While most people spend time on the range hitting a variety of clubs, they rarely practice hitting a variety of shots. Part of the reason, I suspect, is they don’t have to hit these shots on a regular basis. This should be all the more reason to practice them.
In earlier columns I suggested that instead of playing a usual round, golfers should mix it up and try a variety of shots they never hit. So often I see players use the same wedge with the same shot around every green. If you carry three wedges, you have six different shots alone by nothing more than ball placement forward or back in your stance.
One of the reasons the European players do so well when the Ryder Cup is in their backyard is because they are used to playing on all types of turf in all kinds of weather. They are forced to hit different shots by default, compared to players in this country that play on perfectly manicured lawns.
What types of shots can you think of that you would like to learn how to hit? The one I get the most requests for is the knockdown shot. If you don’t know how to hit this shot and you are playing on a windy day, chances are fairly high that you won’t be hitting a lot of fairways or greens in regulation.
The knockdown shot is nothing more than an abbreviated full swing. The idea is to keep the ball low and out of the wind. To do this correctly, start by narrowing your stance. This promotes more of a pinching sensation through impact. Next, choke down on the club about an inch or so. The grip pressure should be a little more firm; about 6 on a scale of 1 light to 10 tight. The backswing and forward swing should be no more than three-quarters. This motion gives you a little more control.
A punch shot is another weapon that should be in your bag. If you’re playing well, this probably will not be needed. But if the occasion arises, you’ll be glad to know how to hit it. First, try to visualize the shot you’re attempting. Most often you’ll be trying to hit underneath a tree limb and get back in the fairway. To hit this shot correctly, make sure the shaft stays pointing at the target through impact. The abbreviated follow through will take a tremendous amount of resistance through the impact area, but is the key to keeping the shot low.
I’ve written about how to hit bunker shots successfully, but waste bunkers are a different swing altogether. Instead of hitting the sand first and exploding the ball out of the bunker, you need to pick the ball and take as little sand as possible. Start by playing the ball farther forward in your stance, with the blade and your stance square at address. You still want to wiggle your feet to secure your stance. The secret to hitting this shot correctly is keeping your lower body as still as possible on your backswing. I actually turn my knees inward and lock them to prevent a weight shift. Your backswing should be a little slower and a little abbreviated. This allows you to pick the ball with as little sand as possible.
So the next time you go out to practice, try these shots and see if you can make them part of your game. You’ll play with more confidence if you do.
Betsy Larey is an LPGA teaching professional who enjoys teaching, writing, researching and playing golf. You can reach her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org