Shotmaking is a broad term and one that’s typically reserved for highly skilled players. Yet all golfers, even those who have a tough time breaking 90, should consider themselves shotmakers. Face it, the game of golf constantly demands a degree of creativity, and unless you play on a perfectly flat course with no rough, no hazards and no undulations on the greens, you have to be ready with a variety of plays–just to get through a single round. So stop thinking that shotmaking is a term reserved strictly for the best players and embrace the notion that you, too, are capable of hitting more than one shot with every club in your bag. In the end, you’ll shoot better scores and have a lot more fun playing the game.
1. How To Alter Trajectory
It may sound simple, but adjusting your tee height is the easiest way to alter tee shot trajectory. As expected, raising your tee height will promote a higher trajectory shot with more carry, while lowering your tee height will promote a more boring shot with more roll. Another key is adjusting your weight placement at address–if you put more weight on the rear foot, the ball will tend to fly on a higher trajectory; if you place your weight on your forward foot, you’ll hit the ball lower. Finally, you change ballflight by moving the ball in your stance. Playing the ball forward will cause you to hit the ball higher; playing back hits it lower._Ê
2. Power Fade
At address, aim your body slightly left of the target while keeping your club pointing at the target, and swing along your body line. Because you’re aimed left, making a regular swing in this alignment will produce a slightly out-to-in path and promote a left-to-right ballflight. Adding slightly more pressure in the last three fingers of your leading hand through impact also is a good way to prevent the clubhead from closing, which further promotes a fade. The secret to this shot is to follow the line of your body and hold on to the club through impact. Swinging aggressively after you’ve perfected this move will only cause you to hit it further!
3. How To Get It In Play
When you must get the ball in play, try these tips: 1) Tee the ball lower to the ground (you’ll have to experiment with your brand of driver), which will tend to produce a lower and flatter trajectory and more control; 2) Make a connected and full weight shift into your forward foot, allowing the arms and hands to be controlled by the pivot of your body; remember to stay relaxed and try to minimize any extra acceleration; 3) Don’t be afraid to choke down on your driver or 3-wood–the idea is to get it in play, not hit it far._Ê
4. How To Play Alternative Clubs Off The Tee
Once you’ve selected a hybrid club to hit from the tee, take at least four practice swings to adjust to the different weight and feel of the club–particularly when you’ve been hitting woods for several consecutive holes. Next, tee up the ball slightly higher than you would a normal iron, which will make it easier to achieve square contact. Finally, focus on swinging with a moderate tempo, and don’t be overly concerned with hitting the shot with a lot of power.
5. How To Go For Max Roll Vs. Max Carry
To produce maximum carry (great for tailwinds) or hit shots that roll the maximum distance, simply adjust tee height (higher for more carry and lower for more roll) or change your weight placement at address (on the rear foot to hit it higher or more on the forward foot to hit it lower). However, the most effective method is to change the action of your release through impact. If you hold on and keep the club from closing (right), you’ll see a super-high, left-to-right ballflight. If you allow yourself to release fully (far right), you’ll hit a lower, running shot.
6. How To Hit A High Draw
Tee up the ball higher to promote carry distance. Place the ball forward in your stance to allow the clubface to have a better opportunity to close through the impact zone, and relax your grip at address to allow for less tension at address. Swing the club from inside to outside through the impact zone, allowing your club to fully release, with the feeling that the toe of the club will pass the heel of the club on the way through the ball.
7. How To Play Under The Wind And How To Play With It
We all know that the knockdown shot is effective into the wind, but did you know that it’s as effective with the wind as well? To play this shot, begin by placing the ball in line with the rear portion of your sternum, with your weight on your forward foot. Take two clubs more than normal and choke down slightly; then make a 70-percent swing with a low backswing and low followthrough. This technique will cause the ball to fly lower and not be affected as much by the conditions of the golf course or the elements.
8. How To Minimize Spin
While shots that stop and spin back certainly elicit oohs and aahs, there are times when spin can hurt you. In order to decrease the amount of spin you impart to the ball, focus on making an arms-only swing. This will decrease the amount of lateral motion you have going through the ball and effectively will make your angle of attack shallower (like a U, not a V). To accomplish this, choke down on the club and swing easier, with minimal leg action. This shot tends to be very reliable and stops close to where it lands.
9. How To Fade A Wedge Shot
This is a difficult shot because the high loft of the wedges doesn’t impart much sidespin, making them difficult to intentionally fade. However, the faded wedge can be an extremely valuable scoring tool and it’s worth learning. Begin by aiming your body slightly left of the target, with the face of the club aimed directly at the target. Through impact, hold on with the last three fingers of your left hand (for right-handers) and pull across the ball. This will impart the desired left-to-right spin to the ball, allowing it to simply drop to the right after the apex of its flight. The harder you swing and hold on, the more the ball will slide.
10. Create Spin On Approach
To spin approach shots, you must focus on allowing the club to impact the ball before it makes contact with the ground. In order to practice this descending blow with the proper impact alignments, place a head cover about two feet behind your ball and a penny two inches in front of your ball._Ê During the downswing, miss the head cover but hit the penny after the ball, and you’ll find that you’re compressing the ball against the ground through impact. Practice this drill diligently and your ballstriking, and the amount of spin you create, will improve substantially.
11. How To Negotiate Tough Lies
For a tough lie, like a sand-filled divot in the fairway, or in some thick rough, position the ball back in your stance and make a more vertical backswing and steeper downswing. This will allow you to make contact with the ball cleanly and produce a shot that gets_Ê airborne more quickly and easily. This will also produce better carry distance._Ê_Ê
12. How To Play 3/4 Shots
While the three-quarter shot is one of the most misunderstood shots in golf, it’s actually quite easy to execute. If you’re between clubs, all you have to do is choke down and make your normal swing with more club. Let the shorter swing arc dictate distance. A mistake golfers tend to make when playing this shot is attempting to hit their normal club softly, which often results in deceleration and fat or chunked shots.
13. How To Hit An Explosion Shot
Play it like a normal bunker shot, with the ball in the middle of your stance and your weight and hands leaning slightly forward.
14. How To Hit A Bunker Shot High Or Low
To play the high bunker shot, select your lob wedge or highest lofted sand wedge and open the clubface at address. Position the ball forward in your stance, opposite your left armpit, and place 65 percent of your weight on your rear foot. Pick up the club quickly on the backswing, and be sure to hold the clubface open on the way through. This will cause the angle of attack to be fairly steep (resembling a V), and the ball will rise quickly and stop softly. To play a low runner, position the ball back in your stance with 65 percent of your weight on your front foot. Through impact, allow the club to release fully, with the toe of the club passing the heel. This will cause the ball to have some hook spin when it hits the green, running slightly to the left.
15. How To Hit A Flop Shot
For a successful flop, you’ll need a lob wedge and a good fluffy lie (never try a flop from a downhill lie). Place the ball up in your stance with an open clubface at address, and set your wrists quickly in the backswing. Remember to keep your pivot moving all the way through the shot, which will pull the clubshaft left of the target line. This rotational motion will cause the hands to hold on to the club slightly, preventing the clubhead from sliding under the ball too quickly. You don’t have to make a huge swing when executing a flop shot, but it’s critical to keep accelerating all the way through impact. Altering your overall tempo also can change the softness or speed of the ball leaving the blade, so be certain to experiment before trying this shot on the course.
16. How To Putt With A Hybrid
To properly use your hybrid club around the green, set up to the ball as you would with your putter, with the hands choked down slightly on the grip for more control. Make your normal stroke and allow the sole of the club to sweep along the ground as a broom would, with no hand or wrist action. This type of move will cause the ball to stay along the ground and roll like a putt, but with increased overspin. This is a great shot when you have a super-tight lie.
17._Ê How To Play A Chip Vs. A Pitch
A chip rolls along the ground for 90 percent of the total distance of the shot and doesn’t require a hinge of the wrists on the way back. A pitch flies in the air for at least 50 percent of its total distance and requires a hinging of the wrists on the way to the top. Both shots need to have the weight focused on the forward foot at address, but only the pitch shot requires weight to move forward at the finish. Chip shots should be played off the rear foot, while the pitch can be played from a variety of positions, depending on the length of the shot.
18. How To Play A Bump-And-Run
Follow these simple rules and you’ll be the master of the bump-and-run: 1) Select a club with less loft (9-iron, 8-iron, etc.) to ensure that the ball comes out low with a fair amount of roll; 2) Close down the face slightly, aim slightly right and place the ball back in your stance, with your hands and body weight forward; 3) Make an abbreviated backswing, with a short, punching followthrough; and 4) Allow the hands to lead the clubhead through the impact zone. It’s critical to experiment with different landing spots to get a feel for how much the ball will release when it hits the green.
19._Ê How To Play Extreme Uphill Or Downhill Putts
On extreme uphill putts, make sure you stand up slightly at address so your arms can swing easily under your chin without getting jammed too close to your body. If you’re too crowded, you’ll find that you tend to stand up through impact, and your putts will go weakly to the right. Stand up and stay still, and this won’t happen. On extremely downhill putts, address the ball off the toe of the putter and choke down. Striking the ball off the toe of the putter results in a gentler hit, and you’ll have a better chance of controlling the speed of the roll.
20. How To Play An Extreme Break
To play big breaking putts, focus on the door and the speed of the ball going through this door. What does this mean? If you look at a big breaking putt, you’ll see the apex of the break, which is the highest point on a line to the cup. This is where you should imagine the door for the ball to roll through in your mind’s eye. This door placement also is dependent on the speed at which you roll the ball. If you roll the ball through the door too fast, it will miss the cup on the high side; if you roll it too slow, it will miss on the low side. Choose your door according to how aggressively you like to roll the ball, and practice seeing the ball pass right through it.
21. How To Play Extremely Fast Or Slow Greens
In order to play super-fast greens, make sure your putter tempo and swing length is the same going back and through. This helps regulate your distance control, and provides you with more feel, as the ball will stay on the putterface longer. When it comes to putting on very slow or bumpy greens, allow your putting stroke to be short on the backswing and long on the through-swing. This will force you to accelerate through the ball and create enough power to get it to the hole._Ê Also, you might want to get a putter with more loft for days when you know you’ll be playing on bumpy or slow greens.
22. Soft Conditions
When playing out of soft conditions (including watery lies), you first must make sure your footing is solid, and be sure to choose one more club than usual so you don’t have to swing as hard. Most golfers panic in these situations and try to kill the ball, but that’s the worst possible technique. Instead, concentrate on swinging smoothly and making solid, ball-first contact. Know that the extra club will provide the distance you need and forget trying to hit it hard.
23. What To Do When You’re In Trouble
First of all, don’t panic. Assess the situation objectively and try to minimize the damage if possible. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with taking a drop–you can still save bogey.
24. How To Play Over & Under Obstacles
Playing over and under obstacles is simple if you keep your head and adjust three things: 1) Choose the correct club and don’t get greedy; 2) Adjust your ball’s position according to the shot at hand (front for high and back for low); and 3) Move your weight forward (for low) or back (for high) based on the shot you choose._Ê
_Ê25. What To Do In Extreme Conditions
In extreme situations, don’t be afraid to take an unplayable lie–it’s better to take the penalty than to get yourself deeper in trouble, or possibly ruin your gear, yourself or both. Great shotmakers always know their limits.
Tom Stickney is the director of instruction at the Club at Cordillera in Vail, Colo. For more tips, visit www.tomstickneygolf.com.