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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stan Utley's Secret to Simplifying Your Short Game

This comes from Stan Utley's book The Art of the Swing, which was unique when it came out (in 2011) for including "scan codes" to let you access smartphone lessons. I thought this short quote from the book might give many of you a new approach to help you better understand how the short game works.

In a chapter about halfway through the book called One Club, Five Shots Utley suggests learning several short game shots with only one club -- he recommends a 58° wedge. Here's a slightly condensed quote from that chapter:
Understanding the basic mechanics that go into the different shots you hit -- and how the concept of sequencing applies to those shots -- is what I would call "school." You have to learn the basics and repeat the lessons, and the tests come at the end, when it's time to go out into the real world.

Now that we've spent some time talking about the form, the sequence and the feel of different shots, I want to take those lessons out of the classroom and onto the course to show how they fit together within your entire golf game.

And I'm going to do it with one club -- my 58-degree wedge.

Why one club? It's simple -- literally and figuratively. When I do a large clinic, some of the first questions I always get are about club selection fro different shots around the green... But I believe doing it that way isn't always the simplest way.

I believe the easiest way to hit consistently good shots and develop better touch and feel is to take one club and make it your short-game specialty club. Then take the time to learn the ins and outs of that one club -- what you need to do to make shots go high or low, long or short. By getting way more practice time and reps with one club, you're going to be more comfortable and confident with it...

Understanding how to play different shots with the same go-to club will make you a complete player. You'll have a better chance of manufacturing a specialty shot for a unique situation using a club you've hit with a million times before. I'm not saying it's wrong to use different clubs around the green... But, I believe you'll get the most consistent positive results from learning the vagaries of one wedge and building a collection of different shots with that wedge. [pp 87-88]
Many of you know that I recommend a two-club approach to the short game -- typically, it'll be a lob wedge for short-sided high shots and either 8-iron, 9-iron or pitching wedge for almost everything else. (Clubs with straighter faces are easier to hit consistently.) But I'm not against Stan's approach. His logic is sound -- if you use one club a lot, you'll get really good with it and be confident when you use it. You probably already do that with other clubs in your bag. (I still remember a scramble I played in where I used a 7-wood from places where my teammates were using lob wedges... and getting my shots closer every time. Confidence matters!)

In the book -- which, unless you can find it used, is no longer available (and the listings I found were awfully expensive) -- Stan uses the one-club approach to teach the low chip-and-run, lofted pitch, bunker shot, trouble shot and distance pitch. In the past I've done posts on just about all of these, I think, although they aren't always called by Stan's names. And if I've missed any, there are plenty of videos and articles about them on the web.

But no matter where you find the instruction, learning the techniques for all sorts of short game shots by using just one club is a solid approach to improving your game quickly. It eliminates one of the variables in the shot -- you're always using the same loft -- so it's easier to learn exactly what you need to do to make each shot work.

And once you learn the techniques, you can always expand your repertoire to include two or three or even more clubs, if you want. ;-)

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