Words: Anya Alvarez
Instruction: LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame Member Nancy Quarcelino 

When you find yourself in this situation being just short of the green, it is critical to make the proper decisions in order to place the next shot as close to the pin as possible—or maybe even in the hole!

Evaluate the situation by asking yourself these questions: 

  1. When the ball lands on the green, will the ball have spin and stop quickly, or have little spin and roll out?
  2. Based on the quickness and break on the green, where should I land the ball?
  3. With the lie I currently have, where should I position the ball in my stance?
  4. Which swing/set-up techniques would be best for hitting this shot?
  5. These questions can be easily answered by assessing the conditions from which you are about to play.

If the ball is in the fairway and on a tight lie—the ground under the ball is firm, with little or no grass—the clubhead will produce more spin when the ball is struck. Because of the spin, you can land the ball closer to the pin/flag as the ball will stop more quickly. Putting the ball in the middle of your stance will reduce the risk of hitting the ball thin or heavy.

If the ball is sitting up in the rough, kind of on top of the grass, the ball will spin less because the grass will get between the ball and clubface at impact, not allowing the grooves on the clubface to produce spin.  This means the ball will roll out longer, so you must adjust for that roll and land the ball more quickly.  You can play the ball position either in the middle or back of your stance to promote crisp ball contact through the rough.

When the ball is sitting down in the rough, it will also spin much less and roll out even more. You will need to play the ball back in your stance and press your hands forward to achieve enough force to get through the rough. Plan to land the ball just on to the green or short of the green to allow for more roll.

When thinking about ball position, you must understand that when playing the ball middle to forward, the clubhead will strike the ball from a different angle and produce more spin for a higher trajectory and less roll. When you play the ball position back in your stance the ball will spin less with a lower trajectory, causing it to roll out more. This will also help when deciding where you want to land the ball on the green.

Another consideration that needs to be addressed is the technique required to execute this pitch shot. Some golfers use much more wrists or hinge action, flying the ball much higher in the air, while others use very little wrist action flying the ball a little lower on to the green.  Golfers will tend to be better at either one or another.  To find out which is best for you, do this test:

Hold your club in your target hand only—For right handers this is your left hand, and reverse for left-handed players

Bring the club back away from the target

Where is your lead hand in relation to your back hip?

If your lead hand is farther away from your hip, you naturally use less wrist—a “one-piece swing.” This is preferred for the average player. If you are comfortable with your lead hand close to your hip and the club head is much higher than your hands, try using hinge action to hit a pitch shot.

When you make smart decisions around the green, you can become more confident with how you play the game. The results will produce lower scores!

This article appeared in Issue 3 of Women's Golf Journal.

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