Correct Calls

Distance control starts with selecting the right club

Correct Calls You’re in the middle of the fairway, 150 yards from the flagstick. “Perfect 7-iron,” you say to yourself, after which you promptly sail the ball over the pin—and over the green. What happened? Likely, you only gave yourself a fraction of the data you needed to select the right club for the shot at hand.

Producing the correct distance for a given shot on the golf course requires more than a passing glance at the yardage posted on the nearest sprinkler head. Part of playing good golf is knowing how to factor in the pin placement, the lie, elevation changes, course conditions and the wind to select the right club to knock it stiff. Even if conditions are benign, we’re often simply “between clubs” and, therefore, you need to know either how to add or subtract a few yards to reach the target. Considering all possible factors to control the overall distance of a shot gives you confidence over the ball—and executing shots under pressure is easier when confidence runs high.

Normal Conditions
One More, One Less
There are other factors that may contribute to your decision to take one less club or choose one more when you’re stuck in the middle. Here’s a list of circumstances that may help push you in one direction or another so you can pull off the shot.

Normal ConditionsConditions That Favor Using One Less Club:
-No obstacle to carry in front of the green.
-The flagstick is toward the front of the green.
-You’re downwind, or face other course/weather conditions listed above that require less club.
-You always play with a little power in reserve and can call up a little extra zip when you need it.
-You’re a more skilled golfer, hit the ball solid most of the time and have the ability to shape or curve shots when necessary.
-You’re coming down the stretch in contention with adrenaline pumping.

Conditions That Favor Using One More Club:
-The trouble is short of the green and a shot that flies farther wouldn’t jeopardize a good score as much as one that pulls up short.
-The flagstick is toward the back of the green and the hole layout will accept a shot that comes in low and running.
-You’re hitting into the wind or have other course/weather conditions that require more club.
-You’re a swinger with a smooth, even tempo.
-You’re a lesser-skilled golfer who tends to come up short of the green in many cases.

Trisect The Green
To begin to sharpen your distance control from tee to green, it’s important to establish just how far you hit each of your clubs under normal conditions—or when there’s little or no wind, the course is dry and the lie is good and flat. Golf is an easier game if you know how far, on average, a particular club carries in the air and how far it rolls once it hits the ground. For example, a less-lofted iron (4- or 5-iron) will roll more than a wedge or 9-iron once it hits the green. To determine the carry and roll distance of your clubs, plan to play a “practice” round during a nonpeak time on the course—early evening is a good time—where you can hit two or three shots with the same club into a green.

Notice where the pitch mark is on the green, then pace off the distance from the pitch mark to the ball and arrive at an average carry and roll. When you get to the next hole, choose a different club and take an average of two or three shots. Once you know how far the ball travels under normal conditions, you can begin to make educated decisions about club selection under whatever conditions the course dishes out. If a practice round of this type isn’t possible, make some notes during your rounds of carry/roll distances with your clubs, or enlist the help of a laser rangefinder.


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