Given all the shots we need to learn to play well consistently, its critical to know how to hit some shots more than others. We should work on these shots more because they provide a better payoff for the amount of time we spend practicing them. I call them high return-on-investment (ROI) shots. Hitting them well, as I emphasize in my golf lessons and golf tips, improves your golf handicap quickly and dramatically.
1. The High Draw
Hitting a high draw off the tee generates a few extra yards because the ball runs when it hits the ground. If you know someone who hits a high fade off the tee, you know his or her ball generally hits softly, rolls a little, and then stops. The high fade is a great shot if you can control it, but the high draw gives you the little extra run that makes your next shot that much easier.
The key to hitting the high draw is twofold, as I’ve mentioned in my golf tips. You need to hit the ball (1) on the upswing and (2) on an inside path. Play the ball forward with a wide stance and tilt your front shoulder up just a bit.
Using a stronger right-hand and left-hand grip also helps but isn’t absolutely necessary. Your clubface must be square to the ball at impact. It’s the inside path that generates the proper ball flight for a draw not the clubface at impact.
2. The 100-yard Knockdown Shot
Knowing how to hitting a low line drive off the tee is good when it’s a windy day, but you’ll probably hit a knock-down shot a lot more, so it’s handier. This shot flies low but with less spin and prevents the wind from hitting what should be a relatively easy approach shot. It’s the type of shot that saves you strokes, which is why I teach it in my golf lessons.
There’s little difference in your set-up to hit this shot, contrary to what some people think. Take a normal wedge stance but use a 9-iron or 8-iron instead of a pitching wedge. You don’t need to lean forward on the shot. It’s really a normal shot with less effort. Stabilize the body and minimize as much excessive movement as possible. Shorten your backswing and forwardswing, keep your head level, and slow your shot.
3. The Semi-Buried Bunker Blast
Sooner or later you’ll find yourself in a bunker. More often than not, the ball will be semi-buried. You need to be careful with this shot, especially if it’s a green side bunker. If you don’t play it right, it could take you two or three strokes to get out of the bunker. Or worse you could hit the ball over the green into another bunker. However, if you play it right, you can set yourself up for an easy putt.
The key to hitting this shot, as I stress in golf instruction sessions, is to dig beneath the ball and let the sand lift it forward to the target. To ensure proper dig, swing the club on the target line and hinge the wrists sooner than usual. The lie controls the clubface. The more open the clubface, the less sand you’ll pick up and the more bounce from the club, so square the clubface with semi-buried ball. Use a normal grip, relax as much as possible, and adjust the clubface angle before taking hold of the club. Be sure to accelerate through the swing and delay the release of your hands.
4. The Thick Rough Pitch Shot
You see this shot played to perfection on the PGA Tour all the time. That’s because it’s a key stroke-saving shot. It’s also a shot that takes some work to master and a few swing adjustments to hit well. But players with low golf handicaps work on it often because it helps them get up and down from untenable locations.
To hit a delicate pitch from the deep rough, you have to learn to cock your wrists early in the backswing and release them fully through the downswing. The goal is to extricate yourself from the deep rough without overshooting the hole. Use a low bounce iron or wedge for this shot and plan for three things: an abbreviated finish, a lower ball flight, and a few yards of extra roll. The deeper the rough, the farther back the ball, but stop moving the ball back once it’s under your right eye. Increase your grip pressure in both hands but don’t strangle the club. Aim the clubface square to the target and keep your body square to the ball. Hit down with this shot.
Master these four shots and you’ll find yourself shooting lower scores in a lot less time than you think.