By: Tim Mitchell, PGA at Pelican Hill Golf Resort
One shot that my students always seem to struggle with is short shots around the greens. It really doesn’t matter the degree of difficulty. It could be a relatively easy bump and run shot to an unguarded hole location close to the edge of the green, or a shot that needs to be hit high and soft, over a bunker, to a tight hole location. I believe most of my students don’t understand the more basic variables of the kinematic chain to help them control the speed of the golf club for these shots. Here’s how I try to educate and help them become more proficient with this skill.
I share that there are three circles in the golf swing. One circle, the club head itself, is the circle the travels the farthest, and has the most speed. Another circle is the handle. This circle travels on a shorter arc and with less speed than the club head. The last circle is the pivot of the body. I like to specifically reference the belly button, as it is a good marker for a golfer’s center of mass and encourages the student to maintain good balance. This circle travels on the smallest arc and has exponentially less speed than the handle and club head. It is this circle that I encourage my students to become more in tune with to improve their ability to hit short shots. In my experience, far too many of my students are trying to use the circle that is farthest away, the club head, to execute their short game shots. It seems pretty silly to have the circle that travels the longest and fastest, be responsible for hitting shots that travel the shortest distance.
My favorite way to develop this skill with my students is to start with grip pressure. I want my students gripping the golf club on a scale of 1 (soft) -10 (hard) with a score of 1. I then tell my students the only way they can move the golf club is by moving their belly button backwards and forwards with a soft, rhythmic tempo. Almost immediately my students understand how the body turn can slow down the delivery of the club head, which results in a softer interaction of golf club and golf ball. I have my students apply this new skill with short chip shots first. As they become more adept at executing the skill with the easier golf shot, I challenge them to add more club head speed to hit the shots that require more skill. Of course these shots need the handle and club head to travel longer and faster, but if my students are “in tune” with their belly button, they know how to control the first circle of the kinematic sequence. That control slow downs the rest of the chain, and delivers the golf club with less speed into the golf ball. By encouraging my students to focus on the circle that creates the least amount of speed, they are considerably more skilled at hitting those difficult shots to short hole locations.