Parker McLachlin was once a journeyman pro. Now, he’s one of the most renowned short-game coaches in pro golf. And yes, he can help you, too.
It’s easy to access golf instruction these days. This thing called YouTube or Instagram. Even this website. Everywhere you look tips are everywhere for the taking. Helpful? Absolutely. The search and glut of information can also be overwhelming for some players, to say nothing of conflicting. But Parker McLachlin — who played collegiate golf at U.C.L.A. and first earned his PGA Tour card in 2007 — is cooking up a different way to help players at all skill levels improve their games. Rather than chasing 300-plus-yard drives, Parker delivers fundamentals on saving strokes where it matters the most: in the short game.
McLachlin, who goes by the Instagram handle @shortgamechef, regularly provides videos on both his social media account and website (ShortGameChef.com), encouraging better play from 100 yards and in. And, with clients ranging from weekend warriors all the way to PGA Tour players, the ingredients used in his test kitchen are proving to be the right recipe for success.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Parker McLachlin will be the first to tell you, playing professional golf is freakin’ hard. Even for a golfer who’s actually won on Tour (2008 Reno-Tahoe Open), maintaining a consistent career on “the circuit” is a massive challenge.
“My short game was there, my putting was there, but my swing wouldn’t always hold up,” says McLachlin of his Tour days. “When you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to quantify … you just feel like your whole world is crumbling. Golf had been my everything since I was 12 years old, and you internally ask yourself before each shot, Where is this golf ball going? That’s a scary feeling.”
His experience at the highest level and his prowess around the green made him an ideal teaching candidate. But that was not part of the program. “
The plan was always to play and to improve my swing to the point where I could trust it under pressure,” he says.
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A friend of his, Tour caddie Doug Schwimer, suggested a different route: consider posting short-game tips on Instagram to teach other players how to improve their games.
At first, he dismissed the idea.
“I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t even have Instagram,’” McLachlin says. “But he convinced me to film some videos, telling me how good my short game was.”
And what about the name?
“There are ingredients that need to go into executing every type of shot around the green,” he says. “Whether it’s the clubface being open or the hands being in a certain spot or your feet being positioned just right or the swing being the correct length or the release happening at the perfect moment. There’s always some type of adjustment — the ingredients that go into the recipe. So I was just like, Man, I’m going to be the Short Game Chef.”
Yet here we are.
While McLachlin, now on the cusp of his 43rd birthday, didn’t see the success he wanted on the PGA Tour, the opposite happened once he launched his Short Game Chef teaching videos.
Almost immediately, PGA Tour players began reaching out to ask for his help to sharpen their short game. His first client was Kevin Streelman, a two-time winner on Tour who was ranked No. 93 in the world at the time he contacted McLachlin.
“So the first paid lesson that I gave was to the guy ranked No. 93 in the world,” McLachlin says. “I was like, Oh, wow, I better figure this out. [Kevin] liked it, had me back a couple more times, and then told me he’d like to hire me for the year. It was surreal. I was like, Whoa, I just went from never really giving a lesson to now working with the guy ranked No. 93 in the world. So that was sort of where it just shifted and I thought, Maybe I am good at this.”
Ultimately, McLachlin helped Streelman move up in the World Ranking. In the six months that the two worked together, Streelman went from 93rd to 45th, which included a couple of second-place finishes.
Adds McLachlin, “My short-game teaching sort of got pushed into the fast lane and my playing [in tournaments for a living] sort of stayed in neutral.”
While working with the world’s top golfers is great, McLachlin is quick to point out that his goal isn’t to chase Tour players but rather to help recreational or new golfers shoot lower scores.
“The Tour players give me validation,” he says. “Like what I’m doing and seeing is good, and they trust in that. But my goal is to really help the general population understand that there’s a more efficient way — a better way — to play shots around the green. I want to take that torch and be the guy who modernizes the short game.”
Parker McLachlin’s vast experience has prepared him for his success as the Short Game Chef. From his time playing collegiately to competing on the Korn Ferry and PGA Tours, he’s soaked up techniques and tendencies from some of the best players in the world.
He’s simply trying to bring those lessons to the amateur golfer, simplifying the sport to help shave strokes off their scorecard.
“I take a lot of what I’ve learned from playing the game and watching guys at the highest level; observing, listening, learning from some of the best players of all time,” McLachlin says when talking about his approach to teaching recreational golfers.
“I’m trying to take those commonalities and bring them to the weekend golfer. With a Tour player, they’re looking to shave a quarter of a stroke, maybe one stroke per tournament. It could be as simple as explaining a new or different philosophy.
“But with a rec player, it’s usually more about making wholesale changes, because they’ve been doing things the incorrect way for so long.”
It’s this part of his Short Game Chef instruction that’s most satisfying for him. By providing Tour-level instruction on his website, McLachlin is modernizing the way golfers at all handicaps think about playing short-game shots.
“I walk them through how to hit a proper pitch shot or how to hit a proper chip shot. All of a sudden, it completely frees them up, and they no longer fear turf interaction on shorter shots.” And they enjoy the game more.
McLachlin recognizes an opportunity to help improve each of the regular players he works with. He says that when he starts in on a lesson, he eventually sees a light go off that his students had never seen before.
“All of a sudden, you can see the freedom sort of present itself, and they become an athlete. That’s the fun part while watching them, especially for those players experiencing chipping yips. Once I get them out of the setup spot that’s been hindering them, they begin to feel more comfortable.”
McLachlin reports that he’s helped more than 30 amateurs overcome chipping yips. He’s improved the play of PGA Tour players and hundreds of weekend warriors. He’s been able to communicate his teaching philosophy so his players understand how to stack a variety of short-game shots in their favor.
“I don’t want people to think they have to be perfect around the greens,” McLachlin says. “You’re going to hit some great shots, but, since you’re human, you’re also going to hit some bad ones.
“With some of these philosophies, though, even if you mishit a shot, you’ll still be able to put yourself in a spot where you can shave a stroke or two off your game.”
McLachlin strives to simplify the techniques for players struggling.
“All of a sudden, golf becomes more fun. Amateurs begin to hit short shots like the top PGA players. “I’ve had people come to me saying they’ve had short-game yips for 12 years, and, after watching my videos for 30 minutes, they’re hitting the cleanest, crispest, most beautiful pitch shots. I get goose bumps hearing stories like that. It’s pretty cool to see how much anyone can improve.”
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