My advice? Develop a reliable punch shot. This requires you to play the ball two inches back of center in your stance and make a half- or three-quarter swing. The overall feeling should be “together and compact” with solid lower-body control. Because the punch swing is compact the odds of producing clean contact go through the roof and that’s the first—and toughest—half of the battle!
Can you believe that a relatively short downhill 415-yard par 4 — with no water out-of-bounds or obviously penal hazards — can play as the most-over-par hole in U.S. Open history? It looks so innocuous.
For this “Backspin vs. Lie” experiment you’ll need your lob wedge a tee and three balls. Select a 20- to 30-yard shot around a green that forces you to carry a bunker but that provides plenty of room between the apron and the pin.
In the photo below I’m standing on the beautiful and meandering Shinnecock Hills G.C. site of last month’s U.S. Open. If you’ve never played Shinnecock before believe me when I tell you that for most weekend golfers shooting better than 96 on this course is an achievement!
Missing the green left or right will demand hitting a flop shot for your third — other short-game shots just won’t hold the green. And hitting lobs in a gusting wind is no picnic. You can sail long or come up short without notice.
Once you’re successful from all three lies check the results which should look something like what’s pictured in the photo at right. What you’ll notice is that the shot from the rough rolled out the farthest — the mass of grass that wedged its way between the ball and the clubface at impact killed most of the backspin.
Start by analyzing your grip. Building a hold that gives you trust and confidence is critical. And despite what you may hear there are no guidelines to crafting the right putting grip for you. My mantra: “The best way to putt is with the grip and stroke that helps you hole the most putts while also avoiding 3-putts.”
The process is simple. During your warm-up on the range check the divots you carve with your wedges. Their position relative to your stance indicates the low point of your swing. If you position the ball slightly behind the middle of your typical divot you’ll begin hitting wedges like Tom Kite—one of the best wedge players the game has ever seen. Take a look at his action in the photo below.
Take a look at the photo again. Would it not make sense to consider modifying your practice routine based on what this snapshot is showing you? You should still warm up and activate your golf muscles but a wise move would be to devote a third of your practice time to your wedges and another third to your putting game. And be sure to conduct this practice with focus and purpose.
The two keys to achieving this goal are to a) make sure your clubhead makes clean contact with the ball and b) select a safe escape route to your target that’s ahead of where you would have been with a better swing.
You don’t have to be perfect but you can’t do any of the important things badly. My advice? Believe in yourself. Becoming a great putter isn’t easy but it’s possible (Phil Mickelson at age 48 is enjoying the finest putting season in his career). Maintain a good hardworking attitude as you work through items 1 through 9. I’ve seen success stories happen thousands of times. Everyone is capable of improving.
You often encounter shots from non-level stances on uneven contours around the greens which wreak havoc on your wedge results. Suddenly your wedge swing is bottoming out in a different spot relative to your stance and you may be at a loss as to where you should position the ball. Enter green-then-white contact and a heavy dose of extra strokes from short range.