Approach Shots

Hit It Flush On Every Hole

Henrik Stenson's tips for playing 10 more good shots a round
By Henrik Stenson Photos by Dom Furore
May 12, 2016

The way I see it, you hit 18 approach shots every time you play. Except for putting, you do more of that than anything else. What's your success rate? You probably catch a couple really solid, but I'd bet you're pretty unsatisfied. With a few keys, I think you can hit more than half those approaches on or next to the green. That might give you another 10 good shots a round.

Let me tell you a few things I do to see if they click. For starters, I play my best when I'm working with a feel, not a lot of technical stuff. One feel I like is coming through with my arms extended (pictured above). Longer clubs go farther because the long shaft increases leverage. When you extend your arms, same thing: You're getting the most out of whatever club you're using. Plus, you're pushing the club down and through for a solid strike.

Having a consistent and sound setup position is clearly important, and it's something all golfers can accomplish no matter what their skill level. I take that one step further. I'm very careful about my setup, and I don't change where I play the ball for most of my stock iron shots.

If I'm hitting a 7-iron, I'll play it just in front of center in my stance (below). If I'm hitting a 4-iron, the ball will be in the same place relative to my left foot, but I'll move my right foot slightly farther away from the target to create a wider stance.

Adjusting that way keeps the bottom of my swing in the same place for every shot. All I'm doing is changing the angle the clubhead comes into the ball. It'll be a little steeper with short irons, and sweep a little more with the longer clubs. Why think about more variables than necessary when you're getting ready to hit a shot?


As much as you want to make a hard swing to maximize distance, going out of sequence and overswinging will cause you to hit it shorter and not as solid. I know when I try to get too much out of a certain club, I start sliding and shifting instead of feeling like I'm very stable and pushing into the ground with my legs.

It starts with the backswing. Amateurs hear that making a big turn is important, but a long and loose move with your arms makes it almost impossible to come back to the ball precisely. Make what feels like a comfortable arm swing, maybe it's only a three-quarter motion (below), then start the downswing with your legs. The feel you want is that you're pressuring down from your thighs into the ground. With a more controlled swing, you'll have plenty of speed and be able to take advantage of it with a precise strike. – With Matthew Rudy