Survey Your Options For Better Scoring
Watching the Masters and a little more TV golf the past couple of weeks, I always find it amazing to watch the pros selection of shots around the greens. Most amateurs I play with don't use nearly as much imagination in their scoring shots, and their scores suffer because of it. And one of our oobgolf readers wondered the same thing. This week I'm addressing the question by "jpbaseball" (only you know who you are), who asked:
"An article about options around the greens, suggested clubs, when to use these shots and even how to practice them would be awesome."
So let's get to it.
We all have our "go to" club for recovery shots when we miss the green. For many, it's the sand or lob wedge, while others might always go to their pitching wedge or even 8- or 9-irons because they are "afraid' of their wedges. But I suggest that your scores will benefit if you let your imagination run a little wild and open your mind to all the shot options available to you.
For example, if you are not far off the fringe and have some green to work with, a highly-probably shot is what I call the "putt-chip". Very simply, you just take a middle iron, play the ball back a little in your stance, and use your normal putting grip and stroke. Solid contact is all but assured, and your touch will be similar to that with your putter. The ball gets airborne just enough to carry to the green surface, but has minimal spin so it then rolls out to the hole. Tips for executing the "putt-chip" are to grip the club lightly, as it is an overall lighter club than your putter, and to slightly forward press so that you make clean contact. Try this shot and I think you will find it becoming another of your "go to" shots around the greens.
I often find that the gap or pitching wedge is a better option for a straightforward pitch than either the sand or lob wedges. Situations that scream out for that selection and shot is when you have quite a bit of green to cover after the ball flight, or if you are chipping uphill and want the ball to release some after it lands. To get the lower ball flight and reduced spin you are seeking on this shot, simple play the ball slightly to the rear of your stance, and make your takeaway lower, slower and longer than normal, and your forward swing the same way – low, slow and long. That produces less clubhead speed and reduced spin, along with a lower ball flight. Keep your hands quiet and take the club away with a one-piece rotation of your body core, with an extended arm swing. Don't set the wrists as much as you would for a bunker shot or normal pitch.
And I'll give you a third shot that can be your only hope sometimes.
You find yourself short-sided, with a closely mown upslope to a near-cut pin position. A lob shot is low percentage, so trying to run it up the slope is your only hope of getting it close enough to have a chance at par, but you don't want to get "cute" with a wedge and leave yourself this shot again.
The answer here is to "putt-chip" it with a fairway wood or hybrid. Just take your putting stance and grip on the club, which will tilt the longer club up on its toe a bit – that's OK. Grip it lightly as these clubs are considerably lighter than your putter and that improves feel. Then just "putt" the ball up the hill and onto the green. And on this shot, make sure the ball gets to the hole. When you have a tough recovery shot, your goal should be to give yourself a chance for an up and down, but make sure you don't leave yourself the tough chip all over again by being timid or cute.
So, I hope these three shots can find their way into your scoring arsenal. They only take a little practice and you'll be able to call them up when you need them. When you are out for an afternoon "quick nine" drop some balls around the greens and practice these a bit – they'll pay off quickly.
When you miss a green, exercise a little creativity and see all your options. Quite often the best shot isn't the one that's the most obvious.
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[ comments ]
One thing I see alot of high handicappers doing wrong is using the same club to "putt-chip" with, regardless of their lie and amount of green to work with. Alot of guys I play w/ will pull their PW or SW regardless of the situation.
If your ball is in the rough and you have a small amount of green between you and the pin, you won't be able to get a 8I, 9I or even a PW through the grass w/ a swing light enough to get the ball to die near the hole. A LW will allow you to use a swing that is hard enough to keep the club from getting hung up and the amount of roll will be minimal. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you have a ton of green to work with you don't want to use a LW for a "putt-chip" because the idea is to get the ball on the green and rolling as soon as possible. Drop down to a 7I or less and you'll be able to get the club on the ball, and rolling like a putt much sooner.
Ben Crane says:
Excellent advice Terry. Too often I pull the LW (my "go to" club) and leave the ball short as it hits and sits.
I definitely modify two variables all the time: ball position and choke up. Playing the ball back off the right foot really lowers the loft and allows for the use of a a high spin stroke (for coming out from under trees and then stopping it) or a low spin sweep (more roll).
At one time some guy showed me a putting stroke where you hit down into the ball with your putter to pop it out of green-side rough. It would pop and clear about 1-2 feet and land happily on the green rolling toward the cup. I used that effectively for some time. It depnds on the courses.
Where I really need help is in the sand. Most rounds offer little practice, and sand practice facilities are scarce. Now I get really uncomfortable in bunkers and struggle with club/ shot selection. I seem to have lost a grip on that. PLease help!!!!
Another great article. Thanks for the tips.
onedollarwed: I used to struggle a lot out of the bunker too. I'm not 100% comfortable with the blast yet, but my club pro showed me an alternative which I use on the course. No opening your stance, club face, etc.
Address the ball and put your feet three balls width apart and your club behind your ball (the ball directly between your feet). Keep your front foot planted and step your right foot back to about your normal stance. Let the club head come back as you stride. Now you should have the ball about a ball's width off your front foot and your club in the middle of your stance, about 2 inches behind the ball. Hit your shot and be SURE ground the club where it was at address (this is crucial).
Change distance by using longer clubs and adjusting swing length. Practice by practicing pitch to 3/4 shots on grass and focusing on grounding your club in the right spot. When you go in the bunker on the course, it's the same shot, but the ball is just in a different spot. HTH.
Tee it High. says:
Thanks for this article. I had so many issues around the green this past weekend I wish I could have read this on Friday. I am very guilty of always picking the same wedge out of my bag near the greens and leaving things too short. I appreciate the tips.
Good article. I have 4 wedges (including the PW) and try to avoid one "go-to club". I assess each situation and play the club that will give me the best trajectory and roll for that shot. My home course has small, elevated, and sloped greens so I don't have any chances does to bring out the irons around the green.
Another shot I am trying to add to my arsenal is the bladed chip. I see pros use it and my college golf coach showed the team last year. You open the blade of a SW and play the stroke like a putt hitting the bottom of the wedge. It is useful just off the green, specifically when the ball is up against the collar of the rough. The ball just skips out and begins rolling like a putt. It is a bit scary to pull out during tournament play though.
I tend to use my lob wedge for 90% of my shots around the green (nicknamed the "magic wand"). My short game has also been my strength because it is the easiest to practice and when I was younger I didnt hit it long and getting up and down always seemed more impressive. My suggestion is....if you dont have time to practice these new short game chips and pitches, play the shot you are comfortable with.
Tim Horan says:
I vary the club selection based on whether it is uphill or downhill to the pin. Straighter face for uphill, more loft for down hill. A tip I was given by my coach is on down hill putt-chips (regardless of club)is to hit it out of the toe of the club...because the ball comes off "dead" it allows you to be more positive with your swing reducing the chance of a fluffed shot.
Jake Bogardus says:
Haha after all these weeks complaining about how you never pick my question you finally do and I forgot to put my name in my email. Middle name is patrick, hence the JPB. Good article this week, and thanks for answering one of my submissions.
Tim Horan says:
Looks like that three iron will shortly be confined to the shed!
Jake Bogardus says:
@tim- haha ya man, can't say im too dissapointed about that. I'm excited to see what this Edilon is like
In the (very recent) past I've been so unconfident in my chipping/pitching that my go to shot from anywhere reasonable was a bump-n-run 5 or 7 iron up onto the green. I was always so worried about blading a wedge that I would underhit it, or worse, hit behind the ball.
Tim Horan says:
I don't know what loft option you went for - what you will find is that the feel from the sand is very different, stick with it...once you are used to it...it's the business. Good luck!
Its all about your comfort level with each club in each situation. The more you practice the more comfortable you can be with different shots
Frankie C says:
Since I started with OTG, my game is good, however, for some disturbing reason, I can not hit my Gap Wedge. That thing (a Cleveland) has cost me more dough....
To me it is fairways and greens. However the approach shot is gong to help u to score better/ prevent a 3 putt. Forget about one putting, how many times will a pro 1 putt? And they play on greens that have been rolled down and supposedly the same stimp speed on all the greens.
My opinion is that the short game is overated for the common golfer. We lose the strokes getting to the green and some 3 putting, whereas it's the opposite for the pros. If U 3 putted 18 greens and got their in regulation, that would be bogey golf.
Daytripper, with all due respect, the shots inside 100 yards will shave strokes much faster for almost all golfers. Even the best, the PGA Tour pros, do not average over 14 GIR per round. The difference is the ability to score inside 100 yards. Work on that and putting and you can be a 10-12 hcp while hitting only a few greens per round.
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