Short Game

Jack Nicklaus shares his secrets for playing a pair of shots around the green

If you’ve ever been tasked with cleanly hitting a chip from the mouth of the green, you understand how difficult it can prove to be to get your shot close to the hole. In today’s Flashback Jack, Nicklaus shares his keys to stop shanks and start picking up tap-ins when you’ve got shots around the green.

“I’ve said before that if you can putt the ball from off the green, it’s the best way to get the ball close to the hole,” Nicklaus says. “But here are two shots just off of the fringe where I can’t really use a putter.”

Nicklaus’ first recommendation is an old-school approach shot: swing your wedge as you would your putter. But as he points out, the key is in controlling your leading edge.

“I try to take a sand wedge and make it react like a putter,” Nicklaus said. “I take a putting stance, putting grip, take the sand wedge and make sure that I use the leading edge and I hit it right into the ball. The leading edge has got a sharp penetrating surface, and anything that we have in the way, it will penetrate through.”

If you’re looking to be even more precise with your shot, Nicklaus encourages you to try his second technique, stolen off a good friend (and fellow major winner).

“The second shot, and I learned it from Tom Watson, he called it a ‘scattershot,'” Nicklaus said. “Plays the ball up off his left foot, hands even with the ball, clubface square. Takes a very low swing rather than an abrupt swing, and makes sure his hands and club continue through the ball. It’s not hitting down on the ball. You make the ball run very softly and come off with a very square face.”

Whether you’re taking Watson’s “scattershot” approach or simply practicing that putting stroke with your wedge, Nicklaus says the impact should be the same: finding a smaller number on the scorecard next to your name.

“I think it will be very helpful in helping you come out with a lower score,” he said.

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