Most golf instructional videos on You Tube are three to five minutes long, maybe 10 if the subject is complex or the instructor is an expert with lots of wisdom to impart. Phil Mickelson’s video, Secrets of the Short Game, is one hour and four minutes long. And that’s just part 1.
From the get-go it’s obvious that Phil needs that much time because he’s got so much to show us. He only spends 30 seconds on his video introduction, and then right away he’s teaching.
Mickelson starts with the general principles of putting. “Do we want the putter to go straight back, straight through?” he asks. “Or do we want there to be an arc?”
I’m still trying to decide which is better when he explains with hyperbole, “Honestly, there are a million different ways to putt and no one way is better than another. What’s best for you is what we want to find out.”
Phil then goes into some of the details about what makes a player a good putter, beginning with the set-up. He says the most important part of the set-up for putting is eye position.
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It’s common knowledge that the eyes should be positioned over the ball, but the winner of 42 PGA tournaments (beginning the 2017 season) says that’s wrong. “Your eyes should not be directly above the ball, they should be underneath the ball and behind it so you can see down the line.”
“Your eyes should not be directly above the ball, they should be underneath the ball and behind it so you can see down the line.”
In this section on putting, Mickelson also talks about ball position in the stance, the importance of the hands continuing online to the target after contact, and ways to ensure the proper square impact point of the club into the ball. Among his suggestions for squaring the face are using a heel-shafted putter, strengthening the grip and moving the ball slightly forward in your stance.
After a brief discussion of whether or not it’s best to use a forward-press (he explains both the good and bad sides and says it comes down to personal choice), he says that everything he’s talked about in the first 10 minutes of the instructional video actually accounts for only about 10 percent of whether or not a putt is holed.
“The other 90 percent has to do with face angle,” he says. “Where the putter face is aimed is the most important thing. All that matters is the alignment at impact and it is why so many different kinds of strokes can all work well.” Of course Lefty then spends several minutes on the fine points of putter face alignment so that each putt starts out on the correct path.
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Next, he comes to the three-foot circle drill where he surrounds a golf hole with 10 balls forming a circle. Mickelson explains that this is the key distance.
“Everything in the short game, lag putting, hitting wedges from 50 yards, every shot we hit is trying to get the ball within this three-foot circle.” That’s because he says the average player makes only about half of his six-foot putts, but Phil practices this drill until he makes 100 three-foot putts in a row. “The goal,” he says, “is to become infallible within three feet.”
Once he’s done with the three-foot drill, Phil moves to the six-foot drill. “If my goal on the three-foot drill was to make 100 in a row,” he says, “my goal with the six-foot drill is to make it once around the circle” holing 10 straight six-footers.
Goal from 6-feet: hole 10 straight putts.
From six feet, Mickelson says, you have to both hit a putt with the right speed and you have to read the break correctly. And that takes Phil to his next topic, reading putts. “When I play in pro-ams, I never see an amateur who reads enough break on their putts,” he explains, and then he demonstrates how what looks like eight inches of break to most of us is really two feet of break.
After reading the break comes hitting the long putt: 40-, 50- and 60-foot lags. “The percentage of these putts that are made is so low that isn’t our goal,” he says. “Our goal is to hit them inside of three feet where we know we’ll make the next one.”
At this point, Phil moves off the green to the rough around it where he demonstrates his basic chip, what he calls the “hinge and hold” swing.
“There is only one effective way to chip,” he says, “and every great chipper hits it this way. They cock their wrists immediately going back causing a steeper angle of attack, from there I hold it and accelerate going through. You continue the hands toward the hole and the arm and club will form a straight line on the finish.”
That’s the short explanation, but Mickelson, who undeniably is one of the Tour’s top wedge players, spends a good seven minutes discussing the minutia of the short chip swing. From there, he talks about bringing the ball in softly and that leads him to a demonstration of his signature lob shot.
The keys for the lob, the five-time major winner says, are: “feeling comfortable opening up the clubface…not cutting across it…and keeping the hands ahead of the club.” And of course, practice, practice, practice.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 16, 2016
From hitting it high and soft, Mickelson segues to hitting the low running shot. Phil demonstrates how it can be done with either a less lofted club like a 9-iron, or even with the lob wedge. Then he explains that in many instances, putting the ball from off the green is an option that should be considered. “You have to learn to read the fairway for both break and speed, as well as reading the green,” he advises.
The final segment of the video is chipping from 30-to-50 yards from the green. “Once you have the hinge and hold chipping method, these shots are just an extension of the basic chip. You need a bit more backswing, and then stay aggressive through the ball.”
It’s clear throughout the video that Phil is both passionate about the short game, and a master of the techniques required. This video is an excellent introduction to his methods.
My suggestion to the viewer is to concentrate on just a section or two at a time to avoid being overwhelmed by too much information.
And when, like Phil Mickelson, you’ve mastered those shots, it’s on to Secrets of the Short Game, Part 2.