Choosing Which Shot to Play Around the Green

When you are trying to get the ball up-and-down from off the green, there are four types of shots you can play: putt, chip, pitch, lob. And that is the order in which they should be favored, says PGA Professional Doug Alexander, a Master Instructor with Hank Haney at The World Head Quarters in Lewisville Texas. You should favor a putt first, the chip shot second, a pitch shot third and a lob shot last.

"But what type of shot you play around the green is dictated by your lie and your distance from the putting surface," Alexander adds.

Putt When You Can

If you have a good lie from just off the green and the ball is sitting up with little fringe, the best choice is to putt.

"Putting gives you the best chance of getting the ball close to the hole," according to Alexander.

Change Your Club as Your Distance Increases

As the distance to the flagstick increases, change the club you are using. Alexander: "It is important to land the ball on a flat portion of the green because it helps you to control the ball's line and speed."

Therefore, if the lie is good but it is too far to putt, pick a more lofted club, such as an 8- or 9-iron. When setting up, these are Alexander's key points:

  • Put the ball in line with the big toe of your back foot.
  • Stand close with the club standing up slightly on its toe.
  • The hands should be in front of the ball with about 65-percent of your weight on your front foot at address.
  • The stroke should feel like putting, making sure you hit the ball first and then the ground.

When the Ball is in Deeper Rough or Short-Sided

If your ball is in longer grass, and there is little green to work with (short sided) or a large rise in front of you, your best bet, Alexander says, is to choose a sand wedge or lob wedge.

"You have two options: Play it low and roll it to the hole or play it high and stop the ball sooner," Alexander says. He offers these keypoints:

  • Play it low by putting the ball back in your stance with the clubface square, using the same set-up as with an 8- or 9-iron.
  • Play it high by putting the ball toward the center of your stance with an open clubface and 50-50 weight at address. You may feel a touch of wrist hinge in the backswing depending on the distance the ball needs to carry.

Higher Grass, Need to Stop Ball Fast

If the grass is much longer or you need to stop the ball quickly, use a lob shot, says Alexander. These are his keypoints:
  • The ball should be in line with your front heel and body open to the target with weight set at 50-50.
  • Take a big swing, leaving the clubface open on the downswing to loft the ball and hopefully stop it quickly.

Practice These 4 Options

Those are your four options for playing shots around the green, and the circumstances in which you should choose one or the others, Alexander says.

"Remember: When circumstance allow, favor putting over chipping; chipping over pitching; pitching over lobbing," Alexander says. "But circumstances — your lie, your distance from the green surface, any obstacles — dictate which shot to play."

Like all golf shots, though, you'll only master these if you practice them. Explore all four options when practicing, and practice all four shots.

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