Distance control starts with selecting the right club
On all holes, the flagstick location will either be in the front, middle or back portion of the green. The average green is about 30 yards deep, and golf clubs are designed with lofts that produce roughly a 10-yard difference between clubs. That means that there are up to three club possibilities from one position in the fairway, depending on the flagstick location.
The first order of business is to determine the yardage to the flag, not merely to the middle of the green. For example, the sprinkler head right next to your ball indicates you have 150 yards to the middle of the green, but the flagstick is in the back third of the green. If you normally hit a 7-iron a total of 150 yards, then you should choose a 6-iron.
Turn On The Wind Changes
How does the club selection change if you add 30 mph of wind? Playing into the wind is difficult—even for the best players. Tournament scores are always higher on windy days. In order to select the right club in the wind, apply the “Ten Miles Per Hour” rule. Take one more club (or one less) for each 10 mph of wind speed. For example, if you have 150 yards to the flag (7-iron) and you’re hitting dead into a 30 mph wind, you should use a 4-iron to hit the shot. It’s the correct play because a less-lofted club will help keep the ball low and out of the wind and, because you’re taking plenty of club, you can execute a smooth, controlled swing to produce solid contact and less spin to guard against the ball ballooning up into the wind.
If you’re downwind with this shot, use a pitching wedge and trust the wind to carry it farther without trying to swing harder. A crosswind doesn’t affect your club selection as much. Simply play the wind to your advantage by hitting the ball into the wind and letting it work back to the target.
Common sense dictates that an uphill shot requires more club and a downhill shot requires less club. The problem is that sometimes we tend to forget to take a change in elevation into account—especially if it isn’t dramatic or we don’t have a benchmark as to how elevation influences club selection.
As a general rule, select one more (or one less) club for every 10 feet of elevation change. For example, if you’ve got 150 yards to the flag (7-iron), and you estimate the target is about 10 feet below where you’re standing, use an 8-iron for the shot.
Weather & Course Conditions
Again, this may seem like common sense, but the weather and the condition of the course also affect the carry and roll of your golf shots. In addition to being downwind, the ball flies farther than normal from level terrain if: 1) you’re playing well above sea level (starting about 5,000 feet); 2) the temperature is hot; 3) the air is dry; and 4) the ground is hard.
The ball won’t travel as far as normal when: 1) the grass is wet and the ground is soft; 2) the humidity is high; and 3) it’s either cold or raining.
Experienced golfers have a gut feeling for how much the course and weather conditions affect their shots and whether the conditions require a half or a whole club difference.
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