Knock It Stiff

When To Go for It, When To Play It Safe

I know it’s not exactly grammatically correct, but Sam Snead once said, “Dance with the one you brung.” What he meant was that if you slice the ball, play for a slice. If you hook the ball, play for a hook. Play what works best for you.

Here, I’m faced with a challenging shot to a flag just to the right of a bunker. If I usually slice the ball and I aim at the pin, the ball will end up well right of the flag (and skip down into a looming water hazard). But if I aim left and play for my natural shot shape, then the ball will likely land close to the flag (even if it’s tempting to aim at the flag because of that bunker guarding the left side of the green).

All too often “weekend warriors” try to pull off shots that only Tour pros routinely get away with. Rather than hoping for a “career” shot, do what Snead suggested and “Dance with the one you brung.”

While wedges might not be the “sexiest” clubs in your bag, they are, outside of putters, the ones you hit the most during your round. (I bet you hit them more than you hit your driver.) So it’s vital that you find one (or three) that fit your game (and your usual course conditions).

Wedge variations are virtually limitless, so make sure you factor in how much loft you need (48°-64°) and what bounce angle best serves your game (higher-bounce models perform best on softer conditions; lower-bounce models on harder turf). As a rule of thumb, I’d suggest four degrees of loft between your wedges.

Other personal preferences like head shape, color and weight also determine what kind of club you end up buying. Where to start? Try our 2010 Golf Equipment Buyer’s Guide, online now at

From the fairway (or rough or sand), try to see exactly what awaits your approach shot. If, as in the situation you see here, you’re faced with a benign landing area, consider playing your approach shot like a putter. That is, low and running.

Play the ball back in your stance, choose a lower-lofted club (like a 7-iron) and “chip” your shot so it rolls down the fairway and up onto the green. Obviously if there’s a water hazard or bunker in front of it, choose instead to hit a wedge and hit it higher so it carries the hazard and lands softly near your target.

In general, if you have a lot of green to work with, keep your ball low. It’s easier to control, and your chance of success is far, far greater.

Dr. David Wright, PGA, is considered one of America’s top 100 golf instructors. He teaches at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif. Visit him online at and


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