The other day, during a short game session at the United States Golf Academy, I was asked who had the best short game I had ever seen. My answer was immediate, Raymond Floyd and Stan Utley. I think it is interesting that while both were equals around the green their methods that made them great were completely opposite.
For those of you who don’t remember Raymond Floyd, he was a winner of two PGA Championships, a Masters and a United States Open. 22 wins on the PGA Tour and 14 on the Champions. Raymond’s short game consisted of three different lengths of strokes. He called them putting, chipping and pitching. No real difference other than length. Putting was the shortest followed by chipping and pitching. He varied the distance the ball traveled with any of these three strokes by changing clubs, not stroke length. His decision on which swing to use was based on how far the ball was from the edge of the green and what club would fly the ball to that point. So when Raymond had a shot around the green he made two choices. What length swing to use and what club to use with it. If you wish to try this technique for yourself, start with three swings and three clubs. Maybe an 8 iron, PW and SW. Then develop three length swings. A putting stroke would be short with little wrist action. A chipping stroke- a little longer stroke with some wrist- and then the pitching stroke-longer still with some arm swing and wrist. Try these three swings, with the three clubs, and you will get 9 different shots. This is plenty of variety to get started.
The other method is that of Stan Utley. Stan is one of the top short game instructors in the world. He uses basically one club, a 57 degree sand wedge with a lot of bounce. Stan’s basic shot is one that flies about ½ the distance traveled and rolls out the rest. So for almost every shot around the green he picks a point on the green, halfway to the hole, and flies the ball to that point. I will admit that this takes some touch and feel, but his point is that when a player uses the same club around the green they develop feel for that club quite quickly. Our Director of golf Pat Bayley is a great example of using a similar strategy, except he perfected his 9 iron, a different club, but with similar results.
So how does the expert’s technique pertain to the non-expert? They all have one thing in common. They have a plan. No dependence on luck or chance. They have plan and the execute it. They never change their plan just because it doesn’t work to expectations every time. They stick with it and with some patience they got better. The same can work for you.