I grew up playing golf on a course called Esker Hills, it’s in the middle of Ireland and it’s not that well known. I think the reason my short game is quite good is that all the greens there are raised. I used to play a lot of golf on my own and I’d practice my chipping a lot. You’d always have to chip it up with a little bit of spin to get the ball close. I was never taught how to play them but I chipped and I chipped and I chipped and over time I developed it. Interestingly, at the start of this year I felt like my chipping game wasn’t as good as usual but I was practising really hard. The problem was that I was working on my technique as opposed to just doing it. I had a chat with my caddie and he said, just hit the shot you see first. Now I feel like my chipping is back to where it was. Obviously technique is massively important, if you have a really strong grip and you close the clubface in the takeaway you’ll struggle for loft. But having said that, if you are confident in what you are doing and know what the ball is going to do when it hits the green, that’s the most important thing.
My Favourite Shot
For me, often the harder the shot the better I play it. If you give me a tight lie playing over a bunker, I’ll fancy my chances. At the Open in 2010 I played a flop shot from a really tight lie behind the Road Hole bunker at St Andrews and managed to get up and down for a four – that would be one of my favourite short game shots. To play that shot, I like to have the heel of the club sitting off the ground a fraction at address. That forces toe of the club to sit into the ground, reducing the bounce of the wedge. Then I open the clubface, set the club in the backswing and release it at impact. It’s a tough shot to get right, I’m confident in doing it but it’s probably not one I would recommend to a lot of people!
My Wedge Set-Up
It’s massively important to get the right wedge set up. For professional golfers it is from 150 yards and in that you make your living. The best players get up and down six or seven times out of 10 from 150 yards out. But whatever your level you really need a wedge system that works for you if you want to score well. I’m really comfortable with mine. I only have three wedges – all Cleveland RTX 2.0. I have a 46˚ pitching wedge that goes 135 yards, a 51˚ gap wedge that goes 118 yards and a 58˚ lob wedge that I hit 95 yards. So I have a big gap between my lob wedge and my gap wedge but I’m quite good at the ¾ wedge shot and 110 is a really nice yardage for me. Also, if you gave me an 85 yard shot I’m pretty confident I would put it in there inside 10 ft. Right now I have a high bounce lob wedge in the bag. That’s purely because I’m over playing golf in the UK and it’s likely to be fairly soft under foot. I usually go for a 58˚ with less bounce (6˚) but for this week I’ve gone for the 10˚ option. It purely depends on the conditions I’m playing in and I always carry two 58˚ wedges with me and I’ll see which I prefer in practice. I’m as equally as comfortable with both.
Firstly you have to know how to use the bounce of your wedges and how it can help. For most amateurs a higher bounce wedge is the safest option. If you start using low bounce wedges the club will dig and get stuck in the turf through impact, that makes it less forgiving. Obviously, I’d have to take a look at your individual technique but for most golfers I’d recommend the higher bounce wedges. The biggest fault I see among amateurs is that they set the ball too far back in the stance and they end up driving the ball forward. If you get the ball set more in line with your front foot and swing left through impact to get more loft on the clubface, that gives you more control. The ball comes off the face softer and lands softer on the green and that means you can be a bit more aggressive with your short game shots.
From inside 60 yards I don’t get a yardage. I would do it by eye and play different types of shots depending on the wind – if the wind was out of the right I would play a little cut shot to hold it up. Vice versa for if the wind was out of the left. That helps because it gets the ball landing softer on the green.
Shane Lowry Short Game Masterclass
First of all you have to clean your grooves! Creating spin is all about striking the ball purely and with speed. As I mentioned a lot of people get the ball back in the stance at address – this causes the ball to come off the face too fast. The result being that they quit on the shot. So I like to see people getting the ball forward in the stance, they can then swing onto the ball, hitting down on it with a little bit more speed. I think that will help you create more spin.
The process of finding the right wedges involves starting with your 9-iron. If I hit my 9-iron 130 yards for instance, then I’d hit a 48˚ wedge. If that only goes 110 yards I’d know the gap between them was too big so I’d have to strengthen the loft of that wedge. You then do the same thing until you find the right line-up. I’d say a 10 or 15 yard gap between each wedge is ideal. You also need to think about the short game shots you hit, so that you select the right bounce angles. You can only really do that by hitting shots from bunkers, tight lies, rough – all around the green to see which combination of bounce angle and loft works best for you.
To improve my chipping I play a lot of games. If you can get one of your mates and go to a chipping green and play for a couple of quid that will help. I play games against Padraig Harrington for at least an hour a day at tournaments. We’d play for 50 dollars, first to 10 nearest the pin on different shots. For me, that’s the best thing you can do for your short game, to get a competitive edge. If you stand there and hit chip after chip, that’s not much good to you. If you’re on your own there is a game called par 18 – you hit chips from nine different positions around the green and try to get it up and down 9 times. If you can shoot par, you’re not bad!
It’s important to understand the basic bunker shot technique. I like to widen my stance and get into a squat at address. A lot of amateurs stand too close to the ball, this creates a steep angle of attack where you chop down on the ball and take too much sand. I get the ball in the middle of my stance and open the face as much as I can to use the bounce of the club though impact. So my one tip for bunker play would be to get low into a squat position and set the ball in the middle of the stance.