shot to go, how you want it to be shaking, and where you want it to land and run (if you want it to run), too.
If you notice yourself getting tight take a step back, have a couple of deep breaths, and then run through the mental checkpoints we highlighted above again.
Block out everything you can except for the shot you have to make and then let it rip. Let the physical skills you developed using the golf short game tips and drills we highlight below take care of the rest!
Short Game Drills That Really Work
Hulu Hoop Chip Game
Short game drills should be all about developing touch and finesse, and nothing’s going to help you do that more than shooting to a consistent target.
Get your hands on a hula hoop (or three) and set them out on a practice green or even just in your backyard. Situate yourself anywhere from 120 yards to 20 yards away from these hula hoops (ideally with different hoops at different distances) and then start chipping to those targets.
Remember, though, that the goal isn’t just to land your shot inside of those hula hoops (though that’s not a bad goal to start off with).
The idea is to land your shots inside of those hula hoops and to keep the ball inside of them as well – or, at longer distances, to land golf balls outside of the hula hoops but then to roll them into those targets when the ball starts moving.
This kind of practice is going to help you figure out what kind of swing you need to put on different kinds of shots. It’s also going to help you with your distances, working through your short irons (your eight and nine iron as well as your wedges) while at the same time helping you learn how to land a ball in one spot on the course to let it run out to the spot you want it to start back.
Coin Chip Cleanup
This golf drill is something that you can do in the comfort of your home (so long as you have a bit of carpet to work with) and is really easy to get into.
Drop a handful of coins down on the floor (start with quarters and then work your way down to dimes), spacing them out a little bit but keeping them in the same general area.
Take out your wedges and (one by one) use those wedges to flip the coins into the air on each swing.
This is going to help you in a couple of different ways.
Straightaway, it’s going to help you with your wedge accuracy.
Over time you’ll be able to move a swing that picks up a dime right in the sweet spot of your wedge without digging into your carpet. This is going to allow you to “pick” balls right up off of the fairway or the rough without digging into the sod or the dirt.
You’ll also learn to let the bounce of your club handle the heavy lifting of moving you through the ground so that your ball moves in a consistent and accurate way. You’ll start to trust your club to work the way it was designed to rather than try to “muscle” shots the way you might have in the past.
Once you get the hang of things you can set a bowl or a cup down on your carpet and work to chip coins into it with your wedges. This will teach you a lot about loft and bounce, too!
Flop Shots “Over the Cow”
Flop shots with a full-blown 60° wedge aren’t all that common on the golf course, a large part because they are so difficult (even for professionals) to knock out consistently.
At the same time, there are definitely going to be situations when you are playing that require you to punch a skyhigh shot over an obstacle (maybe to clear a hill, to get over traps near the green, etc.) in this is definitely a skill you’ll want to have in your back pocket.
Take your wedges out and get a folding chair or use your golf bag as an obstacle to place in front of a handful of balls.
The object of this drill is to then flop your golf balls over the obstacle, working to flip the ball up in the air with the loft of the club (and maybe even a more open face) while controlling the way it comes down and rolls out, too.
After you get the hang of popping things up with all of your wedges it’s not a bad idea to put a hula hoop on the other side of your obstacle. The objective of the drill then changes from just trying to clear the obstacle in the air but also trying to land and stop inside of that hula hoop, too.
It’s impossible not to become a short game master (especially with high lofted wedges) when you run this drill a couple of times each week.
In the Bucket
Some people call this drill the “slam dunk” drill, but at the end of the day the objective is the same – to hit different chip shots from a variety of different distances into a 5 gallon bucket, landing the ball in the bucket and keeping there.
This is a whole lot harder than you might think, especially when you are brand-new.
A 5 gallon bucket as a much smaller target area than a hula hoop, that’s for sure, and you’re really going to need to be dialed in with your short irons and wedges when you start to play this game.
At the same time, if you’re able to consistently dunk shots from different distances – say from between 80 yards and 5 yards away from the target – you’re going to have a short game that even PGA professional and short game legend Phil Mickelson would be envious of.
Shoot 15 to 20 shots at the end of every practice session into a bucket, trying to make at least half of them.
Ramp things up as you get better and better and before you know it you’ll be dropping approach shots and chips under the green with precision accuracy, turning yourself into a short game cruise missile.
Folding all of the golf short game tips and drills we highlighted above into your practice routine and your scores will drop a lot faster than you ever thought possible!