Birdies are fun. But you can’t make birdies without following up great drives with pinpoint approach shots. That means you want to stick your approach shots close enough for a makeable putt. Put simply, solid iron play and accurate putting helps you break 80. and chop strokes off your golf handicap.
We call this mastering the scoring zone. Even the pros know how critical mastering the zone is to their scores—and their pocket books. Take Graeme McDowell. He credits a lot of his resurgence from 39th on the Tour in 2009 to one of the Tour’s top golfers to knocking down flags hitting pinpoint pitches and sinking tough putts.
If you’re serious about breaking 80, you’ll work hard at mastering the scoring zone. Below are 4 golf tips culled from our golf instructions sessions that can help.
1. Stay within yourself when hitting short irons
Distance control is the key when hitting irons from 150 yards in. Most weekend golfers take full swings when hitting wedges and short irons. But you don’t have to do this Instead, use one club more and focus on making a smoother swing. This enables you to stay within yourself with short approach shots.
In addition, choke down on the grip and play the ball in the middle. It can help you take 5 to 10 yards off your shot. By swinging at less than full pace and choking down on the grip, you increase distance control. You don’t have to hope for that rare perfect all out swing to hit the green perfectly.
2. Hit down to hit mid-irons up
It’s a common sight in our golf lessons to see students trying to help the ball up when hitting mid-irons. This is the opposite of what they should be doing. The best way of getting the ball up with any iron is to swing down on the ball. It’s especially critical with longer irons. They have less loft. Hit down and trust it.
How can you tell if you’re guilty off not trusting the loft on longer irons? That’s easy. You’re guilty of trying to help the ball in the air if you’re chest points up immediately after impact. Instead, keep your chest pointing down toward the ground as long as possible.
3. Take advantage of your hybrids
Hybrids are great for hitting those extra-long distances—say anywhere from 180 yards to 210 yards. Shorter than long irons, they’re easier to hit and control. But dial in your expectations when hitting these clubs. Even the pros don’t expect to stick it from long range. Look for spots where you know you can’t miss.
One golf tip to keep in mind when hitting hybrids: If you hit your woods better than you hit your irons, play the ball forward just behind your front heel. It will help you sweep the ball off the turf without too much ground contact. If you have a naturally steep downswing, play the ball back in your stance.
4. Commit to practicing your putting
Sinking short- and mid-range putts is critical to mastering the scoring zone. It can save you a ton of strokes. But only practice makes you a better short- and mid-range putter, so work on your putting whenever you can. It’s a key to taking strokes off your golf handicap. Below is a great drill to sharpen your putting:
Spread six tees equally spaced in a circle around a hole about 3 feet from the pin. Then challenge yourself to make a putt from all six tees in a row. Once you do that, move the tees back to 4 feet and shoot for 6 in a row again. Then move the tees back to 5 feet away.
This drill is great because it allows you to practice every distance from every possible angle.
These 4 golf tips help you master the scoring zone. Doing so produces tons of birdies. That’s fun. More important, mastering the scoring zone helps you break 80 and whittle down your golf handicap.