When I spoke with Terri Anthony-Ryan, the head professional at Detroit golf center Belle Isle Golf Range, about the best short-game tactics for the average golfer, I made what I thought was a reasonable suggestion.
“Let’s start at, say, 100 yards and work our way toward the putting surface.”
She would have none of this.
“I have a better idea. Let’s start with the putting surface and work our way out.”
With this, Anthony-Ryan had already given me her first lesson: the very idea of focusing on putting first is instructive.
She should know. She’s been correcting wrong-headed course strategies since 1984, whether at Belle Isle Golf Range or at University of Detroit Mercy, where she coaches the champion women’s golf team. Her skills haven’t gone unnoticed in the greater world of golf: in 1996, Anthony-Ryan was voted Michigan PGA Teacher of the Year. In other words, she’s a busy woman.
Fortunately, she was able to share some short-game tips while driving home from an all-day golf seminar at Ferris University in Big Rapids. We’ve condensed her advice into five general guidelines. Take them to heart, and you’ll be playing better in no time.
Take Time to Learn the Putting Green
The fastest way to improve your game is to spend time on the putting green. To make the most of this time, Anthony-Ryan recommends a practice routine called the Ladder Drill. Here’s how she explains it:
“On the practice green, place a tee at 6, 12, 24, 36, and 48 inches away from the hole. Novices should start by rolling the ball with their hands—leave the putter out of it. Then, when you’ve got a feel for how the ball will roll, putt the ball toward the hole and then back to the tee. Next, do the same thing with your eyes closed. Once proficient with that, you can move the tees back to 6, 8, or more feet. This teaches players how to control distance and develop feel.”
“The easiest way to read a green,” she continued, “is to mark your ball, close your eyes, and walk toward the cup. Your instincts will tell you everything you need to know about how the ball is going to break.”
Bump It Real Good
When you miss the green on your approach, it’s natural to want to pull out a high-lofted wedge. But according to Anthony-Ryan, the “bump-and-run” is usually the way to go.
“The first thing is to assess your situation,” she said. “If you have a lot of green to work with and there’s nothing between you and the green, pull out an 8- or 9-iron, align the ball on the inside of your front foot, and lean toward the hole. Keep your arms locked, keep the ball low, and get it rolling as early as possible. We see a lot more balls roll in than fly in.”
Putt Whenever Possible
When your ball lands deep on the fringe or just off it, you might be torn between chipping and putting. Anthony-Ryan’s golden rule is “putt whenever possible.” She advises chipping and pitching only if it’s absolutely necessary. After all, it’s easier to flub a chip than it is to flub a putt.
When Pitching, Sweep Through the Ball
So what if you do have to pitch the ball? “If you’re in the rough and you don’t have a lot of green to work with,” Anthony-Ryan said, “play the ball in the middle of your stance and choke down on the club. Whereas with a bump-and-run we want to take an abbreviated swing, the goal here is to sweep through the ball. Let the sole go under the ball and automatically lift it up.”
Don’t Be Scared of Sand Traps
“I love the sand,” Anthony-Ryan said, acknowledging that most golfers dread the stuff. “The key here is to open the stance and take a steeper downswing than normal. Hit 2 inches behind the ball so the sand propels the ball out of the bunker and onto the green.”
If you’re looking for more tips, visit Anthony-Ryan at Belle Isle Golf Range, which features a 30-station driving range, three putting greens, and a five-hole short course. In the end, you’ll do well to follow her tips, but there’s no substitute for practice.