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3 Short Game Tips for Tackling Tough Greens

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on

Sungjae Im of South Korea plays his shot from the bunker on the second hole during the second round of The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 08, 2022.Getty Images

Augusta National affords us the opportunity each year to see the worlds best trying to maneuver their way around some of the trickiest green complexes in golf. Probably nowhere else do we get to see just how good the short game and putting is among the top players in golf. At the same time, it also exposes how the best can struggle just as much as we can on tricky greens.
What can you take from watching the players in the field this week as they tackle the tricky and fast greens at Augusta National? The short answer is plenty.
Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) most of us won’t have many rounds on green complexes this difficult.
The Biggest Key
The guys in the field this week, in order to get an invite to The Masters, have proven that they are among the game’s best. What makes them the best is pre-tournament preparation and practice. Unlike all the other Major Championships, The Masters is played at the same venue every year, and that is indeed an advantage for the players. They know this place. We all know this place. And even if they are a rookie, playing in their first Masters, they usually get plenty of prep in.
Planning and preparation is the biggest key. You can see in practice rounds that they spend a great deal of time hitting short game shots and practicing putts, of various distances, to the different traditional hole locations. If you want to get better on tougher courses, get better at planning, prepping and practicing, if you can, for those rounds.
Picking Your Spots
In general, the best at pitching, chipping, and putting rarely focus on the hole itself. When greens are fast, and have lots of movement, you will need to really pay attention to where, on your line, the ball will break. In addition, you will have to pay attention to how much up, or down, the slope is, so that you can plan your landing spots accordingly. Even on fast greens, like Augusta National has, you still need to get your uphill short game shots, and putts, up the slope and to the hole. Even on the fastest greens, you still need to give those uphillers some pop to get to the hole. Be as precise as you can in determining your landing spots in the case of pitches and chips, and your apex point, on your line, for putts...once you have those spots, focus on nothing else.
Be Committed and Confident
The one thing that really separates the pros from the rest of us that play and love the game is this...when they are over a shot, after they have decided their plan, they are committed and confident. Having doubts or second thoughts when you are over the ball is not a good place to be. Back off and regroup until you can be dialed in mentally