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Know Your Options Around the Green
Opportunities in the Short Game Abound

"Go To" Shots are Good, but Stay Creative

Learn how to use a variety of clubs and hit a variety of shots from around the green.  Experiment Around the Greens

To be a phenomenal player around the greens you need to be creative as much as you need to have good skills. Too many players in my opinion get caught up in mechanics and hit only a few specific shots which they use everywhere. While it's a good thing to have your "go to" shots especially when the pressure is on and your nerves are up, it's not good to be limited around the greens. The very best players in the world are the most creative and use the right side of their brains. They rely on vision and feel and aren't afraid to experiment. As the story goes Seve Ballesteros learned with a 3 iron on the beaches in Spain. He experimented and learned all of the differently types of shots that he could hit with that one club. Phil Mickelson on the other hand grew up with a green in his backyard, but took advantage of this opportunity with hours of practice and hours of inventing shots most golfers never even dream of hitting. Not all golfers have that amount of time especially your everyday weekend player, but it's best to use the time you do have hitting and learning a variety of shots so you can load up your short game arsenal.

Good News & Bad News

With every shot you face you have multiple options. That's the good news and the bad news. It's nice to have options, but that can add a certain amount of stress and confusion to your game if you're not prepared. That's why it's so important to have some fun when you practice and play around the practice green creating your own ideas/shots. Don't always practice from a perfect lie either. Put yourself in bad lies every now and then and figure out all the different ways to get out of them. Remember, when the pressure is on though, always hit the shot you are most comfortable with. This may mean going back to one of your basic "go to" shots rather than trying to be a hero and try something you haven't practiced all that much. For my students I teach 4 basic shots around the green: a bump and run chip, a hinge and hold chip, a basic pitch and a flop shot. Those are what I consider the basic shots that everyone must know. The creative part comes when we play around with those shots. For instance, maybe we have a basic flop shot, but what if we opened the face even more, weakened our grip and swung more outside in? That might create a super short, soft little high cut/flop that sticks on the green with no roll whatsoever. You can see how may variables with grip, stance and swing we can play around with to invent different shots.

4 Clubs; Same Shot

A great way to practice using different clubs and changing up shots is to put yourself just off the green and experiment with 4 different clubs. In the example in the video that is attached I chose to hit the same shot from just off of the fringe in the first cut of rough with a putter, pitching wedge, sand wedge and fairway wood. Here's how each club can be used:

  • The Putter - Using the putter off of the green requires a smooth pass between your ball and the green and a good lie that won't restrict solid contact. If there are no major divots, bumpy grass or imperfections between your ball and the putting green putting is certainly an option. The difficulty lies in deciding how hard to hit it to get through all the fairway or fringe. Make sure that there is not a clump of grass behind you that is going to grab your putter. It is important to be able to get a clean strike on the ball. Use your putting grip, stance and stroke with a forward ball position. It is important to catch the ball on the upstroke so that you put a smooth top spin roll on the ball and lift the ball over the longer grass.
  • The Pitching Wedge - With a pitching wedge up to a long iron you can hit what would be considered a traditional bump and run shot. This is a simple pendulum stroke with no wrist action. Play the ball center to back for most shots with your weight on your front foot. Be sure to start with a forward leaning shaft (forward press your hands) and return with a forward leaning shaft (hands ahead) to hit down on the ball and keep the loft on the shot low. The ball will carry in the air a bit just enough to get on the green and then will roll the rest of the way. The lower lofted the club the less carry and the more roll you will get.
  • The Sand Wedge - A fun option that works very well when on the fringe or in the first cut is to belly or blade your sand wedge. Because the sand wedge has a large amount of bounce (the back edge sits up higher than the leading edge) the club won't dig or get stuck in the grass, but will let you cut right through it. Basically here you are trying to hit the middle of the golf ball with the leading edge of the club. Use your putting stance and stroke, open the face so the blade is up and play the ball forward in your stance so you will catch it on the upswing as opposed to hitting down on it and causing it to bounce.
  • The Fairway Wood - Because fairway woods have wide rounded soles they won't dig. This allows you to putt with them and simply cut through the grass without getting stuck. Because they have a little bit of loft, they will help the ball get airborne just enough to get on the green, but the ball will then roll once it hits the putting surface. Set up to the ball in your putting stance and make your putting stroke. Because they are long the ball will come out hot so you need only to make a very small stroke to send the ball a long distance.

As you can see the options are endless. Using multiple clubs from one location allows you several options when around the green. The flip side is using one club from several different locations builds a lot of skill as well.

The Situation:

You are trying to figure out what options you have when your ball lands around the green.

The Solutions:

Trying hitting 4 different clubs when your ball lands just off the green on the fringe or in the first cut of rough. Experiment using a putter, a pitching wedge or longer iron, a fairway wood and a sand wedge (blading the sand wedge). See what type of result (roll) each club will give you and which one makes it easier to make solid contact with the ball. Try the opposite approach as well where you use one club, but learn to hit it from several different positions around the green.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
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