Turning Four Shots Into Three

By Chris Foley, PGA Master Professional



Over the course of the golf season, each month in this column we will be sharing ideas to help improve your golf game without changing your golf swing. We will talk about things like efficient practice methods, equipment, course management and new technology. By implementing our advice each month, you will see improvement in your game and lower scores.

You always hear that short game is the easiest way to lower your scores and if you look at it statistically, it truly is. According to golf statistician Peter Sanders, founder of Shot by Shot (www.shotbyshot.com) players who shot in the 90’s on average, hitting less than five greens in regulation and save par from off of the green less than 20% of the time. This means that on average the 90’s shooter has potentially 13 opportunities and less than three times a round will save par when they miss a green in regulation.

The player who shoots in the 80’s will hit nine or fewer greens in regulation and will save par when they have a chip or pitch less than 40% of the time. Converted, this means that the 80’s player could have up to nine opportunities to get the ball up and down and on average. If they have nine opportunities, they will likely save par three and a half times a round.

Looking at these numbers, there is a big gap between the number of opportunities and the number of times a player makes par, or bogie for that matter, when they miss a green. From 30-40 yards for the green, if you can turn four shots into three or three shots into two the impact on your scores will be huge.

To enhance your chances of saving par when missing the green focus on the following areas.


  • Work on increasing your percentage of made putts inside of five feet. For the player who shoots 75+ five feet is the distance where they are going to make 50% of their putts. Making more putts inside of this distance will not only lower your scores but put less pressure on your chipping and pitching to have to get the ball really close.
  • The most important part of good putting is distance control. Practice putts from 15-30 feet. A good benchmark for these putts would be for them to finish within 10% of the starting distance. For instance, from 25 feet, the putts should finish inside of two and a half feet of the hole.


  • When chipping the ball, use a ratio of one-fourth in the air and three-fourths on the ground. Make your club selection based on the club that will achieve that ratio. With that in mind, when practicing focus on hitting a landing spot. The more proficient you become at hitting your landing spot the easier it is to adjust from day to day to different green speeds and ground conditions.
  • Focus your chipping practice on getting the ball within five feet of the hole. The percentages of putts inside of five feet should be very high.


  • Again, with pitching, distance control is the most important element. When practicing pitching, work on hitting the ball to specific distances. The better you become at knowing how far you hit these partial shots the more opportunities you have to save par or make more birdies.
  • To control distance with the pitch shots, vary the length and pace of the swing. The longer the shot, the bigger the swing and the faster the pace.

Focused practice on these areas within 40 yards of the green can pay big dividends in improving your scores. By turning four shots into three or three shots into two several times a round your scores will improve, and your handicap will be lowered.