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"The Art of the Short Game" by Stan Utley

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One thing Utley certainly doesn't oversell -- his bunker technique really does feel like cheating. Chipping's fairly straightforward, too, but I'm dumping a lot of pitches way short (mis)using his technique. Probably subconsciously afraid to let the clubhead swing the way it needs to for fear of thinning one over the practice green and onto the whiskey shelf in the clubhouse bar.

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I just picked up this book and read through it over a couple of days to get a feel for what he had to say before starting to try to put it to use. The advice looks sound, I am definitely a fan of his general approach to bunkers (I already had determined that the wide-open method is not for me) and after having some success with the fixed lower-body chipping, I think trying his method will be worthwhile---for short chips, my approach works, but it tops out at 10-15 yards with any control. So I'm looking forward to going through more carefully and trying to get his method down.

The book, overall, was a bit disappointing to me, though. A lot of fluff to fill pages, and the explanations were sort of scattered in there so you can't just quickly jump to the part about X, you have to re-read a couple pages to find all the places he talks about it. It also seems like there's not quite enough how-to on some of the topics, although perhaps it's supposed to come naturally so I won't fault this too much until I've read it again and tried to practice his approach a bit. Fortunately he does have the summary in the last chapter, so that is probably what is most useful for actually working on it. Still, I'd have liked to see this book about half its length, in a smaller-format paperback, with all the anecdotes pulled out.

Also, the tour techniques chapter (9, I think) was a huge disappointment. I'd expected it to talk about how to hit the hard shots, not be 10 pages of name dropping. It was kind of interesting to hear how he'd worked with people, but I'd have preferred, again, more how-to. To be entirely fair, after the first couple pages I skipped most of this section, so maybe he went into more detail than I noticed, but even if so it wasn't the most accessible presentation.

Overall, I'd say this is not the best written golf instruction book I've read, but also not the worst. Too soon to say anything about the techniques it describes, but I expect them to be better than the book itself.

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I am reading this now. Good so far! I understand the way he lays it out and feel like I can transport that to the range and the course. Went to the range for the first time today since I started the book and worked on the stance, pivot, and other points Utley suggest for the basic chip shot. I can definitely feel better contact. I really feel a more solid "thump."

So far so good, looking forward to the rest of the book!

edit: So, last minute decision yesterday. It was mid 40's and sun was out... snow on the way. Decided to get out to the local course for at least 9 holes, maybe more. Tried to implement the things I have read so far in Utley's book. Have to say, I had a bit of a "Eureka!" moment. My chip on the first hole was ok, after an errant 2nd shot I saved bogey.

On the 2nd hole, I wound up with about an 85 yard shot. For the first time I really FELT what it is like to compress the ball solidly and take a divot AFTER the ball. I could actually SEE the divot start after the ball was gone and the feeling it completely different. I'm sure I have probably come close to doing this in the past but this just felt different. And the ball flight was perfect and on target.

On the 3rd hole, I had about a 25 yard pitch for my 3rd shot... dropped for birdie.

For the rest of the day I would drop several balls when I got into that range and just practice the new technique. I have to say I am loving it so far. When I got to number 9, I spent a good 1/2 hour just dropping balls in various spots and hitting chip shots. It is amazing how much difference there is in hitting DOWN on the ball, with the forward tilt, as opposed to the way I had done it with the right shoulder down and spine tilted away from the target.

I can't wait for warmer weather to get here!!!!

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I don't think Utley gets enought credit for his idea on using the bounce for pitching.  I have a pile of golf books and they all talk about "hands forward, descending blow, ball first, divot later".  If you have ever had that horrible fat shot, where you stick the leading edge of the wedge into the ground a fraction behind the ball and totally flub the shot, you will know how damaging that can be.  Next shot, you are as likely to thin over the green because you are worried about the previous flub.  I had a terrible bout of hitting fat wedges, it was ruining my game.  This was particularly difficult for me because my home course is clay based soil and the ground gets very wet in the winter, making fat shots really easy.

I had never heard of usng the bounce in the way that Utley describes.  Frankly, when I first read it I was reluctant even to try it, it was so counter to everything I had been doing or had read.  If anyone has trouble with pitches from 10 - 40 yards, try Utley's method.  In my experience, you have to stick at it until you also get the rest of his method, it is important to use the correct hand and body action, especially the pivot around the left leg, but once I got that, the difference was astounding.  I am totally converted.

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I purchased this book about 3 weeks ago because what I could tell from the previews and lurking on this site for a while is that Utley's method matched what my son has always done despite me telling him to stop using his wrists so much and to follow the Pelz method of "SCIENCE!"... the problem for me being that my son has chipped in more shots in 8 years of playing (since age 4) than I have in my entire life so he would just ignore me.  This was the first I had heard of a teacher advocating a more "wristy" swing than the Pelz "All big muscles, all the time" approach and thought this would fit his game better which it definitely has.

It has still been an adjustment for him because he wasn't keeping his weight on his left side enough and was "all" arms and wrists instead of power coming from the left leg pivot but with a little practice he loves it already and I do as well.  The ball contact is just so much more "pure" (for lack of a better word) and more importantly seems to be repeatable... so far... we will have to see how it fares under pressure which is where Pelz says the small muscle swings fall apart. I have a different theory on how to handle pressure so it can't effect the small muscles but that probably belongs in another thread.

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I bought "The Art of the Short Game" few years ago read it , tried it , like some concepts but his methodology doesnt work for me.

Since then I gotten Phil's DVD and T.Watson DVD part on short game  seem to learn much better from the watching then reading Stan's book.

If Stan had a DVD then I might buy it as sometimes written concepts are more clearly demonstrated  when watched, but maybe this is Stan's way of drumming business as a teaching pro to get students to see him.

His difference between chipping and pitching philosophy about disengaging the leading edge and utilizing the bounce is wrong for my game.

Recently I bought Elk's short game video and like how he breaks down chipping and pitching into angle hinge and full hinge and using the clubface and toe rather than defining it with the leading edge vs bounce.

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Well time to revive this thread. Just picked up the book and completed chapter 1. Mostly an intro to the author with some kind words ffrom Peter Jacobson. I excited to see chapter 2.

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12 hours ago, WildTurkey said:

Well time to revive this thread. Just picked up the book and completed chapter 1. Mostly an intro to the author with some kind words ffrom Peter Jacobson. I excited to see chapter 2.

Very good book. The Art of Putting is excellent too.

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Well I have adopted the technique.  I would say there is a "getting to know you " period that I went through.  I have made it my own as I also follow Seickman's instructions. I have blended the two to something that feels right. Putts per round are down as I am hitting it closer .  Also unexpectedly keeping the face at the ball through the swing has helped full swing dispersion.  Crazy  I  know. Utley you are the man. 

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1 hour ago, dennyjones said:

I've bought all of his books but have yet to crack the cover.   Winter is for reading...any other time for golf!

What about at night when you can't see the golf ball?

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I wonder if I was fooling myself back then:

On 7/11/2008 at 10:10 PM, Shindig said:

This is absolutely right. I was using this style and was becoming a decent sand player, and then one of my buddies convinced me to go back to the "classic" style (the one with the aim left with the body and open the face). Sand became my enemy again.

I went back to the Utley style again a few weeks ago. I noticed that right away, I wasn't leaving it in the sand anymore or blading it out and past the green. It's also useful in that, when I play at a city course with what I call "classic" bunkers during play (i.e., more dirt than sand - the way it was way back when, I imagine), if there isn't sand to support the shot, rather than hitting a really poor sand shot like I used to (when I reverted to non-Utley style), I just tend to hit the ball as if I hit it a bit fat off of grass - and I still get a pretty decent result. And when the bunker has sand, I hit great shots.

I didn't think much about this book from about a 14 months ago (when I packed up my old apartment) to a week or two ago when I unpacked boxes of golf books for my bookshelf.  I re-read the bunker chapter before practicing bunkers again (see my "my swing" thread, linked in signature;  last page has some recent sand shots).  

I know when I bought the books... wow, nine years ago, give or take... I believed short game and putting should dominate my practice.  Summer 2008, I had recently broken 90 for the first time and thought breaking 80 would happen at some point in the not too distant future.  Still hasn't happened, although I have had an 81 and have broken 40 for nine holes several times.  I felt a better short game would get me there.  I now know a lot better.

But Game Golf is telling me that, compared to a 15 handicap (note that most of the time I've owned the game golf, my handicap has been at or under about 15), I'm now gaining strokes off the tee and on approach shots, but losing 1.67/round on short game and 2.4/round on putting (if we count all rounds).   Sticking to last 5, it's 1.63 and 2.25.  Last 3, improved a bit, and I evidently had a good short game today because putting was the only category I was losing strokes to a 15 handicap (despite shooting an 84).

Back to the topic, maybe I should go back to the plan from nine years ago and devote some more time to short game, and Utley's book is probably the place to pick up some technique.

1 hour ago, amished said:

What about at night when you can't see the golf ball?

That's what indoor golf is for.  Mirrors, mats and nets, and so on.

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12 minutes ago, SandraH155 said:

I've read so many reviews about this book, both negative and positive. Is it worth reading?

Yes it is worth reading. So is his The Art of Putting. Both really good books about the short game.

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48 minutes ago, MuniGrit said:

I bought this book. Look forward to reading it soon.

I've bought all of his books (years ago)...I'll get around to reading them soon....

Edited by dennyjones

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