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Struggling with distance control on chips and pitches? Try this.

Once you can control the distance in the short game, you will be a master of throwing and cutting!

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Welcome to Shaving Strokes, the series where we share the progress, lessons learned and takeaways from novice golfers like you — including the speed bumps and challenges they've faced along the way.

Crushing your tee shot down the middle of the fairway is fun, but you know what can slow down a round? Not finishing the job when you are close to the green.

As I've gotten to know our Top 100 Golf Instructors, almost all of them tell me that the real way to start getting low scores is to master shots from within 50 yards – meaning chips, pitches, and putts.

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But here's a common problem among the uneducated: Most players don't actually play the short game, because it's not as fun as swinging the driver. Even those who stop on the green often don't spend enough time there, rushing through a few short shots of the game before the round.

If you're serious about shaving strokes and giving yourself more opportunities for birdies and pars, you'll need to dial in your distance control from the green.

While that may seem like a daunting task, with the help of GOLF 100 Master Instructor Jim Murphy, you can add structure to your short game practice and become a professional with a wedge in your hands. See below to find out how.

How to dial in your distance control in the short game

“If you don't reach the ball near the hole [when chipping or pitching], it's hard to score well,” said Murphy. “The problem I see with players in the short game is that they try to control their distance with acceleration – which is not going to happen, but is something which is difficult to do consistently.”

So what causes this problem? According to Murphy, it usually happens when players are too short in the backswing and get tension in the arms. This often leads to them trying to speed up the descent.

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“Since this type of shot usually requires a short recoil, if they need a long distance when firing – and they don't increase the recoil – the only way to hit it is to accelerate the recoil,” added Murphy. “Sure, this is one way to control distance, but it will lead to mixed and inconsistent results.”

If this sounds like your short game, Murphy offers the following tip to help you practice.

Don't be afraid to extend the retreat

He says: “You have to increase your retreat. “This sounds easy, but it's more challenging than you think.”

Murphy suggests starting by resting your arms at address, which will give you the freedom to extend your back. Next, take the club as far back as you feel you should go without having to accelerate to hit your shot to the correct distance.

“In the beginning, you're still going to accelerate and hit the ball very far,” added Murphy. “But don't do it Shorten your backswing or slowly going down to hit it short. Resisting that urge is important if you're trying to get a better touch and feel in control of the distance.”

Murphy says to continue this swing pattern until you feel the backswing lengthen and you avoid accelerating into the swing. It should feel like the club is coming down as it comes through impact, allowing the loft to do the work for you.

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“Now the one thing you have to remember is to avoid going down,” Murphy insisted. “Just use the natural acceleration of stroke length to increase distance, not swing speed.”

The old saying “let the club do the work” applies here.

Finally, Murphy suggests the following drill to help dial in your distance control in the short game.

“Try to hit 20-30-yard pitch shots while swinging as long as possible — but hit the ball as short as possible,” he says. “It's hard to almost swing and only hit 20 yards, but if you master the feel, you'll have better control of your speed and distance.”

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