Practice is what makes perfect with short irons.
From top to bottom, from the PGA Tour to the weekend warrior, everybody is hitting the golf ball longer. More clubhead speed, more springy faces, golf balls that travel farther and straighter, all have resulted in greater distance off the tee.
But while chicks dig the long ball, the scorecard reflects the importance of a different aspect of the game.
Those who play for pay know the short game is where they make their money. Getting the ball close to those hard-to-reach pins is a must for the pros and doing that with precision approaches is the only way to do that.
Recreational players are mesmerized by long drives, but many don’t get the importance of the short game.
Here are five reasons it’s the most important aspect in the game.
John Daly practices on his short game with his son.
Players are driving the ball longer and longer, meaning approach shots are getting shorter. Hitting short irons seems very easy, even for the tour pros.
But if you want to do something that will open your eyes, go to a PGA Tour event and sit at the range for a while.
Watch several players over the course of a couple hours and see how much time the best players in the world spend practicing with those scoring clubs.
Bernhard Langer has as good a short game as anyone.
As we see every week, the best players in the world can spin the ball on the greens as if the ball was attached to a yo-yo.
They’re able to do this despite decisions by the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient to limit what clubs can do to make that happen.
And there’s a reason for that. If you go out to your local range and try to spin shots, you’ll quickly find out it’s not that easy.
The pros can do it because they learned early in their development how important those clubs are.
Hit your short irons close enough and you won't have to get this kind of look at putts.
It makes so much sense, it’s silly, really; if a player is able to hit his approach shots close to the hole, the chances are very good that player will become a better putter.
Take a guy like Rory McIlroy, whose average proximity from the hole this year was 33 feet. From 100-125 yards, that average dropped to 18 feet.
One thing that rings true for golfers of all levels: the shorter the putt, the better the chances of making it.
Being able to navigate tough greenside rough is part of a good short game.
As a way to protect themselves for the long-distance bombardments that are part of today’s game, the PGA Tour and golf courses have started beefing up greens complexes.
This is being done in a variety of ways. Some places have gone to thicker, higher rough around greens, making those delicate chips and pitches even more dicey because of the uncertainty of how the ball will react off the clubface.
Other course have shaved greenside areas running into closely-mown areas as well as the grassy areas around bunkers, encouraging balls to roll into the sand.
Precise short irons eliminate much of that aggravation.
Phil Mickelson loves short game shots and spends hours practicing.
Last, but not least, there are few things as exciting for a player as snuggling a short-iron shot up to the hole.
Unless, of course, that shot results in the ball disappearing. Yes, there is the occasional hole-out from 150 yards or more, but there are a lot more as the distance decreases.
And that’s a thrill for players of absolutely all levels.