Getting into golf: Claydon on course - Russell Claydon gives his monthly update on his quest to learn the art of golf

AFTER trying to master hitting a ball harder and faster since beginning my golf odyssey, it has come as quite a shock to now start trying to do the reverse.

Yep, I’ve finally made it to ‘the short game’ i.e. pitching, chipping and putting, which most players find to be the most frustrating.

Initially, I’d certainly agree. My first few shots simply flew past their intended target - which would have cost me precious shots. But after a few more tips from my PGA Professional coach at Stoke by Nayalnd, Roly Hitchcock, and some more practice time, I’m hoping it can become the ace up my sleeve as I haven’t been doing too badly.

At one exercise of a round-the-clock with targets at the driving range at different lengths, I even surprised myself. But then, as I’m learning to be the case with this game, there were a few rogue shots waiting to knock me back down to earth again.

For those not in the know, the main difference between the long and short game is that the cubs are shorter and, with the exception of the putter, are angled higher to give the ball loft - the sand wedge being the best at this, which also means it won’t go as far as the pitching wedge with the same amount of effort. Pitching is for longer shots where you want the ball to go over waist height, and chipping uses a reduced backswing to keep it under.

Creating a measured pendulum motion was the key thing Roly was pressing on me, as well as thinking about striking the ball half the distance you want it to go with chipping, taking into account it will roll the other half.

With putting I was surprised with how far the ball did go, so slowing my swing down is again the hardest thing. Keeping your head over the top of the ball and lining it up with the marker on your club face, as well as keeping your arms straight with a pendulum motion again, are the key elements I am now practising in order to help me minimise my score when I finally have all the shots to get me out onto the course.

<SMALLER TEXT FOR THIS BIT TO SAVE SPACE>ROLY RECCOMENDS: When should you chip or pitch?

A chip should be used when the ball is near the green but cannot be putted. The pitch is used when you have to loft a ball over a bunker, or the grass is too deep to chip it out. A mistake many players have is that they always chip with the same club. Vary your club selection, depending on the distance of the chip. Swing the club back with your arms and shoulders rather than your wrists. The distance the ball will travel depends on your backswing. So if you are only playing the ball a short distance, make a short backswing. As a general rule, your backswing should be the same length as your follow-through would if you were rolling the ball underarm - the follow-through is the key to this shot, if you don’t let the club accelerate through the shot the end result will not be correct.

<n> I’LL be going along to see Europe’s leading golf mind coach Karl Morris reveal the techniques that helped Louis Oosthuizen claim a historic victory in the 2010 Open when he visits Stoke by Nayalnd Golf Club for a special seminar on Wednesday, February 16th. Morris has also worked with Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Graham McDowell and claims to improve be able to improve a player’s game by five shots without changing their swing, it should be a fascinating night - and hopefully will help when I have to line-up in the English Challenge Pro-Am to complete my challenge in front of the cameras in July! Tickets for the event, starting at 7pm, are £20 in advance and can be obtained through contacting Roly at the Pro Shop on 01206 265812 or emailing proshop@stokebynayland.com.