What Is YOUR Short Game Golf Handicap?

As you shake off the winter rust and prepare once again for a season of close matches and fun with your friends, look to your short game to close the deal.
If you’ve been reading our blog Golf Tips you should be convinced by now that you can really improve your golf scores by improving your putting. Stopping those 3- putts and holing from inside the ‘magic circle’ (approx 6 feet) will see your scores tumbling, and you’ll be winning plenty of match-play events too!

Do you know that once a putt exceeds 6 feet the chances of holing it fall dramatically. So if you have a 15 foot or a 35 foot putt, the chances of either of them dropping into the hole are pretty slim… If you need convincing further go ahead and check some fascinating golf putting statistics from the PGA tour.

So – if your chances of holing a putt longer than 6 feet are slim it stands to good reason that the shot before your first putt ideally needs to get the ball within 6 feet of the hole. And this is where the pros that are winning events are so good at!

Look back at Tom Kite and Lee Janzen. Neither of them were as athletic as Tiger or Ernie, and neither were known for being long off the tee, but my word they won so many tournaments (and money!) simply by having the best short games in the business.

So lets see how good is YOUR short game?

Unless you are a complete beginner (if so, click here to read about beginners’ golf handicap) you’ll know what a golf handicap is, even if you’re not sure how it is exactly calculated (it’s actually quite complex!). But have you ever calculated your SHORT GAME GOLF HANDICAP?

This is a great exercise to do every month or so to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie in your short game.

How to calculate your short game handicap

You’ll need to find a descent area where you can hit some pitches, chips and bunker shots – not always easy I know but persevere because this is a great exercise.

You now need to execute eight tests hitting ten shots on each test (described a little later) and scoring as follows:-


You score the points according to how close to the hole you hit each ball as follows –

More than 6 feet = 0 points
Between 3 and 6 feet = 1 point
Inside 3 feet = 2 points
In the hole = 4 points

Now you can get on and execute the tests listed below with 10 balls on each test.


Short Game Golf Handicap Tests

1. 50 yard wedge shot with no obstacles in between and the ball flying onto the green.

2. 30 yard wedge shot with no obstacles in between and the ball flying onto the green.

3. Greenside bunker shot with 8 yards to the hole.

4. Greenside bunker shot with 15 yards to the hole.

5. 10 yard chip shot from the edge of the green.

6. 20 yard chip shot from light rough.

7. 15 yard pitch shot with no obstacles and the ball flying onto the green.

8. 15 yard lob shot over a bunker.

Once you’ve completed all the tests and written your scores down, add them all together and then look up your short game golf handicap.

Tour pros will score around between 125 and 140 points giving them a short game golf handicap of between +3 and +6!

So what do the results tell you? Clearly the more you score the lower your short game handicap and it is interesting to compare that to your overall handicap. If it is higher than your overall handicap then it means your short game is a weakness in your overall game.

However – the best thing you can do when executing this test is twofold:-

  1. Monitor it.
    Re-run the test every 6 weeks or so and see if you are improving.
  2. Identify the weak and strong parts of your short game.
    Have a look at your scores for each test and identify the tests where you scored the lowest number of points. This is clearly the weakest area of your short game and an area you may want to work on, but be a little careful – probably the hardest test is the 15 yard bunker shot, but how many times are you actually faced with this shot on your golf course? If you don’t often need this shot look at the next lowest score and decide if that’s a better area to work on.

Once you calculate your short game golf handicap, it’s time to work on improving it. Here are some great tips on how you can improve it very quickly.

Tips for Improving Your Golf Short Game

I see my members hitting ball after ball on the driving range but rarely see anyone working on chipping, pitching, bunker play or putting. Here are the top five ways to lower your scores this spring.


Using a pitching wedge, lean the shaft for crisp contact and good distance control – lean it toward your target at set-up and through impact. Never let the head pass the handle!

Pitching/Flop Shots.

Hinge UP and release.To get a high, floating trajectory, you must abandon the idea of BACKswing – you need an UPswing to pull this shot off. Hinge the clubhead up instead of back, then simply release your body open toward the flag for a soft landing.

Sand Shots.

Use some mental imagery to get the ball out of the bunker. Most problems in the bunker occur when the ball is struck cleanly, going into the bank in front of you or way over the green.

For perfection from the sand, imagine your ball is sitting on a small carpet of sand and your goal is to move the entire carpet onto the green. If you succeed in getting the flying carpet on the green, the ball will surely be there, too.

Putting I.

If I asked how much of your putting stroke is back and how much is through, most players would instantly say 50-50.


A good putting stroke should feel like one-third back and two-thirds through.The putting stroke is mostly a through stroke with the backswing only occurring to generate momentum for the forward pus.Try this on your putting green, and I bet your directional control and speed improve dramatically.

Putting II.

Yes, there are two putting tips, but it is the most important part of the game.

Trick question – which hand do you predominantly hit your putts with – the left or the right?

Answer – neither; you hold the putter with your hands and you ROLL the ball with your shoulder blades.

A drill that gives you the instant feel is to hold your putter in front of you at both ends, arms fully extended, just rocking back and forth (see picture). Just be sure to keep your lower body very quiet so that you don’t encourage lateral motion.

The correct feeling is your lead shoulder rocking under your body on the backswing and up again on the through motion.

More than half your shots are within 15 yards of the flag. Chart it the next time you play, and you will realize the benefit of short game practice. See you on the links!