“The game is quick to play and inexpensive, and the courses are easy to build and maintain on small parcels of land.”
We don’t really have Pitch & Putt in Australia. Well, certainly not that I was aware of. Golf, for me, was always the long game. Smash it. Find it. Smash it again.
We have Par 3 golf, which was always a bit of fun, but not Pitch & Putt courses like you’ll find dotted all over Ireland. When I first arrived here, I didn’t know too much about Pitch & Putt… while careening around the country, usually on the way to one of Ireland’s well known links courses, I’d often see a short course or what looked like a short golf hole, but never seriously considered playing one.
The Lure of a Low Score
Finally, on a whim, I decided to stop and give one a try. This was deep in West Cork, on one of those bumpy little hand built tracks you often find in someone’s front paddock. Being a ‘long golfer’, how hard could it be? It looked like a couple-under would be a shoe-in. “What’s the course record?” I cockily asked the owner. “42” he replied.
I headed to the first tee. It took a few seconds to calculate that 42 was actually 12 under. 12 under? Bloody hell. I thought he’d say 2 over. Surely this is just played for a bit of fun, no? Oh how wrong I was.
Firstly, the ‘short game’ as I discovered it’s referred to in Ireland, is a completely different animal to the ‘long game’. It’s a different set of skills entirely. Forget strength, distance or power. That seems obvious on a short course, but if you only play long golf you most likely think that’s all there is to the game. Wrong. Those skills won’t help you here.
The ideal shot for pitch & putt is a high floater with stacks of back spin. And the only way to impart that much spin, is to develop an action that… well, let’s just say it wouldn’t help you much on a long course. Wristy, off the back foot with a fierce cut across the line it’s a combo of just about every bad habit your local pro has been trying to teach out of you for years.
After a brisk hour or so, I’d played 18 holes, shot nowhere near 42 and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience… it takes much more skill than you might expect, and those who excel on the short course have (no surprise) killer short games. I was initially happy to be hitting greens. They tend to be small and often protected by bumps and hollows making the pins hard to attack… and a good pitch & putt player is looking for a tee shot to finish 6ft away or less so accuracy is key. As for missing a green, well, don’t even go there. Those bumps and hollows plus tiny bunkers with no green to work with mean most recovery shots are incredibly difficult. Plus, you’ll only be out there with a wedge and a putter, so your options are limited.
The challenge is quite varied from regular golf, and I came away converted. I’d recommend it to anyone, of any level. Need to work on your short game for the long course? Head to your nearest pitch & putt and go for it… you won’t look back, and you’’ll learn a lot about control & accuracy in the process.
Article written by Dean Klatt.