Master the “In Between”

By • Category: Approach shots with irons, Features

It happens every round — you’ve put yourself in a situation where clubbing down and hammering a shot won’t quite get there, but clubbing up and hitting a smooth thumb shot goes too far.  I think this is one area where the casual player can make big gains on the scoreboard with a little smarts and a little practice.

First of all, you can reduce the number of these types of approach shots by being smart off the tee.  Know the gaps in your clubs and put your drive in a place that gives you a comfortable approach instead of just blindly pounding a drive out there.  You know to try to line up with the wind if you have options off the tee, but you should also know the distances of the clubs in your set — lay back for a more comfortable approach instead of putting yourself in a position where you’re not sure which club to use!

On the other hand, you don’t have control of where you’re placed on the tee box.  On par 3s and drivable par 4s, you may be left with a tough decision to make.  First, look for danger short of the green and behind the green — this should be the most important information when choosing your club.  If there’s trouble long and you’re afraid an easy thumb shot might carry too far, then club down.  If it’s safe long, then take the longer club.

So what if there’s water short and long?  Here’s where you need to add another shot to your arsenal — the 2/3 touch shot.  I call it 2/3 because you’ll generally be pulling the club back 2/3 of the way in order to take enough distance off the shot to be safe.  Let’s say you’ve got the X-22s and you need to carry 175 yards to an island green with a strong cross-wind.  Your 5-iron is very risky only going 160 yards, and your 9-wood will go too far at 190.  The solution?  Grab your 9-wood, pull it back 2/3 of the way in the direction you’d normally be aiming, and thumb it forward at normal easy-thumb strength.  This will create the 175-yard shot you’re looking for!

Another note — the length of the pullback is NOT proportional to the distance of the shot.  Be careful not to pull the ball back, say, 80% of the way, because you’ll hardly be taking any distance off a full-strength shot.  To get the desired effect of reduced distance, you’ve got to be between 50-75% of a full swing.  I like to try to use 2/3 as a good baseline, because I know that will take the desired 10-20 yards off the distance to give me the shot I want.

As always, this shot takes practice, but I believe it’s easier to utilize than trying to finesse a very-soft thumbs shot that will most likely go too long or way too short.

There are several examples where this shot comes in handy — most often par 3s that have trouble all around the green.  So instead of trying to superman a lesser club or finesse a longer one, use a shorter pullback and take your normal thumbs follow-through to take away some of the guesswork!

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is a Golden Tee addict from Chicago, IL, thirsty for tips and tricks!
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4 Responses »

  1. Big kudo’s on the opening volley about not merely banging a drive from the tee box.

    For the past few months I’ve adopted the idea of picking a drive distance that is going to drop me with a shot with one of my favorite clubs. In my case, I freaking adore the 9 wood (X-22 bag). If I cannot drive the green, then I immediately start looking at the winds and terrain and then club down to whatever I need to leave my approach shot a 9w shot (195-ish, depending on the winds).

    Since then, my percentage of approach shots that stick the green has improved significantly. I mean, how much can it hurt to set oneself up with a shot using a club they know well and have utmost confidence in?

  2. Yeah I addopted that idea and got my first hole out for an eagle. I have also been using the 5 iron with backspin for windy chip shots. Math required on that but big difference all around.

  3. question: what is 2 thirds of 190? it`s about 125, so trying to hit a 2 thirds 9 wood from 175 will just leave you

  4. well short of the green. i have 2 better solutions: 1 would to be just smooth the 9 wood a hair, and 2: JUST USE A CLUB SET WITH A FRIGGIN 4 IROB!

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