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Golf IQ

One of the tour's best GIR players has some good advice for you

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Sean M. Haffey

February 14, 2024

Every golf statistic is important in its own way, but some are more important than others.

One of those is greens in regulation. It’s not a stat without its flaws, but this basic ball striking metric is a kind of kingmaker stat for your game, because it directly correlates with your overall ability level. Simply put: The more greens in regulations you hit, the lower your scores will be.

Yes, ‘good players hit more greens’ is a little obvious, but I bring it up because it’s a stat that golfers should at the very least be aware of in their own game, and probably start tracking more intently—along with its related metrics:

  • “Greenside in Regulation” is a slightly more attainable version of the stat which is great for mid- and high-handicaps (Sam Weinman, who writes the fantastic Low Net newsletter, breaks that one down here).

Anyway, hitting more greens in regulation is super important. So, to help us all hit more of them, I called up PGA Tour player Dylan Wu. Dylan is one of the smartest guys on tour, and he finished inside the top 20 in GIR last season. And good news! He’s got some advice for us...

1. Make a low shot your go-to

A few weeks ago I wrote about the advice a young Tiger Woods got that learning ti hit the ball low is incredibly important, because it also makes the golf ball go straighter.

Whenever he’s not feeling comfortable, Wu says that’s exactly what he does: He plays the ball slightly back in his stance and swings a little easier—a knockdown shot simple enough for the rest of us to master as our go-to.

“Under pressure, say if I need to make the cut or need to hit a couple of good shots at the end of a round, my kind go-to shot is kind of putting the ball back in my stance and flighting it lower,” Wu says. “Knowing how to hit a flighted shot which travels 20, 30 yards shorter is a great way to get it around.”

2. Pick better targets

A lot of amateur golfers get on autopilot on the course. They straight aim at pins and swing away. Wu says if you’re serious about hitting more greens, you need to be smarter about your target selection.

“If I’m in the middle of the fairway even with a short iron in my hands, the center of green is never a bad shot,” he says. “Most amateurs would be surprised how many times pros don't aim at pins. Unless we’ve got a wedge to a wide-open pin with no wind, 20 feet; 30 feet; middle of the green; we’re happy with that.”

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the video below...

3. Start slow and safe

There will be times that you’ll want to hit the hero shot. That’s fine. Wu says he does that, too, but only under one condition: He doesn’t start around that way. Give the round some time to develop, so you can understand what’s going right—or wrong—that day.

“Personally, I don’t think the best strategy is to go straight at the pin on the first hole of the tournament,” he says. “Give it some time. See which parts of your iron game feel good that day, which shot shape is more comfortable, and whether your ball is flying more left or right of your target line. It’ll give you a better idea of what you’re working with that day.”

4. Use your shot shape to make the green bigger

Wu says amateur golfers should pay close attention to their shot shape. Let's say you hit most of your shots with a left-to-right curve. Instead of aiming for the dead-straight shot you want to hit, plan for the curved shape. Embrace it and focus on how you can best fit that shape into the green.

“If you're a golfer who hits the ball mostly left-to-right, and the pin on the green is on the left of the green, there's no point in aiming at the center of the green because you might hit a perfect shot,” Wu says. “The goal is the center of the green, but focusing on a shot shape means aiming left of that, and trusting that it will fade back. It makes the green feel bigger because it gives you more of a buffer on either side, and will make you feel more confident.”

5. Hit fewer balls with more clubs

Wu says most amateur golfers warm up all wrong. Instead of hitting too many shots with too few clubs, he says, spread your range time between your clubs more judiciously.

“Most amateurs are members of a club that that play all the time. But if they spend 15 minutes on the range, they spend 10 minutes hitting 6-irons. It doesn’t make sense. How about you actually warm up with the same clubs you’re going to hit when you go play?” he says

“Most golfers don’t hit enough drivers. They don’t hit enough wedges from inside 100 yards. Think about the clubs you actually hit on the course, and warm up with each. That makes way more sense.”

This article was an adaptation of the weekly Golf IQ newsletter. You can sign up that (and more!) in-depth newsletters by signing up for Golf Digest+ right here.