4 Keys To Improve Your Short Game Strikes

Top 50 Coach Ben Emerson discusses four techniques to help you improve your short game strikes

PGA pro Ben Emerson hitting a chip shot at Infinitum Golf Resort in Spain
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

For many golfers, finding a consistently clean contact on short, delicate chip shots feels almost impossible. That's why in the video and article below, PGA pro Ben Emerson runs through four simple tips that will help you stop wasting shots around the green.

The set-up

When it comes to the short game, it's important to understand that the set-up is key. One of the main faults I see is that people often set up to hit short shots like they would if they were trying to hit a full 7-iron. You don't need that width of stance, so working on getting into a better position can automatically improve the quality of your strike around the greens.

PGA pro Ben Emerson setting up to hit a shot at Infinitum Golf Resort in Spain

It's vital to get the set-up correct - don't address the ball like you are hitting a full shot (left)

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Narrow your stance so it's about the width of a clubhead and flare your left foot out slightly. That just opens the body up a little so you don't have to be as active with it as you would on a normal shot.

From there, I want you to feel like the shaft is leaning about five degrees forward so the grip is roughly pointing at your left pocket, with the ball position roughly in the middle of your stance. The weight should also be on your left side at address and it should stay there throughout the swing.

Proper sequencing

Short shots are all about finesse, so it's important not to swing like you would when aiming for power. In your full swing, the lower body starts the downswing as it tends to be the strongest muscle but we don't want that here.

PGA pro Ben Emerson hitting a chip shot at Infinitum Golf Resort

Allow the hands and arms to start the downswing when hitting a short shot

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Instead, when you take the club when chipping or pitching shot, feel like your arms and club start the downswing sequence. If anything, you want the club to be moving fastest so you can utilise the bounce at impact. As you approach the hitting zone, your body will automatically engage and your hips will gently turn through impact and into the finish.

Remember, gravity is your friend, so don't force the club down by pulling it. Just let the arms and club fall in front of you before turning through to a nice balanced position.


Working on your rhythm is also vital to improving your short game and grip pressure plays a big part in this. One of the worst things you can do around the greens is grip the club too tightly. If you work on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being really soft and 10 being really tight, I recommend aiming for around 3 so it's nice and light. Tense muscles are weak muscles that forget, so the lighter your grip is the more you'll be able feel the clubhead and get momentum into the shot.

PGA pro Ben Emerson hitting a chip shot at Infinitum Golf Resort in Spain

Keep your grip pressure light and work on a smooth rhythm

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

When it comes to the swing, I love to count "one and two" during the shot. When you take the club back that's "one"; a bit of a pause in transition is "and"; and coming down into impact is "two".

Keep that nice rhythm and you'll be able to strike the ball better with far more consistency. 

The release

The final thing is to do with the release. There are two bad releases I commonly see. The first is a flip release where golfers try and help the ball into the air, and the second is a block release, which is when golfers pull down with the lead hand and create too much forward shaft lean at impact.

PGA pro Ben Emerson hitting a one-handed chip shot at Infinitum Golf Resort in Spain

Try this one-handed drill to improve your release

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

If you're struggling with either of these, here's a simple drill to try. Take your lead hand off the club and put it on your thigh. Then, make some rehearsal swings just feeling the weight of the club and allowing the club to pass the body naturally. You can even hit some shots like this but just make sure you keep everything nice and soft and you'll start to hone a better technique, which will lead to better short game shots.

Ben Emerson
Top 50 Coach

Location: Sand Martins GC 

Ben’s modern approach to golf coaching has seen him become one of the most sought-after coaches in the country and teaches none other than Robbie Williams. His honest, modern and fun style of coaching has help thousands of golfers of all ages and abilities and he has been coaching for over 20 years.

Advice for practice:

Start with slow, small swings. If you can’t do it small and slowly there is not a hope in hell of doing it at full speed with a full swing! In other sports such as rugby or martial arts they slow learn new moves/plays before making them at full speed. 

Teaching philosophy: 

‘Why guess when you can access’ Ever new student goes through a full TPI movement screen, 3D motion capture and pressure plate analysis as well as TrackMan and 2D video analysis. Coaching is based on facts and not guess work. 

Most common problem:

A lack of clubface understanding and awareness. I get golfers to aim the clubface directly at the target and get them to make a slow swings and deliver the club to the ball with an open face, then repeat the same thing again but with a closed face, followed by one at the target. Giving them full awareness based on feelings errors to find a happy middle ground.