Sunday's shootout in the desert was a classic David versus Goliath confrontation as Mark Wilson and Robert Garrigus went toe to toe in the final round and David came out on top. Using superior short game shots like his hole-out from a bunker on the 12th and making some clutch putts down the stretch, Mark Wilson overcame power to win for the 5th time on the PGA Tour.
I had no favorite as I watched the tourney here in the beautiful Palm Springs valley, but it is much easier to talk about ways to improve your short game than it is to become a bomber of the golf ball. Sure there are certain techniques that a golfer could work on to improve distance, but I think all of you normal golfers out there should learn a great lesson from this matchup. Getting the ball in the hole from around the green always beats the long ball, especially at the club level.
Ask yourself an honest question right now. How many greens did you hit in regulation the last time you played your course? If you say 9 you are a heck of a player but most of you will realistically come up with maybe 3 or 4 times in your 18 holes. At best, that leaves you 14 chances to get up and down and the number of times you pull that off will make or break a normal round. Let's talk about a couple of putting and chipping/pitching drills to have fun working on this part of your game.
Putting wise, take 5 balls and make yourself a putting tree at about 2 foot intervals from the hole and start holing out. Once you can make 3 or 4 out of 5, then just use one ball and try to 2 putt at all kinds of different distance and break on the putting green. Always use just one ball prior to your round as that one chance is all you will get on course. This will make you focus on holing out and that can only help your overall score.
From off the green, using chips and pitches with your lob or sand wedge, try to get the ball closer in a competition with one of your playing partners. Put your ball in all types of strange lies, the type you see on the course, and see what type of shot and with what force works best for you. After some work, you will take pressure off your approach shot as you know you can get the ball up and down and that's a great feeling for any player.
In closing, don't let the mechanics of your full swing fail but please practice your short game much more than you do now. Once your holing out improves from around the green, you will see your scores fall and golf will become easier as pressure will come off the rest of your game. Enjoy the work, take some money off your friends and see your handicap fall to a number you can be proud of. Good luck, work hard and talk to you soon!
Barry Clayton is the Director of Instruction at Westin Mission Hills Resort, a Golf Digest School in Rancho Mirage, CA
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