Which Shot Do I Play?

Mark Oswald
General Manager
The Highlands at Dove Mountain in Marana, AZ.
Marana, AZ

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This is a good question when it comes to your short game. Which shot is the correct shot? I like to break it down into these simple keys. How much air time and how much ground time does this shot require? To measure air time and ground time you must determine how close you are to the edge of the green or landing area for the shot and then how far the pin is from your landing area. I am a firm believer of getting the ball on the ground as soon as possible, use the putting surface and let the ball roll as much as possible. Here are a couple of shot options and when to use each shot.

The Lob Shop is used when you have very little green to work with so you must loft the ball into the air and make it stop. This is a much tougher shot for most golfers. It is usually much easier to allow the ball to roll than to make it stop. With this in mind, we do have to know how to play this shot when we have no other options due to a pin location close to the edge of the green, long grass or a bunker between you and the hole, or just a small green and very little to area work with. Highlighted below are some tips for playing the lob or pitch shot.

1)  Position the ball forward in your stance, off the middle of your front foot.

2)  Get the club with the most loft in your bag, the 60 degree or lob wedge works best.

3)  Pick the club up quickly on a steep angle in the backswing.  

4)  Continue the steep backswing by breaking your wrists as you take the club above your waist.

5)  The length and speed of your swing will control how far the ball will fly in the air. I prefer a slower backswing, controlling your club head speed. You will need a pretty full backswing in order to maintain the steep angle of attack into the ball which is necessary to loft the ball high into the air.

6)  Clip the grass under the ball and follow through. Put the sole or bounce of the club under the ball and into the ground to get this ball up quickly. Do not quit at impact, keep accelerating, your follow through should continue on at least to the length of your backswing.  

The chip & run shot is used when you have a lot of green to work with and can roll the ball more on the green to the pin location. This is a much lower shot with less air time and more ground time.  With practice you can become really accurate with this shot.  Highlighted below are some tips for playing the chip and run shot.

1)  Position the ball back in your stance towards your rear foot.

2)  Choose the club based on how much you want the ball to roll.  This shot can be done with almost every club in the bag. For more roll on the green use a less lofted iron, hybrid or fairway metal. If the pin is closer and you want less roll use a wedge or less lofted iron.

3)  The length of your backswing will determine how far you fly the ball in the air and the club you have selected will determine how far the ball will roll after landing on the green.

4)  Use the pendulum or putting style stroke. Take the club back without breaking your wrists.

5)  Maintain the weight on your front foot during the swing.

6)  Clip the grass and follow through pushing the club towards the target without breaking your wrists. If you allow the wrists to break you will pop the ball higher into the air and you may not get the desired roll you had intended on.

7)  Hold you finish, check to see that your weight is on the front foot and you have not cupped or broken your front wrist.

These two shots can save you a lot of strokes. You will find that 50 – 60% of your score will be done between chipping, pitching and putting. Work on your short game for long term reduction of your handicap and score.  

For more help with your golf game, contact Mark Oswald at oswaldpga@gmail.com.