Episode from the podcastGolf Strategy School Podcast

GSS 47: Golf Digest Top 50 Instructor James Sieckmann: How to Approach Your Short Game

Released Friday, 4th December 2015
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How to Approach Your Short Game


James has coached over 50 PGA & LPGA Tour players, Golf Digest top 50 instructor,Golf Magazine top 100 instructor. He operates the Shadow Ridge Golf Academy in Omaha, Nebraska.


  • Biggest flaw James sees (6:40): People get on the course and start thinking about their mechanics while they are trying to play.

    • Don’t tinker while you’re on the course. Just play.

  • Plateau Levels (8:00): Players should shoot for different plateau levels based on their skill. Using a 70 yard shot as an example:

    • If you’re a lower handicapped player, your plateau might be a 2 yard circle around the cup so you can make birdie.

    • If you’re a higher handicapper, your plateau might be within 10 yards so you can get down in two and avoid bogeys.

    • Realizing the standard that your short game needs to be at to achieve those plateaus is a BIG step in the improvement process.

  • Get down in 3 vs down in 5 and awareness (9:20): 

    • First step is to create an awareness technically to compress the ball and hit the ball first so you’re not hitting in the bunker, etc.

    • A second problem is that players don’t typically train or practice at all for that type of shot (a five par or short 4 par)-they skip right over it.

    • Set up cones and work on hitting to a specific distance to help with this shot.

  • If you’re a mid to high handicapper (11):

    • You need to train, get your driver in play off the tee, get your wedges around the green, your light putter, and your distance wedges proficient to the point where you’re not wasting strokes.

    • If you can do those simple things, drive is decently, light putt, chip reasonably close to the hole, hit your wedges on the green, you’ll be shocked at how easy it would be to break 90 for example.

  • Wedges around the green (12:30):

    • Biggest area of trouble that James’ students have.

    • Training techniques:

      • set up is critical: what’s optimal for 10 yards is horrible from 200 and vice versa.

      • You need to get a clear picture in your head of what you’re going to do, get in the right set up, and follow the correct sequence.

  • Chipping trajectories (16:30):

    • Once you’re hitting the ball consistently, there’s still skill involved.

    • You need to know what to hit what shot when, you need to pick the right trajectory, what club to play when, match your energy of the swing with the effect of loft-it all demands a certain demand of practice.

    • Training: take any club you would use around the green

      • Lob wedge: Hit your normal trajectory shot, a higher than normal shot, and a lower than normal.

      • Let’s take the same three trajectories with a 9-iron: normal, lower than normal, and higher than normal

      • You need to realize, in order to a hit a higher than normal shot, you lean the shaft less, you open the face more, the ball position would slide up, those elements create more effective loft and more effective bounce so when the club does hit the ground, it doesn’t stick.

  • Important putting skills (20:30)

    • Quiet your eye prior to your stroke-it has dramatic effect on your brain and your ability to focus and be calm.

    • Skills in putting:

      • How to assess yourself-see if you’re falling short in a certain area

      • Develop a plan of attack

  • Post Round Analysis (22)

    • Realize if you’re falling short in one area, find out what you’re going to do about it

    • Come back when you mess up to find out what you’re going to do about it; don’t just realize the mistake, do something about it, otherwise you’ll hit the same shot

  • Rapid Fire Round (23)

    • Favorite go-to drill

      • Right arm only finesse swings-take your lead arm off and swing with your trail arm only.

    • What’s the most fundamental part of the short-game?

      • Rhythm- the key issue as far as distance control. Keep everything together

    • What book would you recommend to a golfer?

    • If you had only 24 hours to help your student prepare for that big important tournament, what are you going to spend that time working on?

      • Get them to be well rested-always number one. Be well-hydrated and do some visualization -see themselves walk up to the tee calm and confident.