Cutting down your mistakes around the green is the fastest way to lower your scores, and most of it starts from between the ears. The decisions you make when approaching the green can certainly make getting the ball in the hole very easy or very difficult. Then when you’re around the green you’ll have even more decisions, and the more different shots you can execute on a regular basis the more tools you’ll have to work with.
For instance, there are times when it will be better to execute a bump-and-run shot, and other times the flop shot will be your best option. How the ball lies, in the grass or the sand, all requires different types of shots. If you only have “one-size-fits-all” shot for every situation you encounter, your effectiveness is certainly going to be compromised. How much you are willing to practice so you can have these tools at your disposal will of course determine the number of options you’ll be able to use.
But assuming you can pull off most of these shots let’s look at a few situations that you may encounter when playing the game:
1. The approach shot. When playing a shot into the green, most people shoot at the pin. This often is asking for trouble, especially when the pin is guarded by traps, water or heavy rough. Even tour professionals know that if they constantly fire shots at the flagstick, sooner or later they’ll put themselves in a troubled position. Shoot at the green, not the pin (it is much larger). Leave yourself an uphill putt if at all possible, and if you miss the green miss to a side where you have plenty of green between your next shot and the pin.
2. When to use the pitch and run. When you have plenty of green to work with and the contour of the green is quite predictable, it might be better to keep your pitch low and let it roll toward your target. Make the ball act as if you were putting it.
3. The lob shot. This is a harder shot to control for most people, but if you learn to control this shot it has a lot of uses. Not only for pitching the ball over trouble and on the green, but if the contour of the green is very undulating, it may be best to pitch the ball right at the pin and stop it. Also, coming out of heavy rough might require you to blast the ball out, requiring a higher-loft shot.
These are just a few ways to manage golf shots around the green. Part of the fun of golf is decision-making, and the best golf courses give us those options. These risk-reward decisions make a course truly competitive, but making the smart decisions will show up on our scorecard at the end of a round.