Knowing how far you hit each club in your set is the biggest key to picking the right club for an approach shot to the green. But there are a number of factors to consider besides the yardage.
The wind’s speed and direction must be accounted for, plus any uphill or downhill slope. Here are a few other club-selection variables, and how to deal with them:
- Pin located near the back of the green: Since most greens slope from back to front, going long can leave a tough up-and-down when the flag is near the edge. Choose the club that’s guaranteed not to fly past the pin. Even if you come up short, you’ll have an uphill putt.
- Pin placed on the front: Likewise, hazards often protect the green’s front, so you’re better off hitting past these flag placements. Pick the club that you know will travel just past the hole, even on a slight mishit.
- Under pressure with adrenaline flowing: When you’re pumped up, you’ll naturally hit the ball a little farther than usual, so choose the shorter of two options (9-iron instead of 8).
- On cold and/or damp days: The ball won’t carry its normal distance, so hit a bit more club than the yardage suggests (8-iron instead of 9).
- Hitting downwind: A tailwind reduces backspin, making the ball fly father and release (bounce and roll) when it lands. Use less club and play short of the flag if possible.
- Hitting into the wind: This equals less carry and more backspin, so the ball will stop quickly. Use more club and try to fly the ball all the way to the pin.