Golf InstructionOctober 29, 2019

Four shots you can rely on to win your big match

Photographs by Nathaniel Welch

Tour players aren’t the only ones who tee it up in majors. You have your own: your flight in the club championship, the annual golf trip with your college buddies, the member-guest at your club or the money match against the person who always seems to get in your pocket. You need to hit the important shots when they matter— just like the pros. I’m going to teach you four of them with the help of my friend George Deitz (above), the director of golf at my home base in New Jersey, Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club. These four shots are designed to help you hold up under pressure.

I’ll talk you through the controlled knockdown iron shot you see George hitting here. I’ll also teach you a tee shot to use when you absolutely have to be in play. I’ve got a couple for your short game, too: a stress-proof pitch shot and a no-brainer for long-bunker situations. With these shots, you’re going to be the favorite the next time you play. Just make sure to send me a picture of you holding the trophy.

—WITH MATTHEW RUDY

ACCURATE IRON SHOTS

REMEMBER 2-2-2 TO HIT THE GREEN

1 You might stripe it on the range with your normal iron swing, but will it hold up in the 18th fairway when par wins the match? If you’re not sure, try this instead: First, think 2-2-2—it’s a simple way to remember what you need to hit a solid iron shot with less spin, so it flies straighter and pierces the air. The first 2 is to choke down on the grip two inches. That shortens and stiffens the shaft and sets you up for a lower trajectory. The next 2 is to drop your lead foot back two inches from square. This promotes a shorter backswing and less weight shift into your back foot. You’ll be able to swing down a little steeper into the ball, which also lowers the flight. The last 2? Move the ball back two inches in your stance. This takes loft off the club and promotes clean, ball-first contact. Best part about this shot is, you can lean on it in a lot of other situations: the rough, fairway bunkers, uphill lies. It’s very versatile and user-friendly.

“THE MORE YOU GRIP DOWN ON YOUR IRONS, THE SHORTER THEY WILL FLY, SO CLUB UP.”

FAIL-SAFE DRIVING

SET UP FOR A LOW CUT TO PUT IT IN PLAY

2 There’s a reason the vast majority of PGA Tour players pick a low fade (curves left to right for right-handers) as their go-to drive. It usually doesn’t leave the fairway when they make a less-than-perfect swing. This shot is an especially good choice for most amateur players, because they’re accustomed to hitting bigger fades or slices. They just need to make a few adjustments to reduce the amount of curve and get it to fly lower -and safer. First, tee the ball so the top is just above the driver. Aim at the left edge of the fairway, open your stance slightly, and move a little closer to the ball. This combination will keep your arms closer to your body throughout the swing, which helps promote good sequencing so that the clubface isn’t shut in relation to the swing path at impact. Even if the ball flies a little too straight, you’ll find the left side of the fairway thanks to your aim. Just remember this one will run out a little.

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“RESIST THE COMMON IMPULSE TO SWING THE DRIVER SOLELY WITH YOUR ARMS.”

RELIABLE PITCHING

SQUARE UP TO SAVE PAR

3 Anybody who saw Seve Ballesteros hit pitch shots knows he was a genius around the greens. His hands had a lot to do with that, but so did his understanding of good fundamentals. One thing he did will make your pitching game way more reliable. Instead of opening the clubface to loft the ball, keep it square to your target, and make sure the shaft always points at your sternum. From this setup, you can use the loft your wedge was designed with to get the ball up. The club should glide along the turf, instead of digging into it, and the ball will roll up the face. To hit it even higher—or to pitch from a bad lie in the rough—just open your stance and stand slightly farther away from the ball. When you stand farther away, the handle of the club is lower, and that increases the effective loft on the face. From there, swing along your shoulder line, and you’ll hit a good pitch every time—like Seve.

“BE SURE TO AIM THE CLUBFACE BEFORE YOU TAKE YOUR GRIP AND STANCE.”

CONTROLLED BUNKER PLAY

USE LONGER CLUBS FOR LONG-RANGE SANDIES

4 When it comes to long bunker shots, many golfers struggle, because they never know how hard to swing or how much sand to take. But there’s a way to avoid the guesswork. When you’re outside 20 yards but in a greenside bunker, trade your sand wedge for a longer club and use the same technique you would for a short bunker shot. Start by opening the face of whatever club you’re using (9-iron, 8-iron, etc.) so it glides through the sand and under the ball. In case you forgot the other sand basics: Open your stance, dig in, strike the sand an inch or two behind the ball, and finish the swing. The longer the club, the farther the ball will travel, but it still should check up on the green. Getting up and down from the sand on the 18th for the win? Now that’s clutch!

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