Rick DePamphlis NexLevel Golf
Paul Harney Simple Golf Truths - Greenside / Short Game
Teach us how to do that!
No better example of my intention to hole out greenside shots was ever more evident than in the NEPGA Pro-Pro I competed in several years later at Mt. Pleasant CC., in West Boylston. In this Best Ball of 2 Pro- Pro Event, I was partnered with a real good club professional player ['Joe'] who I knew through both junior golf and in college.

I had a lot of confidence in his abilities as we got off to a rip roaring start going 3 under par for the first 4 holes. My partner 'Joe' had birdied the second hole and I had birdied two of the first 4 holes and saved par on the other by holing out 3 times in 4 holes from off the green! My partner and the other Pro-Pro two-some couldn't believe what they were seeing and after the third hole out, I could see them huddled over on the side of the green whispering to each other.

In a New York second they all approached me and said almost in unison " We want you to show us how to do that!" In almost 50 years of tournament golf I have never had any player stop me in competition and ask such a question - but at the time I was still practicing my short game enough to have retained my skills, so I gave them an honest answer ...

"I have worked on my short game so hard for so long," I began, "that through holing out greenside shots in practice, I visualize and see the ball go in on the course before I hit it - so I am trying to hole out, not just get it close. Anyone can do that if you work hard enough at it ...[PHOTO 13]

Somehow, I don't think that was the answer they were looking for.

Lesson: Balance the champagne glass to hole out soft landing greenside lob shots

Practice Like You Play ...

It was just important to Paul that you not only knew what to work on in your golf game, but how to practice it- practice like you play.  After Pauls' brutally honest assessment of my short game, I had been working on greenside wedge shots out of heavy rough and I was quite proud of the way I was wedging out of the deep rough with controlled spin so close to the hole. But in doing so, I drew his ire as he was watching because of how I was practicing the shot.

"Do you think you can just prop the ball up on a tuft of grass out of the greenside rough when you play?"  Paul questioned after I repeatedly 'preferred' my lie practicing out of the rough, and continued  "Anyone could spin the ball close to the hole from the rough around the green if they propped the ball up the way you are practicing"  he said out of the side of his mouth , "Why don't you just throw the balls down on the ground and play the ball as it lies when you practice  - that's more realistic to the way you play ..." [PHOTO 15]

Gee ... why didn't I think of that?

Lesson: Practice more realistically by playing the ball as it lies out of greenside rough

You Don't Need Me Now ...
Although I did not sustain this greenside practice regimen for the reminder of my professional playing career, there is a certain amount of that short game skill still retained right up to the present time. Despite not playing or competing as much as time went on, those short game skills would remain on display [PHOTO 14] when called upon and continue to teach the lessons that Paul Harney so fervently believed in.

As a longtime PGA teaching professional, I've had the occasion to work with several PGA Apprentices in search of passing their PGA Players Ability Test [15-over course rating for 36-holes]. A PGA Membership requirement, many accomplished players are unable to pass this 'PAT' on repeated attempts, despite having enough talent/skill from tee to green. What is often lacking is the short game skill to 'save'  their score through greenside 'scrambling' - i.e., getting the ball up and down.

Such was the case with a young, brash upstart amateur  ['Josh']  who thought he had what it takes to become a PGA Member, but who had failed the 'PAT' several times. I was teaching at a local golf range and learning center in the greater Boston area at the time, when the facility owner asked me to take 'Josh' under my wing and help him pass his 'PAT'.
Josh was a bit on the cocky side, so I thought I might take a page out of the 'Paul Harney School of Hard Knocks'  timeless lessons book and channel  'Josh'  a lifetime lesson. I took him over to the practice green and introduced him to a game of 18-hole 'up and down'. Each of the 18- holes would be a Par 2 and the winner of each previous hole could pick out the greenside shot attempt to get up and down. I gave 'Josh' the honor of picking the first greenside up/down shot.

With each hole being a Par 2, I was able to 'Par' 12 out of 18- holes and 'bogey' the rest to end up +6 or 6 over par. 'Josh' didn't fare so well and was able to 'Par' only 3 out of 18 holes [bogeying the rest] and was a whopping +15 or 15 over par. My parting shot to him was that he couldn't even beat a 'washed up old, rusty pro' who didn't practice or play that much anymore . And despite my short game score being almost 10 strokes lower than his, even I would struggle to break 80 on a championship course with the short game I had just displayed...

Well that must have got 'Joshs' competitive juices flowing and I knew he had taken the 'dusting' to heart because every day for the next few months, whenever he wasn't working at the range he was spending time on/around the practice green working on his greenside short game skills.  About 6- months later, much to my surprise as and I was walking by him practicing his short game he shouts out with supreme confidence,
"Hey pro - I wanna play you again in that game of up/down - how about a rematch?"

I was hoping that through the time Josh was spending on his short game since our up/down match, he had acquired the skills and confidence necessary to challenge me again - so at that point when he did, I knew my job was done.

"You don't need me now."  I shot back with a wry smile. "Time to go out and play - take the "PAT" again ..."

And he did take the PAT for a 4th time ... and passed with flying colors.

Lesson: Work long on short game to cut shots off your score!

Milk Bottle Full of Pennies ...
Paul's greenside teachings reminded me of an experience I had in my last competitive amateur event in the Men's Amateur Seagulls Tournament at Hyannisport Golf Club in 1974. My partner was five- time Cape Cod Amateur Champion Ollie Hallet who was a scratch player himself. Together, we had no problem being the medalist qualifying team and waltzing through the match play format until we were ousted in the finals by two 'senior' golfers who made miles worth of putts and must have holed out from off the green at least a half dozen times in the 18- hole final round.

So there we were drowning our final loss sorrows at Hyannisports' 19th hole, when Ollie Hallet, a raconteur at heart, starts telling me the story about how good his father Ollie Sr., was at solving the riddle of the hard, fast greens at Hyannisport Golf Club.

"Did you know my father Ollie Hallet Sr., was the longtime Head Professional of 30 years here at Hyannisport?", he gushed.  "And he had the best greenside short game of anyone you've ever seen, because every winter of his 30 year tenure when the course would be closed due to snowcover, my father would do something you would never believe!  Every day at his home he would empty out a milk bottle full of pennies onto his linoleum kitchen floor, take a sand wedge and pinch the pennies off the floor with the leading edge of the club and hit a target magnet stuck on the refrigerator door almost every time!!!" [PHOTO 16 & 17]

Wow. Now that's leading edge control.

Lesson: Use penny pinching drill for crisper iron shots off ground

PHOTO 13: Rick demonstrates greenside hole out 'lobbing' techinque
PHOTO 14: Rick working long and hard on greenside short game
PHOTO 15: Rick practicing wedge game out of greenside rough
PHOTO 17: Pinching pennies for crisper chips illustration
PHOTO 16: Rick demonstrates crsip contact chipping by pinching penny