That smile from busting your drive straight down the fairway is gone. Why? Because now you’re standing over the ball gripping your 3-iron, scanning the green 200 yards down the fairway. You know you haven’t hit a solid 3-iron since that scramble you played last spring. Even so, you stand over your ball, hoping to make solid contact.
Let go of the long irons. Hang the 3-iron over the mantle and let it serve as a reminder of how you previously battled in the fairway. From now on you will play differently. Here’s how:
1. IT’S ALL ABOUT PREPARATION: Consider all variables affecting your shot
Whether it’s a green side bunker, hitting over a water hazard, or hitting off a sidehill lie, it is critical to consider variables that affect the next shot. The sidehill lie is one of the most common. When the ball is below your feet, you will most likely hit a fade and come up short. To compensate, aim left of your target and take one more club. When the ball is above your feet, you will most likely hit a draw. Don’t worry about taking an extra club, as a draw tends to travel farther than a fade, just aim right of the target and focus on making solid contact.
Divide and conquer. If you have more than 200 yards to the green and lack confidence hitting an accurate fairway wood or hybrid that distance, why not hit two shots? Choose your “go-to wedge distance” that gives you confidence going for the green. Then all you have to do is hit a mid to short iron to that position. The key is choosing a target number of strokes for the remainder of the hole. On a tough par 4, the average player should be satisfied to get a bogey. So if you’re hitting your second shot from more than 200 yards out, get to your go-to yardage, hit your wedge, two putt, and walk to the next hole with your bogey. No heroics, simply solid play.
2. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS: Don’t miss out on hybrids
Lack confidence hitting your long irons? Recycle them and start using a hybrid. The average player shouldn’t have a 3- or 4-iron in their bag now that a hybrid is a functional alternative. Keep one fact in mind when replacing your long irons: choose a hybrid that matches both the loft and length of the iron you’re replacing. Whether hitting off the tee, in the middle of the fairway, or from the rough, you’ll swing with greater confidence and success with a hybrid. From tour pro to average golfer, a hybrid can be one of most versatile clubs in the bag. As Steve Atherton, GolfTEC Visce President of Instruction, said in the WHAT’S IN THE BAG article, a 5-wood or hybrid is “easier to hit out of light to moderate rough as Mike Weir demonstrated at the US Open.”
The next step to assembling the right bag is taking a closer look at your fairway wood(s). Most players have a driver and a 3-wood. Compared to a 3-wood, a higher lofted club like a 5-wood is significantly easier to hit. Try this simple test from GolfTEC Coach Ty Walker to see if you should replace your 3-wood with a 5-wood:
- Go to the driving range with a 3-wood and 5-wood
- Hit 10 balls with each club
- Total the yardage of the 10 shots which each club
- Compare the two totals to find which club gives you the best distance
In Ty’s personal experience and years of instruction, the 5-wood almost always ends up with the greater total distance. Increasing the loft leads to more consistency in getting the ball up into the air.
3. AIM FOR THE CENTER: Don’t be tempted by “sucker pins”
Even if you’re not playing Bethpage Black with Sunday pin placements, chances are the course you’re playing has some sucker pins. Don’t be one of those golfers who possess more guts than wisdom. Aim for the center of green and let your buddies learn the hard way.
A useful tip from Ty Walker is to imagine the pin is hidden until you’re ball is on the green. Disregard the pin location, aim for the center, then putt towards the hole. If the pin is located on the front of the green, going long gives you a longer putt and going short puts you closer to the hole. Either way, you’re still putting instead of attempting a tricky recovery pitch or chip shot.
A FINAL THOUGHT
Go ahead and keep smiling because now you followed up that massive drive with a well-executed second shot. From here on out, you can play better golf as you tell tales of victory under the watchful eye of your 3-iron safely enshrined on the mantle above.
Steve Atherton, GolfTEC Vice President of Instruction
Ty Walker, GolfTEC Denver Director of Instruction and Regional Manager
Peter Reese, GolfTEC Vice President of Marketing
Peter Thulson, GolfTEC Marketing