Titleist Tips: Get Creative to Improve Your Short Game

 Titleist staff instructor Tom Patri at Titleist's Manchester Lane Test Facility

If you think about the best wedge players on Tour, or even some of the best short game players that you've played with personally, what are some qualities that set them apart? You might say that they have great hands or softer touch than other players. You might marvel at their fearlessness and the risky shots they're able to pull off.

One thing you probably wouldn't say is that they're one-dimensional. Not too many short game magicians are chipping it out of sand traps.

If there's one common thread shared by great wedge players it's creativity. It's an ability to play a shot in countless imaginative ways, married with the wisdom to choose that one correct shot – the optimal combination of force, trajectory, spin and roll that provides the best odds to get the golf ball up and down.

Would you say that your short game is somewhat less than magical? If so, we have some great news. Titleist staff member Tom Patri spent some time at our Manchester Lane Test Facility recently and during his visit he assured us that great wedge players aren't born, they're made. As Tom shares in the following videos, to become creative in the short game, all you have to do is practice creatively.

We hope you enjoy the short game keys that follow. To learn more about Tom and the instructional programs he offers, check out his website at http://tompatri.com as well as his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels.

Thanks for the help, Tom!


Get Creative to Improve Your Short Game

"I tell my students that the two greatest short game teachers are Dr. Trial and Mr. Error. You have to try things. Experiment with your wedges – open and close the club face, move the ball position up and back in your stance, adjust your grip and move your hands up and down the handle – that's how you build an arsenal of shots to address any challenge you face around the greens." - Tom

In any short game situation, the first step is to determine what type of shot is called for. Can you hit a stock chip or pitch shot or do you need to adjust the height or spin on the shot? Is the green firm or soft? Into the grain or down-grain? Are you facing a tucked pin or do you have plenty of green to work with? Do you have a clean lie or will grass get between the ball and your club face? These are just a few of the factors you need to consider as you plan out your shot.

In the video above Tom faces a 30-40-yard pitch shot to a tucked pin with very little green to work with. This situation calls for a high shot that will fly onto the front of the green and stop quickly once it lands. If the pin were positioned towards the back of the green, he might play a lower trajectory shot that hits short of pin-high, but then releases to the hole.

To Hit a High Pitch Shot:

  • Use a club with more loft or add dynamic loft to the wedge by opening the face.
  • Move the ball position up in your stance, closer to your lead foot.
  • Open your stance to promote an out-to-in swing path.
  • Weaken (rotate counter-clockwise) the grip of your left hand (for a right-handed player).
  • At impact, feel like the club shaft is vertical or even leaning back away from the target slightly.
  • Accelerate through the shot, feeling the sole of the wedge slide under the ball.
  • Swing through to a high, full finish.


The Lost Art of the Intermediate Wedge

"The distance you hit a full shot with a wedge is only a reference, a starting point. Your ability to take the distance you hit a stock wedge and either bump it up or dial it down a few yards is paramount to your ability to shoot a good score." - Tom

Adding a little finesse to your distance wedge game can greatly increase the number of scoring opportunities you create from round to round. First order of business, know precisely how far (on average, from a good lie on flat terrain, in still wind conditions) you hit each wedge in your bag. These are your baseline distances from which you can make the same adjustments (ball position, stance, square, open or closed club face, shaft lean, etc.) to fit the distance and type of shot that is called for.

In the video above, Tom Patri hits an 85-yard shot to a front pin that is tucked right behind a bunker. To hit the high soft shot that the situation demands, he chooses his 100-yard club, a 52° Vokey SM7 gap wedge. To take off some distance, he moves the ball position up and opens the club face slightly. He also grips down on the handle of the club, shortening the arc of the swing, which reduces the speed of the club head.

If you face a full wedge shot with a pin position toward the back of the green, Tom suggests the following:

To Hit a Low Intermediate Wedge Shot:

  • Use a club with less loft.
  • Strengthen (rotate clockwise) the grip of your left hand (for a right-handed player).
  • Move the ball position back in your stance, closer to your trail foot.
  • Close your stance slightly to promote an in-to-out swing path that covers and traps the ball.
  • At impact, feel like your hands are ahead of the ball and the club shaft is leaning forward, toward the target.
  • Accelerate through the shot, feeling the face of the wedge drive into the back of the ball.
  • Make an abbreviated through-swing and finish with your hands low.
  • Envision a low shot that hits the middle of the green, takes one jump forward and then releases gently to the hole.


To Improve Your Bunker Play, Go on the Offensive

"The bunker shot has the greatest margin for error of any shot in the short game. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to keep the club accelerating. Seve Ballesteros taught me that to do this, you set up neutral or negative conditions – a weak grip, a very open club faceso that you can swing the club positively, offensively." - Tom

For many amateurs, the sight of their golf ball lying at the bottom of a greenside bunker can induce cold sweats. Because of this common fear, Tom Patri often describes bunker play as "the Darth Vader of golf". But with a few simple setup adjustments and an understanding that you must swing assertively, the light side of the force will be with you and bunkers will trouble you no longer.

Offensive Bunker Technique:

  • Open the face of the club to add loft and expose the bounce on the sole of the wedge.
  • Weaken (rotate counter-clockwise) the grip of your left hand (for a right-handed player) on the handle of the wedge.
  • Move the ball position up in your stance, closer to your lead foot.
  • Swing aggressively through the hitting area, making contact with the sand 2-3 inches behind the golf ball.
  • Keep the club moving. Be offensive!

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Team Titleist