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Aside from putting, being able to get the golf ball up and down consistently from 50 yards and in is the fastest way to lower your scores consistently. Understanding how to play your shots depending on the lie, what the green offers you, what hazards you have to maneuver over or around is essential to having success with any shot inside of 50 yards. To understand this easier, this post will be divided based on the height of a shot you’ll want to play, and present some scenarios based on the selected height, starting with the lowest. Now, let’s learn how to approach shots from 50 yards in.
Low Flight Chip/Pitch
A low shot from 50 yards and in allows for the largest margin for error, and is the easiest shot to produce. However, it also requires that a few factors are working in your favor. First, you must have a clean look in between your ball and the hole, preferably nothing but fairway grass between your ball and the green. The exception to this rule is if you’re playing your shot into a long, deep putting surface and the pin is in the back.
Otherwise, if there is a bunker or long grass anywhere between your golf ball and the hole, you’ll want to choose a flight that will carry those obstacles and land softer, especially if the hole is located near the front edge, or if there is a downslope (most commonly on the other side of a bunker).
Test Out Your Clubs
Club selection can vary widely with a low pitch shot from 50 yards and in. Anything from a pitching wedge to an 8-iron can produce a low flight that will skid as it hits the ground and begins to roll. Next time you’re out practicing, hit some pitch and chip shots with a pitching wedge, 9- and 8-irons, and see which one works best at 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. The club that requires the least amount of effort should be the one you’ll want to use.
Low shots also need to utilize the slope of the green to its advantage. For example, say you have a straightforward pitch to the center of the green, but the hole is cut and tucked on the right side, with a knob and thick rough to contend with. If there is a slope that feeds the ball to the hole from the center, this is a good time to take advantage of it. While you probably won’t get the ball as close to the hole by using the slope, it has more margin for error than a standard pitch shot that flies most of the way to the hole.
A normal height shot works best for 85% of shots, but also has several other factors to contend with as opposed to the low pitch. The lie has more of an effect when trying to judge the distance and roll out of a pitch shot than with a low runner. From the fairway, it’ll be much easier to make clean contact, which will help you spin the ball and control the distance. From the rough, you have to be more careful with your distance control, as the ball can come out dead or knuckle out of the taller grass.
The angle you have towards the hole as well as the amount of green you have to work with also plays an important role when playing a shot from 50 yards or less. With a standard pitch shot, you want at least ten paces of green from the fairway and at least fifteen paces of green from the rough. The more room you can have, the easier it will be to not heavily rely on creating a high amount of spin to control your distance.
Any wedge, from lob wedge to pitching wedge, is adequate for playing standard height pitch shots. If these types of shots intimidate you, it’s best to start with a pitching wedge, since it has the perfect amount of loft to get the ball over most hazards, and still keep the golf ball from rolling too much. As you get more comfortable, you can try using the higher lofted wedges.
In the Slope
The slope of the green can help you with higher trajectory pitches as well. For example, if the green you’re playing into has multiple tiers, you can use those tiers to either stop the ball and bring it back to the hole, or play to land the ball into the slope, which will kill some of the distance. Make sure to always get a clear picture of the situation, and find every advantage possible to execute the best possible shot.
If you find yourself short-sided, or have tree limbs to carry and still have to stop the ball quickly, a high trajectory pitch shot is your best option to give yourself a chance to get the ball close. In almost all circumstances, you want to use your highest lofted wedge, assess your lie, and figure out where your safe zone is regarding your landing spot.
For most players, shots from the rough are easier to hoist in the air than from a tight lie in the fairway, and you should adjust accordingly. High-lofted shots should be used only when other plays are even riskier.
For example, you have a 20 yard shot, but there is a bunker 12 yards ahead and the hole is cut right over it. You could take the conservative approach and play to the back of the green, but that could be tougher and require three more shots to get the ball in the hole.
In this instance, it’s better to give yourself a chance to get the golf ball within ten feet than the super conservative approach which can take an additional two strokes to hole out, even with a well played shot.
Practice Makes Perfect
The most important aspect of high lob shots is to make sure the ball lands on the green. There is nothing worse than having the ball float straight up, only to land in the rough a foot short of the fringe or green. Pick a spot on the green where you want the ball to land, and make practice swings with that in mind, giving yourself a buffer of a few feet in front of your spot as insurance. Make a smooth, accelerated swing, and hope for the best.
The key to all shots from 50 yards and in is to practice them. If your local course has a short game area, take full advantage of it. Spending an hour every time you practice hitting shots from various lies with different clubs will help build your confidence whenever these longer short game shots occur during your round.