Skip to main content
Terry O'Hara says choosing the right club and making small adjustments to your stroke and shave several strokes off your score.
Siesta Key Thursday, Jul. 21, 2011 11 years ago


by: Terry OHara

The best-kept secret in golf on how to improve your score is your ability to get up and down around the green. Without question, this one area, if improved, will allow you to shoot lower scores immediately.

How do you do this? The most important start is your technique. What do I see most when I teach short game?

Almost always, it’s the wrong club that golfers use to try and get it close. Most chip with a pitching wedge. When I ask what lofted wedges students have in their bag, the overwhelming response is a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. Some golfers think the pitching wedge is only for pitching and chipping, and the sand wedge is only for sand shots.

However, if amateur golfers guessed what percentage of shots were from 50 yards and in, they would be amazed what percentage those strokes factored into their total score. Let’s say you average 90 for an 18-hole score. Let’s break down those 90 shots. Assume you two-putt every green you play (18 holes times two putts per hole = 36). Now, the average golfer hits six greens in regulation per round. That leaves 12 greens you need to chip onto the green (12 missed greens times one chip on = 12). During your round, you hit those six greens in regulation, and of those six greens, three were Par 5s had you hitting a pitching wedge on for your third shot (three times one = three). So here, we see 36 putts plus 12 chips plus three pitching wedge shots = 51 strokes. When you look at the 90 you just shot, more than 56% of your shots were from a pitching wedge and in.

With that many strokes used with a pitching wedge or sand wedge, it is critical to get higher lofted clubs in your bag to cover those areas. I carry a 52-degree wedge, 56-degree wedge, 60-degree wedge and my standard 48-degree pitching wedge. When you look at tour professional’s bag, this is exactly what you see.

I see many amateurs get frustrated because the ball won’t stop for them. These are the reasons: Using a pitching wedge will not allow you to spin the ball; using a hard-type ball will not allow you to spin the ball; and thinking you need to “lift” the ball will not allow you to spin and stop your ball on the green.

Next time you are around the putting green, try these tips to help you hit better shots.

1. If the pin is close with not much green to work with use your highest lofted club (56 or 60 degree wedge)
2. Play the ball slightly back in your stance.
3. Make sure your hands are left of your zipper (this creates almost a feeling that your hands are leaning slightly forward).
4. Eliminate your wrists: It’s not a flip. You need to let the loft of the club get the ball in the air. Do this by feeling like your arms form a triangle and with your hands slightly forward. Your triangle position will make the ball go in the air.
5. Make sure your feet are closer together.

I promise you that once you implement these tips into your strategy, you will find you lower your score almost immediately. If you have any questions that you would like answered, I can be reached at [email protected].

Terry O’Hara is the director of golf at the Longboat Key Club and Resort. For more information, call 387-9151 or visit

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.

Related Stories