The short game isn’t so complicated. You hit the ball toward the hole until it goes in, right?

If only it were that simple.

Chipping, pitching and bunker play require such short swings and cover so little ground, you’d think getting the ball close to the hole would be pretty straightforward. Indeed, aside from factoring in a bit of break in the green, most golfers play these shots in a very direct manner.

While that’s often the best approach, sometimes you need a little imagination to pull off a great short shot.

The ability to visualize different ways of playing a chip or pitch is especially useful when the greens are very undulating or fast. In these cases, a minor mistake can send your ball skittering far from the hole. On the other hand, a shot that looks terrifying on first glance might offer a lower-risk alternate route.

Playing with imagination means keeping your eyes (and mind) open to all options, not just the one lying on a straight line from your ball to the cup. These tips should help you see more possibilities around the greens:

Take a wide-angle view

Ironically, many golfers find executing a straight chip more difficult than one with break. If you’re such a golfer, look to either side of the direct line when faced with a straight shot. You may find a slope that will kick your ball toward the hole.

Likewise, don’t limit your read to the area between you and the cup. There may be a steep hump or “backstop” behind the hole. If the green is slick, play the shot to roll onto the slope, then watch it trickle back toward the hole. This requires less precision than trying to cozy the ball up to the flag.

Eliminate the break

On the greens, sometimes your best bet is to “take the break out of” a putt. In other words, to hit the ball firmly on a more direct line, reducing the amount it will curve. A similar concept applies from off the green. But instead of hitting the ball harder, you hit it higher and father.

Here’s an example. You’ve got 50 feet to the hole, uphill all the way, and a good lie. For the first 30 feet, the green tilts to the left. The final portion, including the hole location, is flat. Your basic choices are:

1. A chip-and-run aimed right of the hole to account for the break, meaning you must judge both the line and speed correctly; or

2. A pitch shot that flies past the sloped section, lands on the flat part and stops quickly. This removes a major variable, the break, requiring only that you hit the shot the right distance.

Around the greens, a little imagination can help you simplify this complicated game.