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  • Stephen Arnold

Testing the short game- what do we need to control?

January 23, 2020


After getting the long game in a better direction, it is time to move on to the short game assessments. For those that believe that short game is the most important part of golf, I would urge you to read “Every Shot Counts” by Mark Brodie. It is a great statistical breakdown of the different aspects of the game and how important each component is.


While the short game may not be the most important part of the game, I do believe that having a good short game can do wonders for both your scoring and your psyche. The more comfortable you feel in your ability to, at minimum, get the ball on the green if you miss it, the more you can minimize the pressure on your ball striking.


My other favorite part of both short game and putting is that they are both far more skill oriented. If you want to hit the ball 300 yards and your swing speed is only 90mph, the math isn’t going to add up. Short game and putting are far more about control, which means that almost anyone can have a great short game.


When we get into assessing skills in the short game there are three major components that players need to be able to control. Contact is always number one. Since I have spent plenty of time on contact, I’m not going to add any more at this time. The two other key components to shots around the green are your ability to control trajectory(launch angle) as well as carry distance. Whenever we asses a shot around the green we have to determine where we want to land it, and the height it needs to come in from to get the ball to stop in the desired position. These two assessments test your ability to do each aspect.


To test yourself on these two skills I have two different ladder drills. The first one is a vertical ladder. I have attached a video of myself doing it, with the corresponding Trackman data.

The goal of the drill is to chip a ball through each window and then go over the top bar, controlling the trajectory and increasing the height with each one. This practice tool is easily assembled and cost me 27$ at Lowe’s in PVC pipe. Because I did the test with a lob wedge, I was not able to hit it low enough to get through the bottom window. But if you look at the launch angle changes each shot goes up by 5-7 degrees, showing I can both change and control the launch angle. The other interesting note is that there was 12mph more clubhead speed on the high shot as opposed to the lowest one, and the resulting carry distance was only 2 yards longer. The higher you plan on hitting a shot, the more you need to be prepared to give it speed. The goal is to hit each shot higher than the last, which club you choose to use will determine which windows you can hit. A successful test would maintain contact and increase height on each shot.

The second assessment is on distance control. Again, I’ve attached a video of me taking the test and the corresponding data. For this test the windows are on the ground. I use alignment sticks and place them about 3 feet apart. The goal of the drill is to hit the shortest window first and then move up the ladder until you fly the last shot past the last stick. If you hit the first target you move on to the second, you cannot move on to the third until you hit the second.

In my test I missed the third window and had to go back up. In total it took me 6 balls to complete the 5-window test. I like this test because you can monitor progress very well. If it takes you 10 shots to knock out the targets the first time, then you have your baseline to monitor progress. If you knock them all on the first try, make the windows smaller. This can be done at any distance you like, I generally like to have the first window between 5-10 yards to start though. Also, this drill should be done with 1 trajectory. I like to start with a medium height shot, once you get that down you can do it with low or high. If you notice in the Trackman data, the launch angles for each shot are very similar.

If you are able to complete these two assessments then your short game should be headed in the right direction. From there it is experimenting with shots around the green to get comfortable with what shot to play and where it needs to land. As always, I hope you find this helpful and feel free to email or call anytime if you have any questions.


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