You have probably heard the sage advice that the best way to lower your scores is to perfect your short game. After all, poor putter skills can easily change a birdie to a bogey. But Mark Broadie of Golf.com says otherwise. According to his analysis of “millions” of golf shots, Broadie says, “Approach shots account for the biggest scoring advantage between golfers of every skill level… approach shots are [in fact] the greatest difference-maker.” And what’s one of the most common problems with approach shots — besides poor contact, or course?
According to Broadie’s research, most weekend golfers come up short of the green. Part of this is because many casual golfers really don’t know their distances at this medium range (100 to 150 yards or so) and may need to club up. And part of coming up short has to do with not being able to stick the ball and (subconsciously or not) being afraid that your ball will hit and roll right past the green. So, instead, you under-shoot it and come up short. If this sounds anything like you, then you need to work on increasing your backspin on approach shots. It’s that simple.
Get your backspin
So you’re hitting from the fairway, you might have a 7-iron or a wedge in hand, and you’re looking for your ball to get up and sit down. What do many good approach shots have in common? Small divot, low trajectory, lots of backspin. The smaller the divot, the less club-to-ground interaction, which is good in this case — you want to just brush the ground with your club, not dig in.
In order to get your ball to stick on the green (or even back up toward the hole), you’ll need a good amount of backspin. Many golfers used to think they need to “hit down” to achieve spin, but recent high-tech research suggests that you should be looking for a nice, level strike, complete with a long, shallow divot if you want to start hitting darts on the regular.
Here’s the setup:
1. Start with a narrow stance, and the ball positioned slightly forward of center.
2. Set up your aim to hit low on the club face.
3. Swing with the face perpendicular to the ball.
4. Lead with your hands to make contact with the ball before the ground.
5. Maintain a forward leaning club shaft aimed at the target.
6. Swing at high-speed and maintain strong hands all the way to followthrough.
Perfect spin conditions
Achieving the perfect backspin is not a novice golf skill so don’t be discouraged if this technique remains elusive for a while. Just the right backspin also requires just the right conditions in addition to the perfect technique (and even a bit of luck). Even the pros know not to attempt a backspin shot without the right circumstances. You need a nice, neat lie, for instance, if you hope to be able to strike low on the ball. Do not attempt to hit a backspin shot from the rough. It will usually backfire. Hitting through wet, heavy or even moderately long grass is also a recipe for chunking your shot.
But what if course conditions are just right, but you’re still having trouble with your backspin? It may sound obvious, but have you tried cleaning off your ball? Mud or grass in your dimples can undo even the most masterful backspin technique. Also, any debris or run-off water in your club face grooves can seriously mess with your desired friction level — a major component of achieving that awesome spin you’re looking for. So grab your trusty golf towel, clean your tools and set yourself up for success.
Have another type of shot you struggle to hit? Let us know down in the comments below and we’ll see if we can help. Play well!
— C. Pedroja