Golf Misc

An Ode to the Short Game

  • September 17, 2009

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that the confirmed hacker spends a lot of time wishing, “If only I could hit it that far.” In the dreams of Hackerland all your golfing woes would be dispelled, if only…

Okay, again, maybe it’s just me.

That being said, today I’m all about how that’s really a crock. A crock, I say! Thunderous drives, killer fairway shots, they’re all very satisfying and impressive to watch, but I’m here to say how they don’t mean squat if you don’t have the short game to back them up. Witness, if you will, how quickly the wheels can come off the wagon:

It’s a short par 4, reachable in 2 even for my short distance game. I hit one of the best drives of the day, a soaring shot with only a bit of fade that I cleverly allowed for in my aim point. Rolls to well within the 150 marker–yeah baby! Next shot is, for once, too close for a hybrid. I select an iron that might be too much club, might not be, depending on how well I hit at that precise instant (juxtaposed against the alignment of the stars). I clip it clean and it flies, O how it flies. Onto the front third of the green and–oops, all the way to the back quarter. Still, it’s a Green In Regulation! Don’t get many of those.

Time for the flat stick. Ooh, this is a tricksy one, My Precious. The green mostly slopes back to front, but there’s a ridge across it so the first part of this putt is actually going to be uphill to the crest, then down into doom. Hmm. I take a pretty decent line, but my first effort is too short: I feared the drop past the crest and didn’t quite make it there. Sigh. I’ve still got a ways to the hole and it’s all downhill. I take a stab at it and, as feared, I give it just that much too much and it scoots off almost to the front of the green. Take three. This one aaaaaaaalmost makes it back, but stops just at tap-in range. Argh. The glow of a GIR is replaced with the anguish of a four-putt and a double bogey for the hole. And it started out so promising!

Want another tale of woe? A medium-length par 4, mostly uphill with a bit of a dogleg right. I knock down a pretty decent drive, maybe a bit left of where I wanted to be but I’d allowed for more fade than actually appeared. What I get for daring to hit it straight, eh? My next shot is near 200 yards and all uphill, so I take out my 3 wood and hope to knock it close, at least. What I get is a weak slice that ends up maybe 80 yards short of the hole and, joy of joys, near the only damned tree in the area. I survey the damage: I have a clear shot at the green angles-wise, but the tree cover means any wedge I use would get snagged. Time for a punch shot. I pull out my 7 iron, play the ball off my rear toe, and slap it towards the hole. Man, does it go. Makes the green and scoots well on by, ending up maybe 10 yards off the back of the green. Holy sheep dip, did I really send it that far?

Here’s where a nice bit of wedge work would be great, save a bogey and call the hole a success. Nope: remember that hill? Yep, pretty severe slope back to front. I set up my sand wedge (my shortest club), open the face, and go for it. Too far. It hops up nicely and drops, but catches the hill too far away and ends up rolling well off the front of the green. Argh! Feeling like I’m trying to find the green by binary search, I pop it back up the hill but, thanks to being spooked, leave it too short for an easy putt. A two-putt later and I’m carding a triple bogey. I was within 80 yards in two! I might give myself a pass on the punch shot, who really has a place to practice those, but the two short little wedge shots? Murder.

How about an example where what started out looking bad ended up well? Short par 3, maybe 130 yards. That’s right on the money for an easy pop with my shortest hybrid (yeah, I avoid irons whenever possible), and I hit it exactly the right distance–but pull it left into trees. They grab and gobble and toss the ball back and forth and eventually spit it back out well short of the hole (but thankfully clear of obstructions). There’s sand in play, and I can’t afford to go much left else risk another round of tree fun. Same drill as before: sand wedge, open the face a bit, short easy stroke. This time it clicks, the ball drops on the front quarter of the green and rolls nicely to within two feet. Almost a tap-in for par, and that after a really botched tee shot–all because of one good chip shot.

So, obviously, I’m having to re-think my game. Sure, it’s all well and good to boom a nice drive, and a clean fairway shot soaring towards the green is a lovely sight to behold, but once I get within 100 yards the real work starts–and where most of my strokes live. Dave Pelz might be on to something after all, eh?

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