Several Golf Options You Can Take to the Bank

More and more golf courses are being maintained with closely mowed chipping areas surrounding the greens. This setup presents many more options than greens that are ringed with thick rough, so the ability to visualize and play a variety of golf shots can greatly improve your up-and-down percentage.

It's common to face a situation where your golf ball sits at the bottom of a steep bank, leaving you with two basic options: Carry the ball over the bank onto the green, or run it up the slope. The best choice depends on your comfort level with different shots, described here:

  • Bump-and-run: This is the easiest option to execute, but it still requires gauging the distance well – a little luck helps, too. By bouncing the ball up the slope, you eliminate the danger of hitting the ball fat (way short) or thin (over the green).
  • Choose a club with moderate loft, like a 7-iron, and play the ball back in your stance (right of center for a right-hander).
  • Identify a spot on the slope where you want to hit the ball. Account for the slope's steepness and firmness, as well as the flag position, to form an educated guess of how far the ball will bounce and roll from there.
  • With your hands ahead of the ball and the shaft leaning forward, make a chipping motion with firm wrists, bumping the ball onto your spot with an accelerating stroke.

The last thing you want is to leave the ball short and have it race back down the bank to your feet. If you're going to err, make it long.

  • Hybrid runner: Essentially the same as the bump-and-run, but played with a hybrid club. The hybrid's wide, curved sole makes it less prone to snagging. Plus, the ball will come off the face lower than with an iron, so it's easier to control and less vulnerable to funny hops.
  • Play the hybrid runner just like the bump-and-run, but position the ball in the center of your stance and sweep the ball off the turf much like a putt.
  • Putt it: If you've got just a few feet of slope between you and the green, the putter is often the best choice. It's a club you're accustomed to using, so judging how hard to hit it is easier than with an iron or hybrid. The ball will also hug the ground, reducing your chances of getting an odd bounce sideways or straight up.
  • The lob: Riskier than the previous options, the lob (also called a high pitch or flop shot) gives you the best control – provided you're adept at hitting these shots the correct distances with plenty of spin. If you're confident in your ability to make crisp contact, you've got a suitable lie and the hole is cut into a tight space, take the high route.

Here's how to Emulate Phil Mickelson famous flop shot.

All of these specialty shots require practice and on-course experience. But if you become proficient at each one, you'll enjoy a huge advantage on courses featuring close-cropped chipping areas.

Several Golf Options You Can Take to the Bank

Several Golf Options You Can Take to the Bank

Golf is a game of unlimited options. You can take just about any path you wish from tee to green, as long as you stay on the course and you don't break any of the rules along the way. The freedom that you enjoy as a golfer is certainly one of the features of this game that sets it apart from so many other recreational activities. Golf is endlessly interesting, because no two rounds are the same. In fact, no two shots are the same. It is always a new experience when you head out for a round of golf, even if you have played the course thousands of times before.

Of course, there is a challenge that comes along with such freedom. When you have endless options at your disposal, it can be hard to know which way to go. Many golfers have struggled with this issue, and it even has a name – 'paralysis by analysis'. In other words, you have so many choices to analyze, you just wind up standing over the ball, unsure of how to proceed. The best golfers are not only those who are able to make quality swings, but also those who can make the right choices at the most important points in a round.

In this article, we are going to present you with a few options that you can 'take to the bank'. You can lean on these options on the course in situations where you might not have otherwise known how to play a shot. The options we give you in this article aren't going to cover you for every possible situation – that would be impossible – but we hope they come in handy on a somewhat regular basis. As an amateur golfer, it is likely that you have a lot of room to improve from a course management perspective. Rather than focusing on your technique alone, work on improving your thought processes on the course and your scores are sure to fall.

As you review the options we are going to present, it is important to keep in mind your own abilities and limitations on the course. It would be silly to try a shot you aren't comfortable with just because it was suggested in this article. You always need to know what you are capable of doing on the course, and then respond accordingly when making decisions. If you would like to add a shot to your arsenal, the time to do so is when you are practicing on the range. Learn new shots on the range first, and only use them on the course when you believe that they are ready to provide positive outcomes.

All of the content in this article has been written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Conservative Tee Shot

The Conservative Tee Shot

To say the least, this is not a popular shot in the amateur game. For most amateurs, the only real option off the tee on a par four or par five is to pull the driver from the bag and swing as hard as possible. That is a shame. Such a 'strategy' is suboptimal, as it fails to take the layout of the course into consideration. If you are going to play up to your ability, you need to think strategically about each shot you hit during a round, including your tee shots.

You may be surprised to learn that conservative tee shots are extremely common in the professional game. There is a perception that pro golfers are constantly blasting away with the driver, sending the ball more than 300 yards down the fairway. Most of them can do just that, but they only display that ability when the time is right. When the course requires, the average pro is happy to use a three wood, hybrid, or even long iron to play the ball into the middle of the fairway. Distance is great, but the first goal for any tee shot is keeping the ball in play.

So how can you start to implement the conservative tee shot into your own game? Take a look at the list below for tips on thinking strategically while on the tee.

  • Think about the landing zone. It doesn't really matter how narrow or wide the fairway may be for most of the distance that the shot covers – since the ball will be in the air anyway. What is more important is what the course looks like in the landing zone. For instance, if you usually hit your driver 250 yards in the air, what is the fairway like in the 240-260 range? If it is narrow and guarded by hazards, you will want to lay back with a shorter club. Or, if it gets wider in that range and was narrower farther back, the driver will be the right play. Course designers often plan the layout of their holes to feature trouble spots in the landing areas, so don't let yourself head right into trouble by using your driver at the wrong time.
  • Think about your tendencies. A hole which looks wide-open to one golfer might look hopelessly intimidating to another player. This comes down to the tendencies of each individual golfer. Picture a long par four which is guarded by water down the right side, starting at 240 yards from the tee. If you tend to hit a fade, that water will look quite intimidating. You will be able to easily picture your drive tailing off to the right, and sneaking into the water before it comes to a stop. In this case, you would want to use a club which is going to allow you to lay up short of the water. However, if you usually hit a draw instead of a fade, you probably won't worry about the water much at all. Your normal pattern would move the ball away from the hazard, so if anything, you may just drift into the left rough when all is said and done. As you decide whether to be aggressive or take the conservative plan, considering your own personal tendencies and patterns is essential.
  • Think about your nerves. When playing in some form of competition, or when going for your own personal best score, you might start to feel nervous late in the round. When that happens, it will be hard to make your best swings. You might not be able to do anything to get rid of the nerves – they are just part of the game – but you can make decisions which put you in a position to be successful. Rather than trying to take on a difficult tee shot just because you think you can pull it off, pay attention to your nervous feelings and opt for the easier play. It is common for amateur golfers to attempt to just 'ignore' their nerves, but that is never going to work. Acknowledge them, accept that they are a part of the game, and then develop a plan to succeed anyway.

Playing a conservative tee shot takes patience, because you will be voluntarily giving up yards in order to put your ball in a safe position. This is an option you can take to the bank because it can keep you out of trouble on some of the most difficult holes on any golf course. Remember, you aren't going to birdie every hole anyway, so there is nothing wrong with using a conservative plan from time to time. Always keep the big picture in mind and play the conservative shot if you have any concerns at all about being more aggressive.

The Bump-and-Run

The Bump-and-Run

This is another shot which is too-often overlooked by amateur players. The bump-and-run is a simple short game shot, played from the side of the green with a relatively low-lofted club. Many amateur golfers default to a higher shot, choosing to pitch the ball up into the air rather than keeping it down on the turf. Playing a high pitch shot means you have to predict the spin of the ball accurately in order to control your speed just right. Also, you have to make clean contact in order to wind up with a good result. While there is certainly a time and place for higher pitch shots, playing a bump-and-run is a great option when there is nothing between your ball and the hole that must be carried.

To play a simple bump-and-run shot, follow the steps below –

  • For starters, you will need to pick the right club for the job. A standard bump-and-run shot will be played with something like a seven or eight iron, but you can go up or down from there depending on the situation. Most of the time, you are going to make your club selection decision based on how much ground you need to cover before reaching the green. You can use a very low-lofted club if your ball is on the fringe, only a foot or so from the putting surface. On the other hand, if you need to get over a couple feet of rough first, you'll want to move up into pitching wedge territory.
  • As you setup over the ball, you want to stand with a slightly open stance. Your feet should be rather close together, and your hands should be in front of the ball. The idea here is to use an extremely simple motion to send the ball on its way. The technique will be similar to that which you use on the greens when putting, except you will be hitting down on the ball slightly. Keep the ball just behind the middle of your stance in order to promote the downward hit necessary to get the ball up in the air with ease.
  • When the swing gets started, do your best to keep your hands out of the action. Instead of using your hands and wrists to move the club, just rock your shoulders as you would when putting. Then, as impact approaches, use your right hand slightly to pop the club into the back of the ball. When executed properly, this simple motion will lead to incredibly reliable results.

The beauty of a bump-and-run shot is its consistency. This is a far easier shot to perform under pressure than a higher pitch, so you can rely on it to lead to predictable results even when you are nervous. Also, you can get away with slight mistakes when hitting a bump-and-run while still coming away with decent outcomes. You aren't always going to be able to use a bump-and-run shot when you miss the green, but learn how to play this shot and then put it into action whenever feasible.