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Crisp Contact is Key to Developing a Winning Short Game

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Bryson DeChambeau plays his shot on the first hole during Capital One's The Match at The Reserve at Moonlight Basin on July 06, 2021 in Big Sky, Montana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images for The Match)

Golf is truly a game for all. Watching “The Match,” we all were intrigued by the play of other athletes competing against PGA TOUR superstars. This is simply why golf is so popular. 
The NBA cannot host an exhibition match between two golfers and their superstars. A couple of non-football athletes aren’t jumping on the field with two NFL players. Golf’s uniqueness in many ways comes from the fact that it is a game we can all play and relate to. 
Many of you reading this play matches every week or even every day against your friends and foes just like what we watched on television. Whether it is two NFL Hall of Famers alongside two of the best golfers in the world, one fact in match play always rings true, the best short game wins. If you can outplay your opponent from inside 50 yards to the hole (including putting) you will win a large majority of your matches.
A shining example of this principle happened on the first hole when Bryson DeChambeau chipped in for birdie to win the hole over Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson. Even though his competitors expected him to get it close, making the shot was an early devastating blow and not only set the tone, but ultimately led to their victory over the seven-time Superbowl champ and reigning PGA Champion.
Possessing a competitive short game takes confidence that comes from crisp contact with the ball in all types of situations. As those drones showed us, we can all get some seriously challenging lies around the green. When the difficulty is not only getting it close, but also the lay of the land beneath the ball, contact becomes even more important.
The next time you practice your short game, start by creating crisp contact with the ball. Here’s a simple drill you can do to improve contact and grow your confidence:
  • Select your favorite chipping club. Pick a short game situation where you will play a medium-length bump and run. Take your normal stance and set the ball just ahead of center between your feet. Before you start swinging, raise your trail foot and balance it on your toe. This will place about 95% of your weight on your lead foot.
  • Start with a couple of practice swings brushing the grass. You will feel the club descending toward the ball. When it comes to making great contact, this feeling is very important. It will allow you to strike the ball very crisply. Once you consistently get a feel for catching just the grass, place a ball in there and chip it. Instantly the contact on the ball will pop it up into the air and toward the target.
Continue to try this exercise from all types of terrain. That’s the beauty of this simple drill, you can use it all around the green on different settings and types of grass. Confidence comes from knowing you can create a reliable downward strike on the ball. This is the opposite feeling most golfers face as they try to lift and scoop the shot.
Experiment with different clubs as you practice and experience different shots. Short game competency is about being prepared for as many situations as possible. Therefore, the next time a unique one presents itself in your next match, you’ll be ready to seize the moment.

Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.

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