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The Short Game
This is the place where skill and practice collide in an abundance of reward. You may not be able to hit monster drives, but you can learn the skills necessary to get up and down from anywhere around the green. To me the short game doesn't start at the green, it starts with my 7 iron. I strongly believe that once I reach 150 yards I should be in the hole in no more than 3 shots. I'm not always successful, but that's my goal. 

The only way to make this happen is practice, practice, practice. If you spend as much time around the chipping green and in the practice bunker as you do working on your full swing your scores will drop, but you have to practice. Think of it this way; if you improve your game from the pin back to the tee then the closer to the pin you get the more confident you will feel. Confidence breeds better scores, and the short game is the great equalizer in golf. Yes I'm saying that with a lot of conviction. I have experienced it myself.
 
The first round of golf I ever played outside of the U.S. was at Loch Ness Golf Course in Inverness, Scotland. I wasn't a very good golfer then but I wanted to play where the game was invented, so I found the course on-line and booked a tee time and leased a set of clubs. When I arrived the staff couldn't have been more helpful. I bought a dozen golf balls and picked up my clubs. The clubs were an old set of blades and the woods were classics too! They gave me a bucket of balls to warm up and get used to the clubs. I'll say this about blades; When you hit the ball on the sweet spot you can't feel the impact. It really does feel sweet. 

I was playing alone on a weekday morning. The course was rather empty, just the way I'd hoped it would be. I stepped on the first tee and striped my drive right down the middle. I should have gone straight to the bar and called it a day, instead I picked up my bag and set off on what I was sure would be an enjoyable round in the Scottish highlands. 

If you ever have the chance to play a round of golf there I highly recommend it. The scenery up there is absolutely astounding. I should know, I saw every inch of the course. It isn't a long or difficult course unless you can't put the ball in the fairway. On one hole I hit into the right rough and knew exactly where the ball was, but there was no way to extract it from the gorse. I should write an entire chapter on that stuff. It's the closest thing to botanical barb wire I have ever had the misfortune to touch!

Somewhere in the 13th fairway i realized I had just lost my 11th ball. There was no way I was going to walk in without finishing the round, and I damn sure didn't want the embarrassment of buying more balls in the pro shop to finish. They say desperation is the mother of invention. I needed to find a way to finish the round. The longest club I was hitting well that day was a 7 iron so that became my club of choice for the rest of the round. Looking back on it now I have to laugh. I must have looked foolish strolling down the fairway hitting every shot with my 7, but I accomplished my goal. I finished my round.

When my last putt rattled in on the 18th green I stood there and marked down my score. As I was walking to the clubhouse I looked down at my scorecard and stopped dead in my tracks. I bogeyed the last 5 holes. At that time a round of 90 was average for me. I just played 5 holes on a course I've never seen before with rented clubs and matched my average. No woods or long irons, just fairways and greens.

That day changed my entire outlook on golf. When I returned home I altered my practice priorities and watched my scores start to drop. There's a reason the shorter shots count as much as the longer ones; golf is a game of precision. So what if the big boys can hammer 300 yard drives? You have the potential to hit every shot they can around the greens.

Sometimes I still get caught up playing the power game. And as I'm standing there struggling to extricate my ball from the rough, I'll think back to the lesson I learned at Loch Ness. It brings the enjoyment of the game right back to me. Then I reach in my bag, pull out my 7 iron, and stroll down the fairway.


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