If you’re serious about cutting your golf handicap, try hitting more greens in regulation (GIR). GIRs, as we’ve noted in our golf tips newsletter, are the cornerstone of good rounds. Hitting more of them per round saves a ton of strokes. It also sets you up for more birdies and pars. But increasing GIRs isn’t easy if you pull or push your approach shots. If you want to increase your GIRs, you must learn to hit straight approach shots. And that, as our golf lessons show us, is harder for weekend golfers than it sounds.
One reason why golfers push or pull shots is their inability to return the club back to its original shaft line at address. The original shaft line is the imaginary line created between a golfer’s hands and the grounded clubface at address. If the swing is too far above this line, you’ll pull the shot. If the swing is too far below the line, you’ll push it. You must return the club on that imaginary line to hit it straight. Do this consistently and you’ll find yourself facing more par and birdie putts. Below are three keys to help you hit straight approach shots.
Keep It Wide
Swing width plays a critical role in returning the club close to the original shaft line. If you lose width during your backswing, you’ll struggle to bring the club back to the original shaft line—something we see often in golf lessons. More often than not, weekend golfers swing the club outside the line, slicing or pull the shot. The drill below trains you to maintain width during the swing:
Using a 7-iron, assume your address position. Now swing the club back with just your back arm. Try to maintain a 90-degree angle between your forearm and upper arm. Look back when the club is at the top. Make the changes need to achieve at least a 90-degree angle if it’s not there when you look.
Maintain Your Shoulder
Another vulnerable area in your swing is your back shoulder. Be wary of rolling it when you start down with your club—another popular swing fault you see in golf lessons. The back shoulder must remain somewhat passive during the swing and must work downward as you start down on the shot. Keeping your back shoulder passive helps ensure that the club returns to its original shaft line at impact.
To feel the role of the back shoulder as you start down, grab the club with your right hand (left hand for left-handers) only. Take the club back to the top. Now place your opposite hand on your back shoulder. Swing down. As you do, try to prevent the back shoulder from rotating out toward the target. Instead, drop it down toward the ball.
Keep Hands In Front
Your hands should be in front of the ball when you make contact. This ensures crisp, solid ball striking. Unfortunately, a lot of students in our golf lessons try scooping the ball into the air by flicking their wrists. Flicking causes you to lose control of the clubface, resulting in poor contact.
To hone the hands-first impact position, make little shots with a 7-iron, stopping as soon as you can after impact. In this drill, distance is secondary to gaining awareness of where you are at impact. The farther ahead of the ball your hands are, the better.
Hitting GIRs is a major key to shrinking your golf handicap. Hit enough GIRs over the course of a season and you’ll lower your handicap several strokes. To rack up more GIRs, you must hit straight approach shots. That’s hard to do if your not returning the club to its original shaft line. Work on the three keys described and you’ll learn to return the club to its original shaft line.