5 Shots! You Need To Know To Score Like A Pro

Get inside the ropes and learn Pro-Style short cuts

Having played on the PGA Tour for many years, I can tell that the area around the green is what separates the truly great from the really good players. Great players not only know how to get up and down from more places, but they also have the creativity and confidence required to hit shots that help them lower their scores. The following five shots may not seem all that out of the ordinary, but they're the shots you need to master if you want to start shooting lower scores right now.

1 THE PITCH & BITE So you missed the green. It happens to all of us (even Tour players) more than you might expect. Even when I played for a living and posted some low scores, I rarely played without missing a few greens per round. That said, the trick is to first accept that you're going to miss some greens, and second, be ready to hit the right shot afterward. In this instance, I want to hit a pitch shot that has some check on it. I want it to fly, land, bounce and grab the putting surface with minimal forward roll.

To hit this shot successfully and add some bite to your shots, the key is to always accelerate through the hit and allow the body to rotate through to take the flip out of the hands. The less you flip your hands, the longer the ball can stay on the face and increase the backspin for that added bite. Sounds easy enough, right? Here's the trick.

As you practice hitting pitch shots, I don't want you to think about the hands and preventing them from flipping over. I want you to concentrate on placing the majority of your weight over your left knee, which should have some flex through the shot. Some of the best short games I've seen on Tour come from players who retain some left knee bend through the shot. Doing so actually makes it easy for the body to rotate and for the hands to clear through the hit without needing to flip and/or lift the ball into the air.

Try keeping your left knee flexed well into the finish. You'll see how much easier it is to rotate the body versus having a straight left knee, which stops the body and forces the hands to flip.

2 CHIP FROM THE ROUGH

Hitting delicate chips from the rough can be tricky. It's even more difficult if you try and use the smaller muscles in the hands to get the ball airborne. For me, and for many of my colleagues, hitting crisp chips is a lot like what I just talked about in terms of hitting pitches. You want to keep some flex in your left knee and play your weight slightly favoring your left side. But with chips, there should be even less hand rotation, meaning you want a rock-solid left wrist to prevent the club from twisting as it brushes through the rough. Here's what to do.

As you hit small chips around the green, concentrate on the back of your left hand facing the target at impact and keep that left hand staying above your right through the entire chip. There shouldn't be any big "release" here, as you would do with a full swing or even a pitch shot. Instead, hold that left wrist firm and rotate the body over your left knee.

A great drill to firm up that left wrist and get a feel for a flexed left knee is to practice hitting chips (and pitches, too) on just your left leg with just your left arm. You'll immediately get a sense for how it should feel to have a firm left wrist as you hit chips from the rough.

3 BEAT THE TOUGH BUNKER Whether you encounter wet sand, a fried egg or an embedded lie, there are a few must-know moves to ensure you hit the shot correctly. First, lower your expectations a little bit. Even with perfect mechanics, some lies in the sand are going to be unpredictable no matter what. Second, don't play the ball back in your stance as I see many amateurs do. If anything, you want to play the ball forward of center in your stance. Third, use a wedge that has a little less bounce in the sole grind. In this case, I went with my 56-degree wedge, not my 60-degree. The reason for this is because I want to hit this shot not with an open face, but with a square clubface. Why? Because hitting this shot with a face that's open makes it even more difficult to use the sand to your advantage and lift the ball into the air. Instead, I want to play the hands a little forward of the ball, square up the face and make an aggressive swing and hit about two to three inches behind the ball and try and blast a divot about one inch deep.

Because you're hitting this shot with less effective bounce and a square clubface, the clubface is going to dig into the sand very easily, so there's no need to feel as though you need to dig low to lift the ball airborne. It's going to happen anyway, meaning the most important component of this shot is to swing aggressively and be ready for some added resistance in the sand.

I recommend you practice this shot a few times and get a feel for hitting bunker shots with a square clubface and the ball a little forward in your stance. Sometimes you'll actually want to hit open-faced shots, but with tough lies in the sand, a square clubface is often the right way to go.

4 AGAINST THE COLLAR

We Tour players don't have the luxury of the ol' foot wedge! When faced with a shot up against the collar like you see here, I can either try and putt it and risk the putter getting stuck in the grass, or I can try and get creative and actually try and blade the shot using my wedge. In almost every instance, I've opted for the latter and hit plenty of great shots doing just that.

The trick is a simple one. You want to catch the ball at or near its equator with the leading edge of the wedge. To do that, play the ball back in your stance and make a low swinging stroke. Don't lift the club any higher off the ground than necessary. In fact, keep the clubhead as low as you can as you make the stroke. For me, I like to align my body a little open with the face of my wedge aimed at the target, as it helps me make a lower, smoother stroke. It's more or less a putting stroke, if you will.

5 BACKHANDED WEDGE

We Tour players don't have the luxury of the ol' foot wedge! When faced with a shot up against the collar like you see here, I can either try and putt it and risk the putter getting stuck in the grass, or I can try and get creative and actually try and blade the shot using my wedge. In almost every instance, I've opted for the latter and hit plenty of great shots doing just that.

The trick is a simple one. You want to catch the ball at or near its equator with the leading edge of the wedge. To do that, play the ball back in your stance and make a low swinging stroke. Don't lift the club any higher off the ground than necessary. In fact, keep the clubhead as low as you can as you make the stroke. For me, I like to align my body a little open with the face of my wedge aimed at the target, as it helps me make a lower, smoother stroke. It's more or less a putting stroke, if you will.

Dan Pohl is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour and also has competed on the Champions Tour. He resides in Phoenix, Arizona, and is an ambassador for Hopkins Golf.

One thought on “5 Shots! You Need To Know To Score Like A Pro

Leave a Reply

GOLF TIPS MENU