There is so much talk about distance in today's game the most crucial aspect of golf is being forgotten about. 80%, if not more, of golf, takes place inside100 yards. A driver is only needed a maximum of 14 shots while a putter is used an average of 30 times. Wedges, (52º, 56º, 60º) are used an average of 16 - 20 times depending on the golf course and level of the golfer.
So why do golfers not practice enough of their short game?
The answer is actually very simple. Most golf courses, especially in the New Orleans area do not have a good short game practice area. Yes, many have a putting green you can use but many have no chipping greens. The few that do either you are only allowed to use them before your round or you need to be a member of that private club. Lakewood Golf Club is the only property in the New Orleans area that has a full short game practice facility and anyone can go use it by paying for range balls or a daily practice rate. Unless you live in the area it is hard to go practice there enough to make your short game good.
The good news is putting as well as pitch and chip shots can be practiced at home. Here are two things every golfer should have at home to practice.
Putting Mat - There are many great putting mats and training aids on the market. Putting mats are a great way to improve your putting stroke, learn proper aim, and learn to control the speed of the putt. Pricing ranges from around $24 to over $200. When you purchase a putting mat there a few key things to consider. Do you have enough space for one? Does the turf speed match what you normally play? What is your budget? Is it for training (lines, speed slots, ramp, break, etc..) or is it more like a backyard game? My personal favorite is the Sklz Accelerator Pro Putting Mat(shown below). It has three distances marked, each with path lines and the end by the cup is slightly inclined ensuring you hit a putt with enough speed. This way you train yourself to always hit a put that would end up a foot past the hole if you missed on a flat green.
Chipping Net - Although there are many short game training aids, a chipping or pitching net is great for backyard practice from real grass. Easily work on shots from 2 - 15 yards depending on the size of your yard. There are many different nets out there. Some have multiple targets and some are just a circular net the size of a 5-gallon bucket, which I currently have. Whichever one you choose you can't go wrong. If you choose too you can get a chipping mat like the Dave Pelz Short Game Wedge Mat to go with it and increase the quality of your practice. A chipping net allows you to practice multiple types of shots as well. A high flop shot, a low chip, a medium pitch and you can do it with different clubs. You may even take an 8-iron and hit short chip shots to it. The idea here is to build up confidence and repetition. The more you practice your short game the more confident you will become in hitting any shot. The one I truly recommend and have just ordered for myself is another one from Sklz Golf, the Sklz QuicksterChipping Net (shown below. It has three different size targets to hit for and really focus on your target and the best thing is it is portable. Bring it to the beach, the park, when you visit family or bring it to the driving range with you (if they allow it).
Remember any practice you do at home be safe about it, especially if you have kids or pets. Make sure whichever way you are hitting pitch shots in the backyard you are not aimed with something you can hurt or damage behind your target in case of a mishit. Also, remember to have fun with your practice. Involve family or friends and make a game out of it at times. I hope these tips help you to better practice and better scores.