Play Smart Golf… Learn To Save Stokes
Playing Smart Saves Strokes
Even players who thrive on crushing the ball know that hitting it long isn’t always the best strategy. Sometimes, they need to hang back and save that muscle for another time. We call it playing smart. Jack Nicklaus was a great example of a player who plays smart. He knew when to take what the situation gives him. That’s one reason why he was one of the world’s best golfers. For weekend golfers, playing smart can save strokes and keep your golf handicap from ballooning.
But playing smart isn’t always the first thing on your mind when in trouble. Many golfers try “miracle shots” to salvage the situation when in trouble. Often, it’s a shot they’ve never hit before. Save miracle shots for when you must try one. The rest of the time, play smart. It may not seem like the best strategy, but it can save you strokes later on. In my golf lessons I emphasize three situations when playing smart works well. Below I describe these situations and provide golf tips on how to play them.
Ball In High Grass
When we say high grass, we mean high grass—the no man’s land of rough. You know the kind—where you could be standing over the ball and not know it. The problem with this rough is that it’s much thicker than regular rough. It’s so thick it can catch your club and turn the hosel before the clubface is even close to the ball. Thus, it may take multiple shots to get out. It’s that thick.
The only remedy for this lie is to take your wedge and attack the ball with a hard descending blow. But first you need to adjust your set up using these golf tips: Use an open stance but close the clubface a bit. Next, take a firm grip, aim just behind the ball, and swing down hard. These adjustments make it easier for the clubface to cut through the grass. Make sure, you also swing through—because if your club gets stuck, the ball will, too.
Ball In Bunker
While a ball buried deep in the sand requires a shot like the one described above, a regular lie in the sand—one where the ball is sitting on top of the sand—needs just the opposite approach. The goal here is to “shave” the ball out, not shovel it. Here, you need to take a smooth controlled swing with an open stance and clubface. Aim to make contact two inches behind the ball. It will fly out softly with minimal sand, saving you strokes and landing the ball close to the pin.
Playing The Punch Shot
The punch shot is a third play smart situation. The object of the punch shot is to keep the ball low, straight, and precise. It makes for a great approach shot in the wind. But it also makes for a great shot to salvage par from the trees. Many players use a longer iron to make this shot, but a hybrid works just as well, as I’ve mentioned in my golf tips newsletter. Here’s how to make a punch shot work for you:
Play the ball just back of the middle of your stance, which takes some loft off your club and enables the ball to fly lower with backspin. Take a three-quarter swing, mostly with your arms, and keep your wrists firm and hands quiet on the downswing. Make a smooth controlled swing, with out decelerating or hurrying through the shot, and keep your follow through short and low. The punch shot is a great weapon to have when in trouble or when playing in a stiff wind.
These three common “play smart” situations are often discussed in golf instruction session and golf articles. There are more not so common play smart shots. Look for them and then store them in your mind so you’ll remember them. In these situations, forget the “miracle shot” you’ve never hit before unless you’ve no other choice. Playing smart helps keep a lid on scores and stops golf handicaps from ballooning.
Jack Moorehouse is the author of the best-selling book “How To Break 80 And Shoot Like The Pros.” He is NOT a golf pro, rather a working man that has helped thousands of golfers from all seven continents lower their handicap immediately. He has a free weekly newsletter with the latest golf tips, golf lessons and golf instruction.