Most golfers know that a solid short game is the linchpin of great golf. Crushing balls at the range will only take you so far. Instead, let's try to eradicate avoidable short-game mistakes and accelerate your golf improvement.
Check out our list of 5 of the most common short game mistakes amateur golfers make around the greens.
Mistake #1 Missing the green from 50 yards
How is it such a little shot can cause golfers so much heartache? The pros make the half swing pitch shot look simple, but it can be infuriatingly difficult to master. From 50 yards, you could almost throw the golf ball onto the green, but how many times have you chunked or thinned one of these shorties?
The main problem is that it's a shot very few of us practice, but without repetition, the mistakes will continue to ruin your chances of saving par - or making birdie on par-5s and short par-4s.
The cause could be a misunderstanding of the swing, a poor set-up, selecting the wrong club for the job, or perhaps a combination of the three.
First off, choose a club as your go-to pitching club. If you hit all your pitch shots with one club, you'll quickly build a familiarity that will help make results more predictable.
Next, don't set up like a full swing. Instead, think small. You'll want a 'small' set up for what is a small swing. Get your feet closer together, and don't bend forward as much. Place the ball in the middle of your stance and lean your lower body towards the target.
The swing itself should be a simple, fluid, repeatable motion. Let your arms swing back and get your arms and torso turning through in the downswing.
Find the time in your day to work on your half shots at the range, or drop a few balls 50 yards out the next time you squeeze 9 holes in after work. Practice will make perfect.
Mistake #2 Neglecting course management
Course management is vital in golf generally, but we can often neglect it the closer we get to the hole. Seeing your chances of a good score go down the toilet after an avoidable short-game mistake is enough to make a grown man cry.
One thing you'll want to pay particular interest to is pin placement. If you find the flag is tucked near the edge of the green or over a bunker, play smart. Aiming for the centre of the green or towards the side with less trouble will be the intelligent play.
Give yourself a putt for par, but don't walk off the green with worse than bogey.
Mistake #3 Choosing the wrong shot
We need to develop the course management tip further and talk a little about shot selection around the green.
Your skill level will come into play here, but a general rule of thumb for a broad spectrum of golfers is to err on the side of caution. The low-tariff bump and run shot can give you a predictable strike and helps you with distance control. You'll generally get a better result than flighting one high.
Save the flop shot for when you're chipping over a bunker or needing to stop the ball quickly on a slopey green.
Mistake #4 Not planning your chip shot journey
On those greenside chip shots, take the time to assess the journey your golf ball will take on its way to the hole. If you're playing a bump-and-run (which you arguably should be), the ball will spend a lot of time skirting along the green towards the hole.
You'll need to read the shot much like you would a putt to maximise your chances of getting up and down. Take the time to determine the distance and the humps and bumps before deciding on your line and pace.
A little pre-shot work is all it takes to help you select a better landing spot and the correct club for the job.
Mistake #5 Squandering shots in the bunker
Do bunker shots make you feel sick to your stomach? Well, they needn't. You can get out every time with the correct set-up and commitment to the swing.
Stay in front of the golf ball with around 70% of your weight on your lead side, and position the ball toward your lead foot, where you'd tee up a 3 wood. Focus on a spot an inch or two behind the ball and aim to glide the clubface under the ball.
The absolute key is commitment. Keep the speed up and accelerate through the sand to get the ball out every time. You can do everything else perfectly, but if you bail out on the strike, the golf ball will pop up a few feet in front of you, and you'll be having another go.
If you're in a bunker with a steep face and sand play isn't your strongest suit, let's not try to be a hero. Go out sideways if you need to. It's always a better play than watching the ball roll back to your feet after another frustrated swipe.
Mistake #6 Lack of consistency in putter aim
You could be the best green reader in the world, but if you fail to align your putter face correctly, you're missing that putt. It's so important to get your ball rolling on the right line early in the putt for it to have any chance of dropping.
A trip to the practice green is in order if you're missing more than your fair share of knee-knockers. Take some time to ensure your putt is starting on line.
A simple gate drill will help you square up your putter face at impact. Set two tees in the ground just slightly wider than the putter head. You're simply aiming to roll the ball through the gap without hitting either tee.
If any of these mistakes apply to you, we hope you can take the steps to fix them! For more from our series on how to improve your golf, read about how to master the mental game for lower scores, here.