One Key to Improve Your Short Game

Short Game Tip (10)

Short Game Hell

A few years ago, I was in the same short game hell that traps thousands of low and mid-handicappers: all my shots were too low, they ran out forever, I had no versatility, and I hit lots of chunks.  What saved me?  A short lesson from (name dropping alert) Roger Cleveland.  Today, I’m going to share that lesson with you so that you can add versatility to your short game and lower your scores.

This Lesson Is For You If:

Your hit your short shots very low and they don’t check

You tend to hit your chips and pitches fat

You want to add more high shots to your short game

Short Game Tip (2) Short Game Tip (4)

The Lesson

The reason that I referred to this set of problems as “low to mid-handicapper hell” is that they come from being “too good” at some of the common short game advice that you see in golf magazines or hear on lesson tees.  The advice?  Get your weight forward, play the ball back, lean the handle forward, get your hands in front of the ball.  All of theses things are fine, but, like anything else, they are only good in moderation.  When you overdo them, you end up with very little loft on the club and no bounce.  Additionally, many players have the concept of taking the club “straight back” which leads to a very shut face, low loft, and no bounce.

When I was working with Mr. Cleveland, he saw these tendencies after one swing.  He said to me, “You sure like that leading edge, don’t you?” to which I replied, “I don’t know any other way to do it.”  He explained to me that when you eliminate all the loft and bounce, you make the club very likely to dig into the turf, and you lose the ability to hit the ball high.  He showed me that if you allow the club to rotate “open” on the backswing, you preserve loft and bounce.  Additionally, he pointed out that in an effort to go “straight back” I was taking the club inside, further reducing loft and bounce.  He taught me that I could take the club back “outside” and get a much better result.

Short Game Tip (7)Short Game Tip (8)

The Drill

To get the feeling of taking the club away “outside,” set up an alignment stick or a range basket to block the “inside” path.  Set the stick or basket based on how severe your problem is.  If you really suck the club back inside, force yourself to take it away really far outside.  As you improve, you can dial this back.

Short Game Tip (5)Short Game Tip (6)

In addition to fixing the path, you may need to adjust your club face.  Look at the picture on the left: the magnetic lie tool is showing that the club face is pointing directly at the ball when my club is hip-high.  That’s a recipe digging a trench unless the contact is perfect.  My takeaway on the right has a lot more room for error – the club face is pointed toward the horizon meaning that I’ll be able to use some bounce if my strike isn’t perfect.

Short Game Tip (11)


I hope this simple lesson helps you to add variety to your short game and avoid those embarrassing chunks.

As always, feel free to post any questions below, and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Matt Saternus
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  1. Frank Budd

    Thanks for offering this tip. Very helpful to a majority of golfers who get all freaked out about chipping when you have short sided yourself. I especially liked the tip about watching the face angle going back.

  2. Again good stuff Matt it reinforces what I have been taught but choose to forget. I think I lose confidence on using bounce in the winter months and not want to take a huge divot. So my set up becomes more closed. Coming down the shaft a further inch gives me confidence as the odd shank or thing can rattle me severely. I know this is a procedure I must practice all the time.

  3. This article is very informative and I feel like you are reading my mind. thanks for sharing

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