From Tee to Green: The Short Game

Our focus on the improvement of your game continues as we move away from the putting green and now look at another important factor in golf, the short game. Essentially, the short game is all facets of the game that do not require a full swing of the golf club. This includes chipping and greenside bunkers, as well as pitches (half or three quarter swing shots) within 100 yards of the green.

Before we go too far down that road though, let’s look at the overall state of your tool box (your golf clubs) and see what a general plan of attack is.


Visualize a typical round of golf for you at the course you play the most during a season. As you move through the holes and shots in your mind, tally up how many times you hit each club. Remember that you may have up to 14 clubs in your bag. Now that you have tallied up the times you hit each club in your round, look at your results. There will probably be a few clubs that you hit many times, and some clubs that you might not hit at all. There may also be some times where you find yourself hitting some of your shorter clubs with half or three quarter swings because you don’t have a club that ‘fits’ that distance.

My advice on the make up of your set is this. Your driver or three wood (main club used to tee off) is essential. So is your putter. Fill in the majority of the rest of your set with irons. At the top end (longer clubs), which is the club that you can use most confidently? For most people, this is probably a five iron. You may notice that irons sets rarely have the very difficult to hit three-iron and four-iron anymore. These have been replaced by the easier to hit and more versatile hybrid club.

At the lower end of the set (shorter clubs), which is the shortest club that you still need to swing fully in order to reach a certain yardage? For example, do you swing your pitching wedge fully on every shot or do you use a full swing 70% of the time and use half swings the other 30%? You may have noticed that most iron sets now come with a gap wedge (stamped with the letter A, G, U or another letter) and a sand wedge that look the same as the other irons in the set, only shorter.


This is for several reasons. First, lofts on irons have strengthened, mostly due to equipment manufacturers having the desire to market that their clubs go further than their competitors. This means that what may have been a five-iron 15 years ago is now stamped as a six-iron. This of course makes the three-irons and four-irons even less lofted and even more difficult to hit. As an extension, that’s why in a typical eight-piece iron set these days, there may be hybrid clubs (easier to hit) in place of the long irons, and sometime included are the gap wedge and sand wedge which are essentially the nine-iron and pitching wedge from yesteryear!

With all that being said, you may now have a ‘core set’ as follows: driver, five-iron to pitching wedge (6 clubs), gap wedge, putter. That’s nine clubs, leaving potentially five more to add to your set. Most likely, you will need at least two clubs at the top of the set to use for second shots on par fives, and tee shots on the shorter par fours and long par threes. We can look at the makeup of these longer clubs in a future column.

On the bottom end of your set, you will likely need at least two more wedges to add to help you with scoring. You’ll likely find that these clubs will be used frequently in your round, right behind your driver (or main club you use to tee off) and your putter. You may think that you don’t need all these wedges. But perhaps it helps to remember that although these clubs are stamped as ‘pitching wedge’ and ‘gap wedge’, as stated before, there lofts and characteristics are essentially a nine-iron and pitching wedge.

Essentially, worry more about what these clubs do, as opposed to what they look like.

In our next column, we will tackle the important factors in selecting what these two wedge additions will need to be in order to give you the most bang for your buck and help lower your scores!