When most people think about losing strokes off of their handicap, a pretty common thought that comes to mind is hitting the range and working on driving the ball longer off the tee. While that may be beneficial for some people, the key to losing the most strokes off your score is working on your short game.
For a pitch shot, a technical shot where the ball spends approximately 75% of the time in the air, a common mistake is to loosen up and not utilize proper mechanics. Start by taking a more closed stance than normal, hinging your wrist ever so slightly to help keep the club close to your body. Keep the V shape with your two arms, turn with your hips and follow through the shot. Hinging your wrist will help keep you from using too much wrist rotation and minimizing hitting the shot fat or thin.
A flop shot travels about 90% of its distance through the air and lands softly on the green. For this, you must open the face of the club, keeping it pointed toward the sky throughout the swing, and swing full force, sliding the club face under the ball. This creates a greater loft, sending the ball high in the air and uses the bounce of the wedge to stop it from digging into the ground.
The bump and run shot keeps the ball on the ground for about 90% of its distance traveled or more. A good setup for this is to keep the ball towards the back of your stance and tilting the shaft forward toward the desired direction. During the backswing, hinge your wrist and keep it in that position throughout the rest of the swing, turning with your chest as your arms come through. This will keep the ball low and allow it more speed control.
Finally, for the chip shot, a shot where the ball travels around 50% of its distance through the air, you want to focus on keeping a lighter grip on the club and starting with the ball towards the back of your stance. Doing this while keeping an open stance will allow contact with the ball before the ground. Focus on keeping your head still and staring at a spot on the back of the ball where the club face is going to make contact. As with some of the previous shots, make sure your body rotates with your swing, getting most of your weight to the front foot by the end of the swing.
There you have it. If you want to outdrive your friends and be the star of the tee box, then by all means, grab your driver and head to the range. But if you want to drop strokes and start competing for at your course for real, then go to the nearest short game practice facility and start perfecting the shots listed above. Your golf game will thank you.