An important skill in the quest for improved scores is learning to hit half shots. In other words the ability to vary the distance you hit the ball with a given club.
This skill is especially useful in the wind and for shots of less than 100 yards. A common situation where a half shot is a good strategy is as follows: If a normal 9 iron shot flies 120 yards but there is a strong cross wind the golfer would benefit from taking either a 7 or 8 iron and playing a half to three quarter shot.
This shot would fly lower and therefore be less influenced by the wind. This strategy is also beneficial if the golfer has a less than perfect lie. The variations from your normal swing are subtle. Do not feel that you must revamp your swing to be successful at this shot.
The following are the variations required to play a less than full shot:
a Feet slightly closer together than normal (perhaps an inch closer)
a Weight positioned with about 60 percent on the front foot (left foot for a right-handed golfer).
a Ball positioned farther back in the stance than normal (about an inch behind the center of the stance).
Your swing should remain the same except the distance the hands travel. For instance if in your normal swing the hands swing to a point just above the shoulders on the back swing and forward swing, practice swinging the hands to shoulder height both ways. This should help gauge the distance variations
that occur when shortening the length of the swing. Do not reduce the body motion for these shots. Simply shorten the arm swing.
Practice this on the driving range by first hitting full shots with a given club.
After hitting several shots adopt the changes for the reduced distance shots and notice the difference in ball flight and distance. After five or 10 shots at this length, reduce the distance once more by shortening the length of the hand swing. (Do not reduce body motion).
Practice like this with only your short irons (7 and shorter including the pitching wedge and sand wedge).
Terry Gingell is the PGA Director of Instruction at Eagle Valley Golf, and coach for the Carson High School girls golf team. He can be reached at 887-7174.
(In the attached photo, by Jean Bondiett: Elizabeth Rankl, CHS Girls Golf Team member, demonstrates the address position for the half shot)