Score From Anywhere
Shotmaking tips from the seaside links of Scotland to help you save strokes wherever you play
Let It Fly: Shoot The Breeze
On approach shots over hazards, the wind can actually be your friend. When possible, opt to hit shots that take advantage of the wind instead of those that try to fight its effects.
Here, I’m hitting into a left-to-right wind, with a bunker on the right and some long grass in front of the green. Instead of trying to draw the ball in low, against the wind, I almost always choose to ride the wind. In this case, the smart thing to do is aim well left of the target and hit a straight, solid shot with a nice, high followthrough. This will shoot the ball up into the wind and allow it to blow the shot over the hazards and safely onto the green.
High Irons: Play It Up
When golf instructors talk about playing shots in the wind, they almost always focus on playing the ball low. There are some situations, however, like when you have a tailwind, when it’s best to play the ball high and exploit the wind. In these cases, I recommend positioning the ball more forward in your stance, close to your left instep. Instead of taking an abbreviated backswing, allow yourself to make a full swing. When you reach impact, stay back and let your arms extend fully through the ball. The shot should rise quickly off the clubface and attain enough altitude to take full advantage of the wind.
Pitch Shot: High vs. Low
To execute the high pitch, select a lofted wedge and position the ball slightly forward in your stance. A high, balanced finish will allow you to carry the ball onto the green. To play the low shot, which I recommend most of the time, position the ball back in your stance and use a less-lofted club. Finish with your hands relatively low, and let the ball feed to the hole.
Downhill: Use Your Head
On downhill approaches like this, it’s always tempting to fly the ball to the hole. In this case, however, I suggest playing a high-percentage, low shot toward the middle of the green. Select one more club, and make an abbreviated backswing with minimal wrist cock. Don’t be afraid to put the ball on a tee—you’ll still be able to hit it low.
Bunker Play: Great Escapes
For a high bunker shot, open the clubface and aim it at your landing area, while you point your feet well left of the target. Take a longer backswing, and allow the club to pull your arms into a nice, high finish. The ball will come out high and should land softly.
Just as is the case with greenside pitches, bunker shots can be played either high or low. To hit a low, running bunker shot, keep the clubface square at impact and finish with a low followthrough. When you play this shot, remember to allow for a substantial amount of roll.
Scottish PGA professional John Kelly is the director of golf at St. Andrews Bay Golf Resort & Spa, Fife, Scotland.
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