Is technical mastery of the short game a pre-requisite?

A task is a piece of work to be done or undertaken, while technique is a specific way of carrying out a task 

When you are faced with a shot around the green, whether that be a shot that requires less than a full swing, a pitch over a bunker or water, a chip and run or a bunker shot from a plugged lie, do you start thinking about what the ball needs to do or what you need to do? In other words, are you thinking about the task or the technique? The shot or the swing? 

We would imagine that, initially, like most golfers, you are probably thinking about what your ball needs to do to get close to the flag. Great: you are focused on the task. However, once you are over the ball, there is a strong possibility your thoughts will quickly turn to what you need to do. Those thoughts might be about how you need to move your arms, hands, hips and/or shoulders. 

You have probably figured out how you would like your ball to fly, where you would like it to land and how it will react when it lands on the green. Visualisation is extremely powerful and something we strongly recommend you work on. 

You have created a nice clear image of the shot in your mind’s eye. You’re almost ready to go but then – out of nowhere – you suddenly think about the last time you played a similar shot that resulted in a double bogey because you duffed it three feet in front of you. You remember that one of your playing partners told you that you had bent your left arm in your backswing and lifted your head at impact. Now your thoughts are entirely on your technique. You have completely forgotten about the shot you face right here, right now and suddenly you feel fear and tension engulf your entire body. You can feel your hands tighten around the grip in a desperate attempt not to make a mess of yet another pitch. 

Only seconds ago, you were totally engaged and absorbed in the shot and now you are entirely detached from what, in reality, is a pretty straightforward shot and a fairly simple task. All thoughts and visions of playing a great shot have been replaced with numerous internal technical instructions, all vying for your attention. Your initial clarity has now been replaced with a maelstrom of mental clutter. 

All you have ever learned about staying in the present moment has gone out the window as your mind goes on a journey of time travel. Firstly, re-visiting previous bad shots and then, just as quickly, jumping ahead into the future, predicting and worrying about the result or outcome of the shot. 

You are not alone. This happens all the time to players at all levels. This is what can and does happen when thoughts and focus jump from task to technique. That being the case, what can you do to prevent this from happening time and time again? It is pretty simple. In a world where we are led to believe that complexity is the key, quite the opposite is true. 

Taken from The Lost Art of the Short Game by Gary Nicol and Karl Morris – with a foreword from Bob Vokey, the godfather of wedges.

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