One of the best drills we've ever come across for short game distance control is called the Ladder Drill. This exercise can make an incredible difference very quickly.
We've worked with beginning golfers who started out hitting the ball over the green, short of the green, all over the place in a clinic, and within half an hour they were hitting the four-foot circle of their target pretty consistently.
The Ladder Drill
That's a pretty amazing improvement for a half hour period. Today we're going to show you how to do that yourself.
Start by picking a flag about 30 feet from the edge of the green. You're going to hit your first shot as close to the flag as you can, without going over.
Let's say your first chip falls four or five feet short of the flag. That's exactly what you want, so you can move on to the next shot.
The ball you just hit becomes your new target line. Now you can't hit past that ball or you have to start over. Say your second ball lands 4-5 feet short of the first. Once again you're in great shape and that ball becomes your target line for the next shot.
As you can see, you're gradually working closer and closer to the edge of the green.
If at any time you hit a shot that goes past your last ball, you have to pick up all the balls and start over.
This means you're hitting shorter and shorter shots, and that's why we call it the Ladder Drill.
Close to the Edge
The real magic of this drill happens when you get close to the edge of the green and it becomes very difficult to hit a shot that doesn't go past your last ball.
Close to the edge
You can see in the photo at right that Clay's last ball is just 7-8 feet from the fringe. This is where it gets much more challenging.
Clay has an added challenge here because he's set up his drill on a slight downward slope. This will make it very difficult to fly the ball on the green, or just short of the green, without having it roll past his last ball.
Choosing different conditions on the green is a great way to scale this drill for beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
If you're just starting to play the game you may want to pick a slope that runs fairly steeply back toward you. This will help stop your balls a little more easily so you don't have to be as precise at first.
As you get better you can move on to a flatter green and eventually one that slopes away from you so you have a very small margin for error.
Even closer - very challenging
When you're taking these short, challenging shots you want to focus on keeping your hands extremely soft.
Soft hands give you a good feel for how far and how firmly you need to swing the club back and through. If you tense up at all, you'll have a tendency to get quick and you'll always hit it too far.
Keep your hands very, very soft and just barely hit the shot.
As you can see, Clay's next shot is even more challenging. The slope is running back away from him so it'll be tough for him to hit it onto the green without going past that last ball.
The better you get at short chips, the better you'll be at long ones
The great news is that the better you get at these really short chips, the better your touch and feel will be when it comes to the longer ones.
A fairly short amount of time playing this drill will help you develop really good judgment about how hard you need to swing the club back and through to hit the shot you want.
Golfers with poor technique will find these smaller chips very difficult. If you're flipping the club at all, or you get kind of a jab at the bottom of your stroke, these are going to be almost impossible.
You may find that you can do fairly well on the longer shots, but it gets tough in a hurry when you get really close to the edge of the green.
Try it out, keep those hands soft, and your distance control in the short game will greatly improve, guaranteed.