CADDIE ON YOUR SHOULDER
Not so long ago, if we couldn’t reach the green we were told to lay up to a preferred pitching distance. Statistics, however, have proved that hitting the ball as close as possible to the green results in a lower score. While the data is sound, this can lead to some fiddly half-shots, especially true when the green is elevated – a common architectural trait. Follow these guidelines to ensure you tackle the shot on its challenge, not its yardage.
1 Shot selection: Set a realistic expectation
This shot is barely more than 50 yards. That’s a distance many of us would fancy to get the ball fairly close. But look at the PGA Tour stats and you will discover the average proximity from 50-75 yards is only 16ft 5in – and that’s from the fairway. From the rough, that figure jumps to 25ft 7in – and from the best players in the world. So do not put pressure on yourself to get the ball close enough for a one-putt. Always accept that down in three from here is a more than acceptable result.
2 Targeting: Factor in a margin for error
Take a look at the shot above; I’m on a slight downslope, pitching up a steep slope to a flattish green that is way above my head, with not too much of it to work with. The grass in front of the green is too long to chase the ball up the slope and to get the ball close from here I’d have to dice with death, pitching it a yard or two on the front of the green to allow it to run out to the hole. That’s a degree of accuracy no golfer should be meddling with. Give the shot due respect and build in a margin for error.
3 Rehearsal: Make plenty of practice swings
Watch the best in the world from this range and you will often see them making plenty of practice swings. On part-swing shots it is not always straightforward to find a swing length, pace and rhythm that delivers the force and flight the shot needs; elite players use practice swings to marry up their action to the feel they have for the shot… and this can take a few goes. So without unduly slowing play, make a few dummy runs until you feel the swing will deliver the shot you have visualised.
4 Feel: Give yourself a tension body check
A shot like this is usually the third one. There’s no escaping the fact that how well you execute will make or break the score you post on this hole: your next shot could be a par-saving putt, or pretty much the same shot again. Because of this we can easily become tense, and tight muscles are ruinous to rhythm and feel. Remind yourself that this shot counts one, the same as every other shot you play. But also, constantly monitor your tension levels as you prepare to strike; keep loose, keep moving… and flow into the shot.