Making the short game a priority

In this special report GOLF RETAILING looks at the importance of the short game in terms of equipment and coaching. We have exclusive interviews with short game gurus Paul Foston and Dave Pelz and feedback from PGA pros on teaching short game skills and selling putters and wedges.

The short game – putting, chipping and greenside bunker shots – accounts for more than half the strokes played in a round of golf. Theoretically in any game played in ‘regulation’ putting alone should account for half the shots played. Yet few amateur golfers spend much time practising short game techniques and even fewer want to pay for short game lessons.

The reasons for this are pretty obvious. Driving the ball long distances is generally considered the most rewarding part of the game, whereas having to chip onto a green is thought to be an irritant. Yet no player will ever hit every green in regulation so the ability to get ‘up and down’ from around the green is the best way to ensure pars.

short game 3Although players may not spend much time practising their short game skills, they do spend on equipment. Statistics produced by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc (SMS) show that one in five ‘core’ golfers bought a new putter in the last twelve months, although as of June 2014 sales of putters by value were marginally down by two percent compared to the same first half year period in 2013.

The top four putter brands sold in the UK are according to SMS, Odyssey, TaylorMade, Ping and Titleist, accounting for more than 85 percent of putters sold by value. When asked buyers of putters indicated that the ‘feel’ of a putter is the number one factor in determining their purchasing decision, followed by head shape and putter length as the next two most important considerations.

In the UK the long putter anchored to the body never took off in the amateur game in the same way that it caught on in the States. The probable reason is the relative speed of the greens on both side of the Atlantic. With the long anchored putter ban coming into effect from 2016, the average percentage of players on the European Tour using a long or belly putter for the first half of the 2014 season was 5.3 percent, down from 7.5 percent at the end of the 2013 season and down further still since the peak in 2012 of an average of 14 percent.

Sales of wedges have grown and according to Cleveland Golf this is because increased distance off the tee for golfers at every level of the game, means that 65 percent of all golf shots now take place from 125 yards and in. As a result golfers need to carry a greater number of wedges to hit accurate shots from close to the green.

Certainly evidence from tour players bears this out. On the European Tour the average number of wedges in each player’s bag continues to increase and at the end of Q2 in 2014, the average number of wedges in play was 3.37 compared to 3.31 at the end of 2013. Research by SMS shows that this figure has increased every year over the last decade.

The importance of good equipment and proper coaching for the short game should be a greater priority for all amateur golfers and a source of increased revenue for PGA pros.