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What Does Playing Golf’s Ground Game Mean?

Published: 2023-07-24
What Does Playing Golf’s Ground Game Mean?
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As this is written, it is Open Week, the oldest of golf championships played on a rota of golfing grounds in the United Kingdom, being staged.

To accentuate the interest, SportsEdTV engaged with Art Ingliss, a source of deep knowledge and intelligence on the renowned golf ground game so often celebrated on Open venues and frequently tactic of choice by Open champions.


What is this “ground game” in golf they’re all talking about?  

In golf, "the ground game" refers to a style of play that focuses on shots that are played predominantly low and along the ground rather than through the air. It is often referred to as "bump-and-run" golf. This style of play is often used on courses with firm, fast-running fairways and tight, well-manicured greens, typically found in traditional links courses in coastal areas.

The ground game is particularly useful in windy conditions, as keeping the ball low reduces the impact of the wind. It also allows players to navigate around obstacles and undulations on the fairway and greens more effectively. Instead of hitting high, lofted shots, golfers playing the ground game use shots that stay closer to the ground and roll out to their target.




Here are some tips on how to play the ground game in golf:


Club Selection

Choose clubs that have less loft, such as irons with lower numbers, hybrids, or fairway woods. These clubs will help you keep the ball lower and make it easier to control the distance and direction.


Ball Position

Position the ball slightly back in your stance, closer to your back foot. This helps you make clean contact with the ball before the clubhead starts to ascend, promoting a low, running shot.


Chipping and Running

 Around the greens, use a bump-and-run shot instead of a high, lofted flop shot. Choose a 7-iron, 8-iron, or a wedge with less loft, and let the ball roll to the hole after it lands.


Putting Technique

When putting, focus on controlling the pace and speed of the ball to optimize the distance covered by each putt. This is essential when the greens are fast and undulating.


Reading the Green

Pay close attention to the contours and slopes of the green. Knowing how the ball will react when it lands on the putting surface will help you plan your approach shots and putts more effectively.


Course Management

Think strategically about your shots. Plan your approach to the green, considering the best angles of attack that will allow your ball to roll favorably toward the pin.

Playing the ground game requires practice and finesse, but it can be a valuable asset in certain playing conditions and on specific golf courses. Being proficient in this style of play adds versatility to your game and enables you to adapt effectively to various challenges on the course.



Historically, several professional golfers have been known for their proficiency in playing the ground game and have achieved significant success using this style of play. Some of the most famous golfers renowned for their mastery of links golf and winning through the ground game include:


Old Tom Morris (1821-1908)

 One of the pioneers of professional golf, Old Tom Morris was a skilled links golfer from Scotland. He won four Open Championships between 1861 and 1867, and his expertise in playing the ground game on the traditional links courses of his time was instrumental in his success.


Harry Vardon (1870-1937) 

A legendary British golfer, Harry Vardon is regarded as one of the greatest links players in history. He won a record six Open Championships (between 1896 and 1914) and was known for his impeccable ball-striking and ability to navigate challenging links conditions.


Walter Hagen (1892-1969)

An American golfing great, Walter Hagen won 11 major championships, including two Open Championships (1922 and 1924). He was known for his adaptability and skill in playing various styles, including the ground game.


Bobby Jones (1902-1971) -Considered one of the greatest amateur golfers of all time, Bobby Jones won 13 major championships, including three Open Championships (1926, 1927, and 1930). His strategic approach and ability to play the ground game were key components of his success.


Tom Watson (born 1949)

 An American golfer, Tom Watson, won eight major championships, including five Open Championships (between 1975 and 1983). Watson was known for his remarkable short game and ability to control the ball on link courses.




Seve Ballesteros (1957-2011) 

A charismatic Spanish golfer, Seve Ballesteros, won five major championships, including three Open Championships (between 1979 and 1988). His creativity and shot-making skills made him a formidable player on links-style courses.


These players not only dominated their eras with their exceptional skills in playing the ground game but also left a lasting impact on the sport of golf.

Surely there are others whose success on traditional links courses have inspired generations of golfers to master this style of play, appreciate the unique challenges and beauty of links golf, and play the ground game.