Some shots are downright scary. What turns your knuckles as white as your golf glove? My guess is that you fear shots that force you to clear greenside obstacles and carry the ball onto the putting surface -- say, a flop shot over water or a chip over a bunker. Those two intimidating shots were near the top of a "least-wanted" list I created a few years back after I surveyed hundreds of golfers for my book Golf Without Fear.
I get it -- one small mistake leads to double-bogey. Fear not. To complete the book, I developed a technique to tame every terror. As it turns out, the easiest way to navigate short shots over trouble is to make the same swing you'd use for a 15-yard pitch. In most cases, this motion produces enough loft to clear whatever stands between you and the green. You'll land it softly with a little spin and leave yourself a chance at a one-putt.
In the pantheon of short-game shots, the 15-yard pitch swing falls somewhere between "moderately easy" and a "piece o' cake." Here's how it works:
• Make it synchronized—take the club back with your upper and lower body moving in unison.
• Stop your backswing when the top of your right wrist is about three inches below your belt.
• Hinge your wrists slightly, so that the shaft is a few degrees above parallel to the ground when you end your backswing.
• As you start the club down, keep your left arm straight so that your swing bottoms out under the ball.
• Let the club "kiss" the grass. No need to carve a huge divot.
• Don't "hit" the ball. Accelerate smoothly through impact. Your goal: Reach max speed about four inches ahead of the ball.
• Get synchronized, with your upper and lower body moving as a unit.
• Smoothly decelerate the club once the ball is on its way. Your finish should only be slightly longer than your backswing.
• Hold your finish position until the ball lands on the green. It's a good way to instill balance in your overall motion.
That's all there is to it! I find it helpful to swap fearful thoughts (It would be awful to chunk this) for finesse ones (Just "kiss" the grass). Embrace the moment and be smooth. Oh, and your lower body should work just as hard as your upper (weekend players tend to "deaden" their legs around the green).
Scary shot? It's no sweat when you're scary good.