3 Shots Every Player Must Have

The key to playing better golf is hitting better shots. As you roll your eyes and curse me for that awesome dose of obviousness, allow me to elaborate. To get over the hump and break the cusp of being a better player, you need to have some shots to rely on in certain situations. Having a tried and true method in mind before you play a certain shot gives you the confidence you need to execute it. Being able to say “I’ve done this a thousand times” is just what you need to stay calm and put you mentally in a good place. This is what it takes to break 100 or 90 for the first time, or any other personal goal you may set for yourself.

Get out of jail When you hit it into trouble, you need to get out. Period. And you need to get the ball back in play in one shot. We’ve all had our share of lumberjack moments in the woods. This usually occurs because you take a ridiculous line that requires an incredibly perfect shot to execute instead of taking the smart and safe bet back out onto the fairway. What makes you think you can hit a 4 iron through a 5 foot “V” shaped gap in a tree when you haven’t hit a 40 yards wide fairway all day? The most common mistake I see when players try to hit a punch shot out of the trees is ball position. They play the ball too far forward in their stance. Playing the ball too forward results in a higher ball flight, and here we need it to be lower. It doesn’t help that most amateurs catch their longer irons on the upswing and playing the ball forward will just enhance that. We need to deloft the iron and hit this shot on a descending blow. Grab your longest iron and play the ball somewhere between your back foot and belt buckle. You also want to add some forward shaft lean. Make sure the butt end of the grip is pointing somewhere near your lead shoulder. This will decrease the loft. If you don’t play long irons you can hit a punch with a hybrid or fairway wood too, but the lie has to be right for it. Above all else, pick a simple line even if it’s just sideways back out into the fairway. Take your medicine and try to hit the next one on the green. You clang a few shots and play tree pinball and your par or bogey is now a 7 or an 8.

Bump and run I don’t understand the fascination with everyone grabbing their 60° lob wedge and trying to play a high flop from absolutely everywhere around the green, even if there is nothing between their ball and the hole. That shot should be played when you’re short-sided or have an obstacle like a shrub, creek, or bunker between you and the flag. The bump and run chip with a 9 iron or pitching wedge will be your best friend in golf with a little practice. This shot can be played with the ball in the center of a narrow stance. You pretty much want to focus on swinging the handle and pinching the ball against the turf. The big key here is to pick out a spot in the green where you want the ball to land and then roll out to the hole. This is just like reading a putt. Speaking of putting…use a putter off the green whenever you can. If there’s nothing between you and the cup but fringe and green…putt it. Within reason of course. You don’t want to use a putter from 50 yards out. Remember: a bad putt gets closer to the hole than a bad chip. You just need to practice. This shot is a mixture of feel and technique. Dial it in.

Greenside bunker The average mid to high handicapper hits about 4 greens in regulation per 18 holes. That means being in at least one greenside sand trap is inevitable. The main reason this is a difficult shot for a lot of players is because it’s hard to grasp the concept of taking a big swing to make the ball go a short distance. But that is what’s needed to splash the ball out. Velocity and speed at the bottom of the swing is what splashes the sand behind the ball and launches it high and lands it softly. Decelerating, or taking a long backswing and a short through swing, leads to chunks or skulled shots that fly head high over the green. Loft and the bounce of your wedge here is your friend. Ball placement also matters. Remember: The more forward you play the ball the higher it will come out. The further back you play the ball the lower it will come out. Open your stance (aim left of the flag for a right handed player) and stand wide. An open stance adds some steepness to the swing needed to blast the ball out. A wider stance lowers your center of gravity and balances you. It also helps to dig your feet in a bit. Next, you must open your face if the sand is soft and fluffy. Keep it square if the sand is firm and packed down. Picture the ball sitting on a dollar bill. The ball is sitting on the president’s face and the back edge of the bill is where you want the club to strike the sand on your downswing. Practice this without a ball first. The result you’re looking for is the sand splashing and landing outside of the bunker. Splash the sand out of the trap and the ball will exit with it and hopefully roll up to the hole. If anything, you’re out in one shot and have a putter in your hand for the next shot. No more leaving 3 and 4 shots in the sand and putting 2 or 4 twenties in your buddy’s pocket.

Enjoy the game and each other,

Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional

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