It’s one of the worst feelings in golf and unfortunately happens way too often for most golfers. You know that feeling, when you think you’ve hit the perfect approach to the green only to come up 5 meters short!
You did all the calculations, checked the GPS, allowed for the wind and even put that little bit extra into the shot to try and make it work.
Ouch … short again!
As a regular weekend golfer I see over 80% of golfers come up short with their approach shots to greens. That’s if they’ve hit the fairway first!
So why does this happen?
I believe it can be attributed to golfers making three common mistakes with their approaches that result in a round of lots of chipping and bunker practice.
The good news is it’s not difficult to sharpen up your game and avoid these three mistakes and start hitting more greens in regulation which will mean more pars and birdies for you.
Let’s have a look at how you can avoid these mistakes and shoot lower scores.
#1 – Leave Your Ego At Home
No doubt, the number one reason golfers come up short with their approach shots is letting their ego get the best of them. What I mean is hitting a shorter club either to impress their golf buddies or thinking because they’ve hit a shot that far with that club before it will automatically work for them again.
Your goal playing golf is to shoot the lowest score possible, simple right? Whether you hit 3-wood and then a 5-wood into a par-4 or you hit driver and then a 6-iron makes no difference. Your golf buddies might laugh as they pull out a shorter iron, however if using the longer club gets you onto the green then it’s the right club.
Of course, you may hit it pure and go through the back of the green. But, this happens rarely and you’ll be better off in the long run.
Did you know, most professional golfers play 18 holes and often only hit 50% of their shots pure? They know they can’t always hit it perfect and rely on getting the right club and a sharp short game to keep their scores low.
So next time you play a round try hitting one extra club with your approach shots and see what results you get, you might be surprised.
# 2 – Hit Down On Your Irons
I’m going to assume with most of your approach shots to greens you are hitting an iron, although I know these days hybrids are becoming more and more popular.
The most common reason for a poorly struck iron shot is a golfers desire to lift up on or they attempt to scoop the golf ball into the air. We’ve all been there, it’s only natural to want to get the little white ball into the air and down towards the green. Unfortunately, golf irons were never designed to be used that way.
Your irons were designed with a flange and without getting too technical, they work most efficiently when they are struck in a downward position so the clubhead can get between the ground and the golf ball. This is the optimum position that you see all touring professionals in when they strike that perfect iron shot where you see a large divot flying into the air.
So remember, your irons need to be struck in a descending motion so the clubhead can compress the golf ball resulting in a pure golf shot that reaches the green.
A key move in achieving the well struck iron shot is to ensure you shift your weight correctly in the golf swing. For a right handed golfer, make sure you shift your weight to the right in the backswing and then shift it back to the left in the downswing. This will put your body in the right position to ensure the clubhead is descending into the ball at the moment of impact.
Here’s a great drill that will help you out.
# 3 – Check The Conditions
It still amazes me with today’s technology that golfers still don’t make enough adjustments for the weather conditions they are playing in. Wind, rain, cold, heat and even course conditions can have a dramatic effect on where your golf ball ultimately ends up.
Before you play any shot grab a small piece of grass and throw it into the air and check to see what the wind is doing. Most golfers I play with rarely do this unless it’s really obvious what the wind is doing. If grass falls towards you it’s definitely time to think about using at least one extra club and in many cases it could be two. Likewise if the grass if falling away from you may need lesser club and sometimes if it’s strong enough you can get away with more.
When playing in the rain it’s a good idea to consider using more club as the water and thicker air can reduce distance drastically. Not only that, the slippery grips can make it difficult to make your normal swing so a reduced swing speed may be needed resulting in less distance.
Did you know cold and heat can have a profound effect on the distance a golf balls travels? I know playing golf in winter here in Australia, I always experience less distance due to the thicker colder air keeping the ball down. Conversely, hot air rises so playing in hot conditions can often see the golf ball rise and travel a bit further. Make adjustments accordingly for your local temperature.
You’re not always going to be playing your approach shots from the centre of a short, well mown fairway. When you’re in the rough, you need to consider how the ball is lying as it impacts what club you’ll need to hit.
If your ball is sitting down in thick rough, you may have to play conservative and use a more lofted club to get the ball out. Depending on the thickness of the grass consider using a 7, 8, or even a 9-iron. This is a situation where getting the ball onto the green is not always your first priority, it’s hitting it solid and getting it back into play and close to the green. If your ball is sitting down in the rough be cautious about using an extra club as this might work against you.
Conversely, if your ball is sitting up in the rough it may be a good time to use one less club as the ball can often ‘fly’ or ‘jump’ and produce a lot of over-spin and travel further towards the green. Test the rough in an area away from your golf ball so you can see how thick it is and whether it’s an opportunity to go down a club.
These three keys will help you next time you’re lining up your approach shot to a green. Remember to take each shot as it is and examine the prevailing conditions and execute the right technique. Making the right decision will result in a lot more greens hit and for you that means a lot lower golf scores.
Cover Photo via Flickr
- 2 Ways to Master the Mental Side of Golf - June 21, 2016
- Avoid 3 Common Mistakes to Hit More Greens In Regulation - February 1, 2016