Here's a bit of golf trivia for you: The most-visited hazards on any golf course are those placed short and right of the green. It makes sense, since the majority of golfers suffer from a slice and make less than perfect contact more often than not. Plus, most of us choose a club based on how far we can hit it, not how far we usually hit it.
If you're sick and tired of finding bunkers, rough or other hazards to the front and right of the green, try these tips:
- When selecting a club, pick the one that will reach the back portion of the green if struck well. Let's say you've got 140 yards to the flag and 150 to the green's back edge. Use your 150-yard-max club, rather than the one that flies at or near 140 when hit just right.
- If you tend to slice or fade the ball, aim at the left edge of the green. Your normal shot should put you in the middle or right side of the green. Worst case, you hit the ball straight and finish where you aimed.
- Don't attack pins on the right side of the green. Again, play away from the flagstick, letting your natural left-to-right shape move the ball toward the target.
Of course, your best bet is to attack the roots of your slice and/or sub-par ball-striking. This website features many slice-busting tips along with drills to improve your contact.
Stop Coming Up Short and Right on Approach Shots
One of the most frustrating things you can do in golf is continue to miss in the same location time after time. It is one thing to miss your target – as all golfers do at least a few times in every round – but it is another thing to keep missing in the same spot. This indicates that there is some kind of flaw in your process that is not being corrected from one shot to the next. To play good golf, you have to be able to respond to issues that come up in your game quickly in order to get back on track and save your score. It isn't necessarily the golfer who walks to the first tee with the best swing who is going to win - it is the player who can adapt and change fastest throughout the round who is likely to come out on top.
In the content below, we are going to look specifically at one kind of consistent miss - the shot that comes up short and right of the target. This is a common way to miss approach shots, as the swing mistakes that are common to amateur golfers lend themselves to hitting shots that wind up both short and right (for a right handed golfer). Obviously, it is never good to miss your target on an approach shot, but constantly hitting shots that land short is a problem because greens are frequently protected in the front by water hazards, bunkers, and other obstacles. Missing shots slightly right isn't actually that big of a deal in most cases, but it is made much worse when you are short as well. Rarely will you find anything good waiting for you short and right of the green, so you are probably going to be adding shots to your score at a quick pace when this is the pattern that you find in your game.
You should understand right from the start that this is a problem which can be caused by a variety of factors. Most players will look first to their swing technique, and that is a good place to start, but there is often more to it than that. In addition to swing flaws, approach shots that come up short and right can also be caused by poor alignment at address, incorrect ball position, club selection issues, and even mental game problems. This is why many players struggle to break out of patterns that they have gotten stuck in - there isn't always one specific thing that can be used as a 'magic fix'. You have to be willing to work through all of the potential issues that you are dealing with before getting to the bottom of the matter. Of course, that effort is worth it - you aren't going to get your scores to come down without fixing the pattern of missing your approach shots short and right of the green.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Taking Notice of a Pattern
You need to be observant as a golfer. If you are serious about playing up to your abilities, you need to be willing to pay attention to the results of each shot that you hit in order to respond accordingly. If you are just going through your round without really doing any critical thinking, there is almost no chance that you will improve down the line. Taking notice of patterns - whether the pattern is coming up short and right of the green or any other kind of miss - is key to your evolution as a player.
One good way to notice patterns that have developed in your game is to chart each round of golf that you play. What does it mean to 'chart' a round of golf? Basically, you are going to create a log of all of your shots, which will include important details about the outcome of each individual shot. You can do this simply in a notebook that you keep in your golf bag during every round (you could transfer the notes into a spreadsheet on a computer later on, if you wish). It will only take a few seconds after each shot to write down a few important details - such as distance, club, wind conditions, and where the ball ended up - but that data can be incredibly valuable to you later on down the line.
If you decide to start charting your rounds of golf, it is important to understand that you shouldn't take too much from the data until you have at least accumulated a few rounds worth of information. Drawing conclusions based on small samples is usually a mistake, and that is certainly true in this case. Wait at least five rounds until you start to look carefully at the information you have collected to see if there are any patterns worth addressing. When you miss the green, where do you usually miss? Are your misses all over the place, or are they centered in one specific spot? Is there a specific distance range that seems to give you the most trouble? You can ask yourself all of these questions, and more, while reviewing the data that has been collected on the course.
In addition to helping you spot patterns, charting your rounds of golf can also help you learn other things about your game, such as the distances that you hit your clubs. You might think that you already know how far you can hit the ball, but your assumptions may be significantly off-base. By keeping an accurate record of every shot that you hit, it will be easy to observe how far you are actually hitting the ball with each of the clubs in your bag. Most amateur golfers significantly overestimate how far they can hit their shots, which in turn leads to many players not taking enough club for the shot at hand. Get an honest evaluation of your distances by charting and use that info to pick the right stick more often than not.
You might eventually be able to spot patterns in your game without keeping a chart, but using this method is going to take the guesswork out of the process. You won't have to wonder if you are actually missing short and right as often as you think - you can simply look at the data and know for sure. Since this is something that will only require minimal effort on the course (you can do it while others in your group are hitting), there isn't much of a reason to pass on this chance to better your game.
As was mentioned previously, there are a number of potential causes when you are missing approach shots short and right of the green. However, since the most likely cause of this miss is a mechanical flaw in your swing, that is where we are going to start. It would be great if we could just identify one specific flaw that will apply to all golfers who fight this problem, but of course the game is never that simple. Instead, there are a few mechanical problems that could be leading to this miss. So, with that in mind, the list below contains three potential problems in your swing that may cause you to come up short and right time after time.
- Slide instead of turn. The golf swing is supposed to be all about rotation, but some players tend to slide toward the target rather than rotating properly. If you fall into this trap, you could wind up hitting the ball short and right with regularity. The short part of the equation will take place because you won't be developing very much speed through the ball while sliding. It is the rotation of the swing that builds speed, so sliding to your left is only going to cost you distance. In addition to being short, the ball will likely head to the right of your intended target because the lack of body rotation prevents the club face from getting back around to square. If this is a problem that you feel like is present in your swing, work on turning your left hip aggressively in the downswing to start a powerful body rotation that will carry all the way through impact.
- A weak grip. The grip is a relatively personal thing, but using a grip that is too weak will usually lead to trouble. Again on this point, it comes down to the inability of the club to fire through the hitting area. A weak left handed grip is going to take your hands and wrists largely out of the swing, meaning you won't be able to use them at the bottom to rotate the clubface and strike the ball. In order to play well with a weak grip you have to have excellent body rotation, something that is lacking in most amateur players' games. Try turning your left hand grip just slightly to the right at address and you might be surprised at how much your swing can benefit as a result.
- Trying to help the ball into the air. This is an incredibly common problem among amateur golfers. When hitting iron shots from the fairway, many golfers feel like they need to 'help' the ball get up into the air. With that thought in mind, these players lean back slightly at impact and use their hands to add loft to the club. This creates a 'scooping' action at the bottom, and the ball is tossed high into the sky. Since these kinds of shots are not struck with any authority, they usually come up short of the target. Also, they tend to miss to the right because the club face has been held open through the hitting area. The best thing you can do to get over this problem is simply to trust the loft on the club that you are holding at address. Your irons all have some degree of loft built in to the design, and it is that loft that is going to send the ball skyward. All you need to do is swing down aggressively through impact and make good contact - the club and the ball will do the rest for you.
If you are regularly missing short and to the right when hitting approach shots, there is a good chance that you are making at least one of the mechanical mistakes above. Take a look at your current swing on video to see if you can spot any of these problems, and then head to the range to work on a fix.
Alignment and Ball Position
Two issues that you have to deal with prior to starting the swing - alignment and ball position - can both influence how you perform on your approach shots. Some golfers make the mistake of taking these pre-shot points for granted, and they pay the price when the ball flies nowhere near the target in the end. If you would like to control your ball and make sure it reaches its intended destination, you will be sure to dial in your alignment and ball position just right.
First, we will cover the alignment part of this equation. Obviously, you need to get your body aligned properly with the target line that you have selected in order to hit a good shot. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers fail on this point, making the mistake of lining up out to the right. Why does this happen? Most likely, it is a failure to understand that the feet need to form a line that is not actually pointing at the target, but rather they should form a line that is parallel to the left of the target line. If you align your foot line with the target, the club face will actually be pointing out to the right when you get over the ball. Check at address to confirm that your feet have successfully created a line that is parallel left of the target and you will be good to go.
With alignment out of the way, you can turn your attention to ball position. This is a point that is critically important on all shots that you hit during a round. If you get your ball position wrong on your approach shots, the error can easily cause your shots to miss the target short and right on a regular basis. Most likely, if that is the pattern you are experiencing, you are playing the ball too far back in your stance. When the ball is too far back, the contact that you make is going to be less than ideal - and the ball will float off to the right. Since the club is contacting the ball too soon when it is placed back in the stance, the club face will still be open, which results in missing right. Also, you will make contact while the club is moving steeply down toward the ground, causing your shots to come up short. To correct this error, you obviously need to move the ball up in your stance.
As a general rule of thumb, you should start by having your ball position right in the middle of your stance for wedge shots, and move up from there. By the time you reach the driver, the ball should be lined up with the inside of your left heel. There is a little room for personal preference within that range, but that general framework is going to work for most players. Placing the ball too far back is a common problem especially with the short irons, so try to use the middle of your stance as something of a 'stop sign' when selecting your ball position. As long as you don't go behind that point, you should be able to avoid the short and right miss that has been plaguing your iron game.
Alignment and ball position are two parts of your setup that work together to allow you to hit accurate approach shots. During your next range session, make it a point to work on both of these elements for at least a short period of time. Since these issues get sorted out before the swing even starts, there is really no reason to get them wrong. Take your time, make sure you have everything in position correctly, and then take the club back away from the ball. Once you have worked on these fundamentals in practice they should quickly become easy for you to handle on the course.
The Mental Side
The mental side of the game of golf is underappreciated by nearly every amateur golfer around the world. Your mind has an incredible degree of control over your swing and your ball, so thinking the right thoughts while you play is almost as important as the technique that you use. Most professional golfers spend considerable time and effort trying to improve on the mental side of the game, and you should do so as well.
Specific to the issue of missing short and right, your mind can actually get in the way of your swing as it is trying to do the job of hitting accurate approach shots. Most often, this boils down to a lack of confidence. Short and right is a common place to miss the ball when you are low on confidence, as you will hold on to the release through impact when you are unsure of where the ball is going to go. You need to build up your confidence to get rid of this issue, as the only way to release the club properly through impact is by believing in yourself completely.
To assess this crisis of confidence, you first need to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you really believe in your golf swing when you are out on the course? It is one thing to believe in your swing on the range, but it is another thing entirely to trust it when you are playing an actual round of golf. Plenty of players are able to hit beautiful shots on the range only to get out on the course and lose their way. If that sounds like you, working on improving your confidence is something that should be on the top of your list. Not only will adding confidence help you fix the short right miss, it will also help you perform better in many other areas of the game.
One of the easiest ways to build up confidence is simply to play short, easy golf courses for a while. By giving yourself a chance to score well on an easy course, you can set aside your doubts and simply do your best to post a great score. There won't be many hazards to intimidate you on an easy course, so you should find that you are hitting plenty of great shots from the first hole to the last. Also, when playing an easy and short course, you may find that your short right miss temporarily goes away - a sure sign that it was a confidence problem. Now that you believe in yourself once again, head back to a tougher course and see how you fare. Most likely, as long as you continue to have trust in your swing, the results will be vastly improved compared to what they were previously.
Missing the ball short and right is both frustrating and damaging to your score. If you would like to get rid of this miss pattern once and for all, take some time to use the advice contained above. You might not have instant results when trying to fix this issue, but it shouldn't take all too long to get things back on track. As long as you are willing to work hard and stick with the process, the end result is going to be some of the best golf you have played in a long time.