Dave Pelz: The Short Game Swing Secret
Do you use the same swing for your driver that you use for, say, a 40-yard wedge shot? I'm not talking about the size of the swing and its energy and intensity -- these factors change as you move from full swings to half-wedges. I'm talking about mechanics. In other words, do you see your 40-yard swing as a "knock-down" copy of your driver motion, or a motion that's completely different? Most weekend players are "one-swing" golfers. They hit 5-irons using miniature versions of their driver swing, knock half-wedges with small 5-iron swings, and roll putts as if they're mini-chips. Unfortunately, adhering to the one-swing theory limits your expertise to only one area.
My research shows that you need three swings to go low: a "stroke" for putting, a "finesse" motion for your short game, and a "power" swing to blast the ball as far as you can on full shots. Intuitively, you've probably learned that good putting is all shoulders, arms and hands but no body. And as for your power move, I'll bet you understand the need to coil your upper body against the resistance of your lower during your backswing—something you'd never do on the green.
That means you've got two swings down. What about the third? Here's where the lines are blurred, which is why your short game suffers. Half-wedges, chips and pitches require more movement than a putting stroke but zero coil. Why? Coil creates power, and you don't need power from short range. You need control. You get it by making a shorter, rhythmic, synchronized backswing. The photo at the far right shows me at the top on a 40-yard pitch. Notice how I've rotated my shoulders and hips together—I don't need any resistance (or energy storage) between my upper and lower body. This is ideal—and completely different from your power swing. At the range, practice these two motions based on the type of shot you're trying to pull off:
THE POWER SWING: Keep your hips and lower body motionless while turning your shoulders and swinging your arms and the club in slow motion to the top of your backswing. Hold for a count so you can sense the coil -- and energy storage -- between your upper and lower body. Now rotate your hips toward the target in slow motion and pull your upper body along through impact.
THE FINESSE SWING: Rotate your hips and shoulders together. Do it in slow motion, stopping about halfway back. Then rotate everything through impact at the same time and at the same speed until you reach the finish. You shouldn't feel any coil between your upper and lower body at any point in your motion.
Once you learn the difference between power and finesse, there's nothing the course can throw at you that you can't handle. And with these two swings down cold -- along with a good putting stroke -- you'll become a complete player. That's when golf gets really fun!