Take “Too Much Club” for Better Approach Shots, Golf Tip

Think about your most recent round of golf. How many times did your approach shot to the green finish past the flag, including shots that missed the green? If you're like most amateurs, the number is close to zero.

According to data compiled by teaching guru and stats wizard Dave Pelz, amateurs come up short of the pin on 95% of long approach shots – yes, 95%! Even with a wedge in hand, golfers fell short 80% of the time.

The reason for the long-shot shortcomings is pretty obvious: Golfers choose the club that will get them to the flag, but not past it, if they strike the ball perfectly – which they rarely do. On the wedge shots, when club selection is less of an issue, players are afraid of hitting the ball too far and leaving a downhill chip or putt. (Most greens slope from back to front.)

Unless you regularly play a course with exceptionally fast and/or steeply pitched greens, stop worrying about putting downhill. Then adopt these guideline to hit better approaches:

  • The only time you should choose a club or make a swing that prevents you from passing the flag is when the flag is on the very back of the green.
  • If the pin is in the front, pick the club that reaches the center of the green if struck just right. If hitting a wedge, aim for a spot 10-15 feet past the hole.
  • If the pin is in the middle of the green, pick the club that reaches the back edge if hit perfectly. Aim a wedge shot at the back edge, too.

Follow these rules and your best shots will finish past the hole, while your misses fly pin-high. You'll hit more greens, find fewer of those nasty front bunkers and score several shots better each round.

Take Too Much Club for Better Approach Shots?

Take Too Much Club for Better Approach Shots?

Picking the right club is one of those golf skills which takes time to develop. At first, when you are just getting started in this game, you will basically be guessing with regard to club selection. You will get a rough idea of how far you can hit your shots from your range sessions, and then you will hope for the best on the course. As you play more and more rounds, you will start to zero in on exactly how far you are capable of hitting each of your clubs.

Unfortunately, many golfers think about club selection incorrectly. As these players learn the game, they think about picking clubs in terms of using the club which is going to cover the necessary distance when struck perfectly. For example, let's say you can hit your seven iron 150-yards when you catch it nicely on the sweet spot. So, the seven iron should be your default 150-yard club, right? Probably not. How often do you actually strike the ball perfectly when swinging a seven iron? Likely under 50% of the time – maybe even under 25%. It's hard to hit the ball perfectly, and even professional golfers miss-hit shots on a regular basis.

So, if you decide to use your seven iron on all 150-yard shots, you are going to come up short more often than not. Unless you happen to catch the ball perfectly at impact – which will happen sometimes, but not all the time – the ball is going to fall short of the target and you'll be disappointed with the outcome. Have you ever noticed how many of your misses come up short of the target, as compared to how many travel too far? If you are like most amateur players, you come up short far more frequently than you go long.

To allow your shots to reach the target more often, you may simply need to use more club. By taking 'too much' club for the distance at hand, you can build some margin for error into the shot. Sure, a perfectly struck shot may go a bit too far, but that isn't going to happen nearly as often as you might expect. In this article, we are going to talk about the strategy behind proper club selection. By making good choices with regard to the clubs you use on approach shots, you can place your ball in birdie position with much greater frequency.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Benefits of Using More Club

The Benefits of Using More Club

At first, it will seem like a silly notion to use more club than necessary in order to hit an approach shot. After all, why would you want to plan on miss-hitting a shot? Shouldn't you be confident in your abilities, expecting to strike the ball cleanly? Yes, confidence is a good thing in golf, but you also need to be realistic. If high-level professional golfers fail to hit all of their shots solidly, you should understand that you have no chance of achieving such a level of performance.

Knowing you are going to hit the ball less than your maximum distance in most cases, it only makes sense to use extra club. As you will see from the list below, there are many benefits which can be associated with this piece of strategy.

  • Make a smooth swing. You probably know already that making a smooth swing is a desirable trait on the golf course. Yet, most amateurs fail to do just that, mostly because they are barely holding enough club to reach the target. Knowing that it will take a perfect shot to cover the full distance to the hole, the average golfer swings as hard as he or she can. Naturally, such an aggressive swing is going to lead to trouble. When you have 'too much' club, you will be able to relax and make a smooth swing. It isn't going to take every ounce of your strength to move the ball all the way to the target, so you can take it easy. In the end, you are left with a smooth, comfortable swing that should produce satisfactory results more consistently.
  • Reduce your spin rate. Most golfers think of a high spin rate on approach shots as a good thing, but it can actually be difficult to control the ball when you use a lot of spin. If you can bring that spin rate down a bit, you should gain control while still being able to stop the shot relatively quickly. Since your swing is not going to be so aggressive at the bottom, there won't be as much spin produced and the ball will not sail quite as high in the air. Unless you are playing on a particularly firm golf course, these changes are going to be positive. You'll have more control over the ball flight, and you will hit your target more frequently.
  • Take some stress out of the shot. Nerves are a part of this great game. If you didn't get nervous while you played golf, the game would be a lot easier – and it would be pretty boring as well. Being nervous is a sign that you care, and that means you will enjoy your successes that much more. However, too much nervous energy in your body is going to make it difficult to succeed, so you need to find a way to strike a nice balance. By using an extra club on approach shots, you can take some of the stress out of the situation. You'll know that you don't have to hit the shot perfectly in order to reach the green, so there is less pressure to achieve the ideal strike. Using more club isn't necessarily going to take all of your nerves away, but it will help you to relax and focus on the task at hand.
  • Deal with various conditions. It is a good idea to use extra club even when playing in good conditions, but it is even more helpful to do so when the conditions turn against you. If there is rain falling, or the wind is blowing, using an extra club should be nearly an automatic decision. You never want to push your shots to the limit in adverse conditions, as you are already going to be dealing with the bad weather – you don't need to deal with the demand of making a perfect strike as well. If you head out to play a round of golf on a rather rough weather day, plan on using at least one extra club for nearly every shot.

Believe it or not, this list is only a starting point. There is a lot to like about using extra club on your approach shots, and you will probably find your own benefits along the way as well. For example, some golfers find that using an extra club, and the relaxed swing that comes with it, will help them straighten out a hook or slice. Or, you might simply avoid hitting the fat shots that used to plague your iron game. You can't know how this strategic change is going to affect your game until you get out there and try it for yourself.

A Situational Decision

A Situational Decision

As you can tell from the content we have presented so far, we are in favor of using more club on many of your approach shots. This is not, however, an across-the-board kind of strategy. You still need to think about each approach shot as it comes along, and make the decision which will give you the best chance for success. Sometimes – many times, in fact – the best decision will be to use an extra club. In other cases, the better option is going to be to stick with the standard club and do your best to make a great swing. It all depends on the terrain between your ball and the hole.

So, when should you use the extra club and when should you skip this strategy? Let's take a look in the points below.

  • Start with the hole location. The first step in determining your club selection strategy is to look at the location of the hole on the green. If the hole is in the back of the green, you should have the green light to use an extra club. With the hole in the back, you'll have room short of the hole to land the ball and let it bounce once or twice. Even if the hole is cut in the middle of the green, you should still have enough space to use this strategy. It is when the hole is cut in the front of the green that things get tricky. Bringing the ball in lower with less spin is not an ideal strategy here, as you might not be able to stop the shot before it winds up well past the cup. When the hole is in the front, you can do a couple different things. For one, you can use a club that will cover the precise distance to the hole, and then hope for the best. If you make perfect contact, you could wind up with a great shot. On the other hand, you could decide to play it safe and use the extra club anyway, even though that means you will probably be left with a rather long putt. The decision on how aggressive you should be in this spot can be made when the moment arrives. Sometimes, you will feel confident and want to be aggressive, and other times you'll prefer to play it safe.
  • Think about the status of the round. You may also want to tailor your decision-making process to the situation you are dealing with in the context of your overall round. How are you playing? Are you trying to finish with a specific score, or beat another player in your group? Use the status of the round to help decide how to proceed. For example, let's imagine that you are hoping to break 80 for the round – a feat which has only occurred a few times in your game. After 16 holes, you are eight-over-par, on a par 72 course. That means you need to play the last two holes in one-under-par in order to break 80. If this situation arises, the choice is easy – pick the club which will carry the exact number and be aggressive. You need a birdie, so this is no time to play it safe. Do your best to hit a perfect approach on one of the last two holes to setup the birdie you are trying to find. If you make a mistake, oh well – at least you gave it a shot. On the other hand, if you are six-over-par with two holes to play, you simply need to play it safe and avoid a big mistake. Given these two examples, it is easy to see how your position within the round (or within a tournament) can impact the choices you make.
  • Trust your feel. Some days, you just 'have it' on the course. Your swing feels great, your confidence is high, and everything seems to be working out nicely. On these days, you can feel free to be more aggressive, using clubs that match your yardages and expecting to strike your shots cleanly. Of course, this is not going to be your reality during every round. Other days, you will be struggling to hit the ball anywhere near the sweet spot. Your rhythm will be way off, your confidence will be low, and your frustration will be high. These are the days to lean toward the option of taking an extra club and making an easy swing. Realistically, you are going to have more of these kinds of days than the opposite. Golf is a hard game, and most amateurs struggle on a regular basis. Rather than letting your struggles get you down, use an extra club on approach shots as a way to regain some order in your game.

Now that you understand how effective it can be to use an extra club on your approach shots, you can start to develop your own decision-making process for using this shot. That process is going to be uniquely your own, based on a combination of factors which can be both physical and mental. Over time, you will become quite effective at making the right choice for each shot based on the many variables in play.