Knowing how to save par is critical to breaking 80. So if you’re serious about breaking 80, you’ll need to master the short game shots that can help you save par when necessary. Mastering these short game shots also helps you cut strokes from your golf handicap.
Five short game shots are critical to saving par—the short lob, short-sided pop, deep rough chip, bunker blast, and the dead hands chip. The secret to saving par is to pick the right shot, and then totally commit to it. No holding back. No second-guessing. And definitely no flipping or scooping at impact.
Committing fully to a shot does four things: It gets you to (1) accelerate through the ball, (2) shift your weight to your front foot, (3) deliver the right clubface loft at impact, and (4) make the shot with confidence. These are critical basics no matter what the shot.
Below are some tips on hitting the five shots mentioned above. Practice them until you’ve ingrained them. The work will payoff.
1) Soft lob: Use this shot only when you must. But you’ll need the right lie to pull it off. The “right lie” in this case should have a little cushion of grass under the ball. The cushion lets you slide the club’s open face under the ball without the clubface turning over. Another key to this shot is swinging to a full finish with your weight on your front foot. Use a long swing.
2) Short-sided pop: This shot is easy to leave in the grass or chip too far. The key to hitting it well is making solid contact. That and controlling the right amount of “hit” you put on the ball. Make sure you lean on your front foot and angle the shaft forward at address when making this shot. This setup position helps you achieve the most critical priority: hitting the ball solidly.
3) Deep rough chip: Digging the ball out of the rough and hitting it with the right touch seems impossible. But it’s not. The trick is catching the ball cleanly. Use your sand wedge with this shot. The extra weight on the clubface’s sole lets you slide the clubface under the ball. And make sure you hinge your wrists on this shot. Picture the letter V when you swing to create the right motion.
4) Bunker blast: Your priority when blasting out of the bunker is getting the ball on the green. You’ll need clubface loft and swing speed to clear the bunker lip. Both help create height. Swing back about three-quarters. Accelerate the club into and through the ball. And swing out to the flag. Feel as if you’re slapping the sand with your right hand. For more loft, lean the shaft away from the pin. To do this, move the ball forward in your stance. But keep your hands in line with the inside of your front leg.
5) Dead-hands chip: Use this shot on fast downhill greens. You can use almost any club in your bag with a variety of swing motions to make this shot. Pick out a landing shot first. Then swing away. Play the ball back from center in your stance. Raise your hands. Bow your wrists slightly. And square your clubface to the target. Swing your arms with no wrist action and aim for crisp, clean contact.
Some players like to use a pinched-pitch shot with a lot of backspin on fast downhill greens. That’s a hard shot. Plus, a pinched pitch shot doesn’t always provide enough backspin to hold the green.
So practice the dead hands chip—as well as the other four shots described above—until you’ve mastered them. If necessary, take a few golf lessons to get the basics right. Mastering these shots will not holy help you save par more often, but also help you break 80 and cut strokes from your golf handicap.