4 Strategies to Hit Better Approach Shots Stroke Savers
When watching the PGA tour you will often see the stat for GIR or 'Greens in regulation' appear on the screen. You might have thought that SGP or 'Strokes gained putting' is the most important area for saving strokes in a round of golf, but it is actually the approach that accounts for 40% of the scoring average.
So, how do you improve your approach shots? In this guide, we have four strategies that will have you doing exactly that.
First off, let me explain what an approach is. An approach shot is generally any shot at the green on a par-4 or par-5, basically not including your drives on these holes. Par-3s are not considered an approach shot, but strategies two to four below can be used for par-3s as well.
Finding the fairway
The first and most important of the strategies is to consistently hit the fairways. You need to know exactly how far you can hit your drive and you need to be able to hit a target landing area. When practicing it is always good to give yourself a target landing area, and try to hit it with as much consistency as possible. Whether it's straight, with a draw, or fade, you need a 'Go-to' shot to get you on the short grass.
Also, make sure you pick the right club. A good strategy is to work out the yardage back from the green, decide what a good number into the green is, and hit the correct club off the tee to get you to that number remaining to the green. We all are guilty of taking the big stick out every par 4 and 5, but hitting the fairway is a priority for good scoring, so choose hybrids, fairway woods, and long irons.
Don't overshoot it, but don't play it too safe either. Aim for accuracy, not distance. It's much easier to play your second shot 150 yards back on the fairway than from 120 yards out in the rough or from a trap.
Long approach (150-200 yards)
With the long approach, you must be pragmatic and realistic about your abilities - forget about pin-hunting or a one-in-a-hundred miracle shot that lands you in a water hazard or off the course. With a long approach, be conservative and aim for the fattest part of the green.
Knowing your golf limits will take the pressure off and allow you to have a relaxed swing. You may have a long putt, but you'll overcome that.
Medium approach (130-150 yards)
If you play every weekend, your approach shot will likely be in the 150-200 range. This is also called a mid-range approach.
Like all your fairway shots, make sure you adjust for all variables affecting distance. In most cases, you'll want to club up and swing smoother.
For example, if the distance is 165 yards which is your max 7-iron distance, grab your 6-iron and give it a three-quarter swing. Even the pros don't reach their max distance every time with every club.
Aim for the center of the green, so you don't need to rely on the perfect shot.
Short approach (120 yards or less)
Again, to create the best chances of avoiding trouble, go for the largest target you possibly can which usually means the center of the green. A two-putt par with no drama is better than putting the ball into a greenside bunker or lake!
Club selection is vital. Know your wedges before going out on the course by having a few shots with each wedge and confirming distances. For wedge selection, Golf Digest recommends having at least 3 wedges with 4-5 degrees of loft apart in your bag. Always hit a wedge you can have a full easy swing on, although you will have yardages around the green which require softer swings. Remember you can deloft by a degree or two or add on just by adjusting the face angle.
Finally, for tight lies just off the green, you might be thinking to "wedge it in" just like the pros, however, choosing the putter will yield better, more consistent results most of the time. After all, as the expression goes, "Chip for show, putt for dough"... Or does it?