As most players already know, a sound short game can be the difference between a really poor round and an average round. It can always cover up a poor ball striking day by allowing you to save par from tough positions. Execution is key, but you must have a strategy in place that will help with the execution. Many players struggle with which shot to play and often times try to hit the “miracle” shot instead of placing the ball 10-12 feet from the hole and having a putt at it.
This is where club selection plays a large role. If you are comfortable with one club around the green that is fine and feel free to use it a majority of the time. However, there are instances where you need to be using a different club.
Common Scenario – You are just short of the green in the fairway and the pin is on the back portion of the green. The green has several bumps and the pin is on the top level. Your normal comfortable club is a sand wedge. However, to be effective with the sand wedge you would have to play a very low skipping shot that hits into the hill and has a lot of spin to help it roll out just a bit. If you hit into the green with the “normal” wedge trajectory the ball won’t have a lot of room to land near the pin and will probably roll off the back of the green. This is a very tough shot if you don’t practice your short game a ton.
Possible Solution – Choose a less lofted club like a 9-iron and try to get the ball spending more time on the ground than in the air. You could use the putter, as well, but only if you had little fairway to go until your reached the green. With a 9-iron you could carry the ball about a 1/3rd onto the green and let it roll the rest of the way. This is the safer play and will give you a better opportunity to make the next putt.
The main point to make this scenario or any other one work, is that you must practice with different clubs around the green to learn the technique and how hard you need to hit those shots to go the desired distance. Don’t make the mistake of never practicing with your 9-iron and then pull it out on the back-9 when the match is on the line.
Practice – Go to your local golf facilities short game area and throw 5 balls down just off the green any distance you want. Next, choose 5 different clubs. Try to hit one ball with each club and see the results. You will notice that each club will carry and roll different distances. You can start narrowing it down to 1 or 2 clubs that you like from that particular situation. Rinse and Repeat. From then forward, when you are practicing your short game you can know use those same clubs from the different positions and feel more comfortable because you have already gone through the experimental phase.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with using just 1 club around the green but you must be able to hit ALL the shots to do so. Help yourself out a little and practice with a few different clubs from time to time just to have a “go to” shot from certain situations. This will help you stay confident because you have seen the shot before during practice so you know you can execute when the pressure is on!
Enjoy the process of learning and hope to see you out soon!