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Short shots are important!
My new research using
ShotLink to study the games of
amateur players like you
shows a dramatic gap in
scrambling skills between Tour
players and you. This is critical
since the consequences
of missing a shot are not
dispersed equally across
the four primary shot
types: tee shots, approach
shots, short-game shots and
When you hit a poor
drive you can recover with a
good iron or wedge shot, or a
good putt. On a scale of zero to
10, the importance of your
drive quality is a 3 relative to
your ability to score. If your long-iron shot to
the green is poor, you can still
scramble with a good wedge
shot or hole a putt; the
importance of approach shots
The consequence of a
poor short-game shot is more
critical because there are
fewer chances to recover;
short-game importance is 7.
Putting, meanwhile, is the most
unforgiving to scoring. When
you miss a putt there is no
recovery: You add a stroke and
putt again (importance = 9).
Do you see the pattern formed in Figure 1? The closer you
get to the hole the more important it
is to hit quality shots. And because
you don’t make good long swings all
of the time, your ability to scramble is
just that much more critical.
importance of scrambling stood out
dramatically in the 2006 PGA Tour
Superstore World Amateur Championship,
where we measured the scrambling
skills of amateurs and compared
them to PGA Tour pros (Figure 2).
From fairway lies, Tour pros
scramble to save par 58
percent of the time when they
miss a green in regulation,
while scratch amateurs are
successful only half as often.
The results drop again for higher handicappers,
who get up-and-down
at a rate of only 10 percent.
Looking more closely at amateur
scrambling, a few things become
apparent: (1) The lower your handicap
and the closer you are to the
green, the better chance you have of
scrambling success (Figure 3); and (2)
if your approach shot finds the rough,
the situation becomes more dire. In
fact, double-digit handicappers make
less than one up-and-down save for
every 10 short-game shots played
from the rough (Figure 4).
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SHORT GAME
Short game shots have two distinct
parts: (1) how far they fly in the air
and (2) how far they move after
they hit the ground. The first part
depends on how well you hit the shot
(execution), and the second part
depends on how firm and fast the
greens are (conditions).
your scrambling ability, pick
out two targets for every
First, select a
“landing target” — the spot where you
want to land the ball. Then pick the
“final target” (usually the hole) where
you want the ball to stop.
Do this in practice and on the course.
It will help you get closer to the hole.
HOW TO GET BETTER FAST
Practice your ability to
execute and sharpen your
analysis of conditions. I
recommend carrying a 10-
foot piece of string (makes
a three-foot diameter
circle) in your bag to mark
“landing targets” when you
By marking your
“landing target,” it becomes
obvious which part of
each shot needs work, and
your learning curve will
advance at its maximum
Once you begin to
accomplish both parts of
your short-game shots
accurately, your scrambling
percentages will go up
and your scores will go
down — dramatically!