Golf Digest Schools

Add these four shots to your game to avoid double bogeys

May 10, 2021

During the course of 18 holes, you’re likely to have a stretch where you’re not feeling it. In those instances, it helps to have some go-to shots to lean on. Think of them as the shots that save shots, the ones that help you avoid double bogeys or worse. They’re reliable options to put it in play, hit more greens, get out of trouble and avoid three putts—and they’re not all defensive.

Let’s start with one of my favorites—the knockdown iron shot. Making double bogey after a good tee shot is infuriating. If you’re struggling with your irons, select the next iron longer than you would usually play from that approach distance, set up with the ball in the middle of your stance, and favor your lead leg. Now make an abbreviated swing back and through at a comfortable pace that allows you to “stick the finish.” Your hands should end up just above shoulder height (above). The slower, abbreviated swing will lower the ball flight and take spin off it, for better control. Here are four more shots that save shots. —WITH DAVE ALLEN

Be aggressive, not cautious, to put it in play

Miss a few fairways and the rest start to look narrower and narrower. When you’re worried about driving it into trouble, your instinct might be to try to steer it in the fairway—but that rarely works.

To keep the ball in play without sacrificing much distance, try my fairway-finding technique. Tee the ball down an inch and grip down the same amount. The lower tee and shorter shaft length promote a steeper downswing and help reduce sidespin, turning a slice into a baby fade. But that’s only if you swing aggressively through the ball. Lose the fear, and you’ll lose the steer.

Want to curve the ball around trouble? Change your setup

When punching out, think about advancing the ball to a spot that gives you the best angle and yardage to the pin for your next shot—even if you have to curve it to get it there. For a fade around the trees (left-to-right shot for righties), grip the club in a weak position, with your dominant hand’s thumb on top of the handle. Then drop your lead foot back (above left) and swing along your stance line (out to in) from hip to hip. To draw it (right to left), grip it strong, with that thumb rotated toward the side of the handle farthest from the target. Then drop your trail foot back (above right), and swing along your stance line (in to out).

Blast the sand to make sure you get it out

One of the simplest ways to avoid big numbers is to master a reliable greenside sand shot. Try this technique: First, pick a landing spot that allows for some rollout—even if it sets you up for a long putt (I’ll help you with that putt in a bit). Next, open the clubface so that it’s pointing skyward, take your grip, and set your stance extra wide. (The handle of the club will be much lower than it is for your normal address position). Now swing thinking long to short. You want to attack the sand an inch behind the ball and restrict the follow-through. The open clubface and energy applied to impact will propel the ball onto the green every time.

Take a picture to set up a good lag

It’s very difficult to gauge the proper speed on lag putts when you can’t see the target in your peripheral vision. This is why free-throw shooters look at the rim and not the basketball. You have to be able to see a long putt in your mind’s eye when you look down at the ball, and then putt to what you recall seeing. One way to train better mental imagery and lag it closer more often is to practice hitting putts looking at the hole, never taking your eyes off the target. This will help you visualize your target more clearly, tapping into your natural hand-eye coordination. No more three-putt doubles.