If this shot were a movie, the title would be “Get Shorty.”
If it were clothes, its size would be petite.
It would be a sprint, not a marathon. A single, not a home run. A layup, not a 3-pointer.
It’s the shot that should be the easiest of all in our great game: the short iron or wedge that falls somewhere between 50 yards and 150, from the fairway or light rough, with no impediments.
It’s the shot that you should put on the putting surface just about every time.
My last three rounds provided such a stark contrast in those little shots, I added a new category to my stat sheet. I haven’t decided what to call it yet, but for now it’s just “Short.”
Maybe “Choke” would be a better term.
Three weeks ago, I had a round in which I was right on target with anything from a 7-iron to a sand wedge in my hands. My score reflected that.
But the last two rounds, both of which produced miserable scores, I was virtually helpless from 150 yards on in.
In the first one, I converted that shot one of nine times.
Yesterday, it was 1 of 10.
No wonder I couldn’t score.
Let’s clarify what this shot is. It’s more than a chip shot — it needs to be at least 50 yards from the green. It’s not even so much as a mid-iron – it’s a shot that seems so easy on the driving range, you hit two or three good ones and then move on to the more difficult clubs.
But it’s totally different out on the golf course. There, you care a whole lot more. There are bunkers and ponds and difficult pin placements. There’s the choke factor.
And, as we all know, there’s nothing worse than choking on a shot that we consider easy.
I would go so far as to say that missing the green with a wedge is as bad as missing a 3-foot putt. Sure, you’re going to a miss a 3-footer here and there, but you should make at least 9 out of 10 or 19 out of 20.
You could take this a step further. You could calculate what happened AFTER you missed the green with a short shot. Here’s what I learned after my most recent round:
I had 10 of those shots. I hit the green on only one of them. If you figure that you should get the ball in the hole in two putts if you hit the green, then the “par” for each hole is two.
I was 12 over that type of par on those nine missed-the-green holes. No wonder I had such a bad round!
Think about that for a minute.
If I had just converted five of the 10 and then two-putted each time, my score would have been at least four shots better.
If I had done what I would expect to do, which is convert nine of 10, my score would have been at least eight shots better.
And probably more. This is the kind of thing that happened: After making nice, routine pars on the first two holes, I had a wedge left to the third hole, a par-5. I caught it in the belly and, although it hit in front of the green, it rolled off the back and down a slope.
Now I had no green to work with to a pin that was all the way back. I should have just taken my medicine and made sure I got the ball somewhere on the putting surface, accepting my bogey.
Instead, I tried to make up for the bad wedge and got too cute with the first chip. It got near the top of the slope and rolled all the way back down.
So I made sure the next one was hard enough, and it rolled all the way to the front of the green … from where I three-putted for a triple-bogey 8.
There went my good start. I made only four pars the rest of the day – thanks, in large part, to all those missed short shots. Time and again, I was in position for par and maybe birdie. Time and again, I made bogey because I couldn’t execute.
Does this describe your biggest frustration on the golf course? So what are you going to do about it?
Me, I’m going to go back to the range and practice that smooth, all-arms, no-legs, half-swing wedge you see the pros hit all the time. When they get a good look from 150 yards on in, they expect to make birdie.
We can’t expect that every time, but we certainly should believe we can make at least par if we put the ball on the green.
So take another look at what you’re doing when you have a short iron or wedge in your hand. If you’re having trouble with that shot, the secret to your scoring difficulties might be a short story.