Turn Bogeys Into Pars
I've learned from playing in pro-ams that the biggest reason amateurs don't score better is that they don't get the ball close enough to the hole when playing from inside 100 yards. If you struggle in the scoring zone, try these three go-to shots to help you hit it tighter and make more par saves.
1. CHIPS: ROCK YOUR SHOULDERS
I grew up in Scotland playing shots around the green with as little loft as possible. I learned that it gives you the best chance of getting the ball close-—or knocking it in. To hit my chip-and-run, use a club with just enough loft to carry the rough or fringe, but don't go longer than a 7-iron. Take a narrow, slightly open stance, and lean left so your head and hands are closer to the target than the ball. Rock your shoulders back and through as if you're putting (above, far left). The big key is to keep your wrists firm throughout the shot.
2. PITCHES: OPEN UP, AND CUT ACROSS IT
Sometimes you have to carry an obstacle; that's when I like to play a flop shot. It allows me to make an aggressive swing without worrying about hitting it too far. Address the ball just forward of center in your stance, then grip your wedge with the face open and align your body a little left of the target (above, middle). Now make a swing that cuts across the ball along that line. The clubface will slide under the ball and pop it up. It's like a greenside bunker shot: The harder you swing, the higher and softer the shot. Keep that in mind the next time you have to get over some trouble.
3. SHORT IRONS: HIT IT THREE-QUARTERS
Instead of trying to max out my short irons, I control distance and direction by hitting three-quarter shots. It keeps the ball from ballooning. But a three-quarter shot doesn't mean taking a lazy swing. Make a good shoulder turn going back (above, right), and swing through the ball--don't stop just past impact. I would describe it as the swing you would make when you first get to the range and start warming up. Grip down slightly, make a comfortable backswing, and turn smoothly through the ball.
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MARTIN LAIRD has won twice on the PGA Tour, including the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational.