Golf tip: How to get rid of the greenside skulls

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Todd Sones' new book, "The Scoring Zone."

You've probably read and watched a lot of short game lessons in magazines or on videos, and you've probably seen tons of different descriptions about how to hit a variety of shots. Watch enough of that stuff and you'll come away with the thought that there can't really be "fundamentals" in short game because there are so many different ways people describe how to hit these shots!

Open stance. Closed stance. Ball up. Ball back. Body turn. Body quiet.

It can certainly be confusing, and it isn't surprising that a lot of players get out to the course and either fall back to the technique they've always used or make a swing that's a messy combination of a lot of different half-digested tips. It doesn't have to be confusing and can be simple if you have an understanding of the core fundamentals.

The very first fundamental I teach at the beginning of any Scoring Zone school or initial lesson is that the club head always descends through impact on a good short game shot. One analogy I like to use with my students is a plane moving through the air. When you make a swing with a descending club head path through impact, you're essentially landing the plane. When you're hitting up on the shot, the plane is leaving the runway. When you make an ascending swing on any shot besides one when the ball is on a tee, you're running the risk of skulling or chunking it.

To me, making the club descend through impact - making it land, so to speak - is the foundation of a good short game.

Todd Sones, a Top 100 Golf Magazine teacher, owns the Impact Golf/Scoring Zone golf schools at White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills. Courtesy of Illinos PGA

The first fundamental of four, leading to whether or not the club head descends through the ball, is in the set-up. It is what I call "Standing The Handle," which means point the butt of the club at the middle of your chest, but only after the handle and shaft is set for the shot you want to hit. When you want a low shot, set the shaft and handle a few inches in front of the ball. When you want a high shot set the shaft and handle at right angles to the ground.

Once you have set the handle, simply stand to it with a neutral spine.

A "neutral spine" means your spine is perpendicular to the ground, with your weight balanced equally between your feet. If you are set up properly for any short game shot the shaft and handle should point at the middle of your body, your weight should be centered and your stance should be narrow (6-8 inches).

Try these tips the next time you practice and you should see improvement in your greenside play.

• Todd Sones is a PGA Professional, Top 100 Golf Magazine teacher and owns the Impact Golf/Scoring Zone golf schools at White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills. His new book, "The Scoring Zone" is available on Amazon. Contact him at and visit his website at for more information.

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• With assistance from the Illinois PGA, the Daily Herald provides golf tips each Wednesday from a PGA Professional.

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