3 essential short-game tips from major champions

Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Morgan Pressel share their major-winning experience to help you play better.
Shane Lowry is one of the best golfers in the world with a wedge in his hands. He and fellow major champions share their wisdom in GolfPass' Lessons with a Champion Golfer series.

On the (rare) occasions I've had to watch professional golfers practice, I've gravitated more towards the short-game area than the range. Yes, it can be awe-inspiring to watch Rory McIlroy unleash majestic 325-yard slight draws time after time, but I've long made peace with the fact that I'm never going to be able to hit a ball that far.

On and around the greens, though, the brilliance of the best golfers in the world feels just a bit more attainable. So when I'm watching pros practice, with an eye toward making my own game better, you can bet I'll be focusing on their short games.

A few weeks ago, when the PGA Tour was in South Carolina for the CJ Cup, I caught a video posted by 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, just of him practicing pitch shots. There wasn't anything special or highly produced about it - it was just a moment of Zen watching a player with a great pair of hands hit high, spinning pitch shots onto a practice green at Congaree.

Luckily for you, Lowry is one of several major champions GolfPass has recruited to be part of its Lessons with a Champion Golfer video instruction series. In this video below, he shows host Martin Hall how he plays longer pitch and half-wedge shots. One fascinating insight: that he has tinkered with using four wedges in the past, but he prefers to use only three because that enables him to use his imagination and feel more often.

Touch and feel are as essential to great short-game shots as pure technique, and no one marries the two better than the class of players who make millions competing for the biggest championships in golf.

Half Wedge Shots
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Half Wedge Shots

RELATED: Watch Shane Lowry's Lessons with a Champion Golfer series here.

Where do professional golfers stand out the most from us amateurs? In my opinion, at least when it comes to the short game, it has to be greenside bunker play. For most recreational golfers, short bunker shots are a nightmare, and just getting the ball out feels like a victory. But the best in the world often have no problem whatsoever with a short bunker shot. In fact, they're often thinking about holing these shots.

In this segment from his Lessons with a Champion Golfer series, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy walks longtime coach Michael Bannon through his approach to greenside bunkers:

Greenside Bunker with Rory McIlroy
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Greenside Bunker with Rory McIlroy

Morgan Pressel won the 2007 Kraft- Nabisco Championship, becoming one of the youngest women's major champions of all time. Though she was never one of the longest hitters on the LPGA Tour, she stayed competitive thanks in large part to her putting prowess, which made her a nightmare matchup in events like the U.S. Women's Amateur (which she won in 2005) and the Solheim Cup, where she had a 4-2-0 record across six Singles matches, including a victory in her first Solheim Cup appearance in 2007 over Annika Sorenstam.

When Pressel speaks about putting, any golfer should listen. Three of the segments in her Lessons with a Champion Golfer series are devoted to putting, and in this one, she walks Martin Hall through her green-reading process. Pressel shows three key angles she uses to read every putt, as well as other tips and strategies any golfer can use to read putts more accurately and find the cup more often from any distance.

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Reading Greens
August 6, 2018
Learn from the greatest golf instructors and professional golfers in the world with articles and videos on the best advice for all facets of your golf game. Explore topics in full-swing, short-game, even fitness and mental aspects of golf here.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
5 Comments
Commented on

This is about wedges and bounce. Does more bounce produce more spin? I have a SM9 58* which is a masterpiece- I can get it up over a short sided problem but I can’t get it to at least check up or stop? Suggestions please . Thanks
Rod

Staff
Commented on

Hi Rod - wedge bounce and spin aren't related; both a low-bounce and a high-bounce wedge can put considerable spin on a golf ball if the technique is on point. Take a look in our video tip archive; there are several good video tips that have to do with spin on chip and pitch shots.

Commented on

Tim; Thanks for the reply. I’ll look them up. Rod

Commented on

I struggle in the bunker. Some videos say open Club face, some say don’t. Each video gives different advice. My approach to the proper method ends up a hybrid of each and I still struggle. I either leave the ball in the bunker or knock it over the green. HELP!

Staff
Commented on

Donald - golf instructors are indeed split on how to hit greenside bunker shots at the moment. It's not clear whether one method is superior to the other, but as a lay golfer, I can tell you that mixing the two together is a recipe for disaster! Commit fully to one of them instead. I've always felt comfortable standing way open and slashing underneath the ball, personally. I don't feel as though I can intuitively hit a high, soft greenside bunker shot from a square stance. But I see PGA Tour pros do it all the time, so I know it's doable.

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3 essential short-game tips from major champions