Golf is a complicated game. Not only do you need a good swing, you have to account for the elements, topography, grass, and you have to pick the right club. Sounds complicated!
Around the greens can be even trickier from the club selection standpoint. There are just so many different ways to play shots. For a simple shot from the edge of the green, 7 or 8 different clubs could work.
So how do we make sense of this and actually pick the club that gives us the best chance for success? Here are 3 things to consider that will lead to better results:
1. The lie determines the shot
One of the great things about golf is that you rarely see the exact same shot twice. The variety of situations and lies peak our interest and keep the game challenging.
Despite this, there are many golfers who don’t pay attention to their lie. The way the golf ball sits on the ground is the number 1 thing you should consider when assessing a shot around the green. Any particular shot becomes exponentially more difficult with a bad lie.
If you have shot over a bunker to tight hole location, it would be very difficult to play a flop shot off tight or firm grass. In this instance you would be better suited to play a normal pitch shot with a sand wedge past the hole as opposed to an open faced lob wedge.
If your ball is sitting down in heavy rough just off the edge of the green, it would be difficult to use an 8 iron and play a bump and run shot. The straighter face and smaller swing you will take with an 8 iron makes it tough to dig the ball out of the long grass. A better play would be to take a sand or gap wedge, play the ball slightly back in your stance, and dig the ball out.
If you’re in a shaved area around the green and your ball is sitting down on some dead or thin grass, it could be tough to hit a normal pitch with a sand wedge. The thin lie makes the margin for error very low. A better play may be to hit a shot with an 8 or 9 iron and even use the putter.
Regardless of the situation, make your first priority around the green to judge the lie. From there you can pick a club that will lead to more success.
2. Focus on where to land the ball
If there’s one thing that good short game players do better than poor short game players, it would the awareness of where to land the ball. Picking a landing spot, and then deciding how much it will roll afterwards makes it much easier to judge.
Getting the ball close with chip and pitch shots requires a combination of carry and roll. The more you can understand and merry those 2 together, the easier it will be.
When picking a club think about how high the club will make the ball go and how much the ball will roll after it hits the green. From there you can determine where to land the ball.
It may take a little practice to get the hang of picking a landing spot. However, after a short time, you will become better at hitting the spots and better at getting your short shots close.
3. Keep your options simple
Good short game players can use a variety of clubs. In fact Phil Mickeslon could probably get up and down with any club in his bag. Unfortunately you probably don’t have the same skills as Phil Mickelson.
When it comes to hitting shots around the green, the less choices you have to make the easier it should be. If you find yourself trying to decide between a 7, 8, or 9 iron to chip with, you’re making it too difficult.
A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to 3 clubs. This takes away a lot of the back and forth and second guessing of club selection. I personally only use my 9 iron, sand wedge, and lob wedge for shots around the greens. Depending on the makeup of your bag, you could stick to the 8 iron, pitching wedge, and sand wedge, or any other 3 club variation.
Often times less is more around the greens, reduce the number of clubs you use and the decision making process will become easier.