Touch around the greens is often thought of as a talent that you either have, or you don’t. There’s no doubt some golfers possess a greater natural aptitude for playing so-called touch shots, but that doesn’t mean the average golfer can’t improve his feel and effectiveness. 

First of all, what is touch? Primarily, it’s a knack for hitting the ball the proper distance on chips and pitch shots from a variety of distances and angles. It often involves adding or subtracting loft or spin, especially when the hole is close by, with little green to work with and a quick or downhill surface between you and the cup. Prime examples include Tom Watson’s famous chip-in at the 1982 U.S. Open, Tiger Woods’ amazing final-round hole-out at the 2012 Memorial, and any number of incredible escapes by Phil Mickelson. 

If you have trouble executing delicate greenside shots, here are a few tips to enhance your touch: 

 

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  • One-handed practice: Start by hitting a series of simple chip shots using just your left hand. Then switch to the right. Practice this way from different distances, then go back to your normal two-handed grip. You’ll notice a difference in your control of the club. 
  • Practice “randomly” around the green: As opposed to hitting a series of shots from the same spot with the same club (called “blocked practice”), random practice involves changing things up on every shot. Take a handful of balls and toss them to several different spots off the green’s edge, making sure each attempt requires a different length, trajectory etc. Try to get each ball within three feet of a chosen hole location. Repeat the drill using a variety of clubs. 
  • Hit pitches with a lower-lofted club: Find a few practice pitch shots where you must get the ball up and stop it quickly. Rather than a lob wedge or sand wedge, use an 8- or 9-iron. You’ll have to open the blade and adjust your swing length and speed to knock the ball close, improving your overall feel.