How to Master Approach Shots

By Steve Silverman

The short game is what separates good golfers from average golfers and great golfers from good ones. Learning how to hit approach shots when you are less than 120 yards from the green can ensure a respectable 18-hole score. Mastering those shots can help you win or contend every time you play in an important match or tournament.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Step 1
Hit a pitch shot when you are 60 to 120 yards from the green. In order to hit a pitch, take your pitching wedge and open your shoulders just a bit as you line yourself up with the pin. Many golfers try to use a half swing or a three-quarters swing to hit a pitch because they want to land it softly. However, this often results in a mishit. A full swing with solid contact will send it high in the air and land it softly.
Step 2
Hit a chip shot if you have no hazards in front of you and the approach to the green is slightly uphill. To hit a chip shot, you should be 30 to 70 yards from the hole, and you can use a 7-, 8- or 9-iron. Take your club back to knee level and then punch it through the ball without breaking your wrists. Stop your swing when you get to knee level. You will want the ball to bounce up the fairway and roll up the green to the hole.
Step 3
Hit a bump-and-run shot when you are about 15 yards or less from the green. With the bump-and-run, take a short backswing with your 9-iron or pitching wedge and combine it with a moderate follow-through. This shot will go in the air over a small hazard or rough terrain and then bounce the rest of the way toward the flagstick.
Step 4
Use your gap wedge when you want to hit a pitch shot of between 50 and 70 yards. The gap wedge will get great height on the ball but will not get much distance. This club is ideal when you have a bunker or a water hazard in front of you and you want to land the ball softly on the green. A well-placed shot with the gap wedge will land from 10 to 15 feet from the hole.
Step 5
Use your lob wedge when you are between 25 and 50 yards from the hole. Again, use the lob wedge when you have a bunker, tree or hazard between your ball and the green. The lob wedge often has a loft of 60 degrees, and this will get the ball high in the air and land it softly. That means the ball will stop or even back up when it hits the green.

Tips & Warnings

Take a full swing when hitting your pitching wedge from 100 yards or more. Taking a half swing often leads to a poor shot.

About The Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.

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