How To Play 50 Feet to the Pin

Old sayings die hard. That’s because they often contain a kernel of truth within them. Take the old golf saying, You drive for show, but you putt for dough-an old saw I often tell students taking golf lessons for the first time. This saying highlights how critical the short game is to winning matches and lowering golf handicaps. As golf sayings go, it’s a good one.

The short game, as I emphasize in my golf tips, often determines who wins a match and who loses one, as well as what your score and your golf handicap is at the end of the day. Weekend golfers with poor short games seldom win matches or have a low score or handicap. Most have a hard time breaking 100. Some have difficulty breaking 90. So don’t look for them to be among the leaders in club tournaments.

From 50 Feet Away
One of the hardest parts of the short game for many weekend golfers is playing a shot from 50 feet away. While the distance to the pin is relatively short, misplaying the shot adds strokes to your score-maybe as many as two or three per hole. If you’re really serious about improving your game, you need to master this shot.

The biggest challenge with this shot is being decisive. Most weekend golfers aren’t sure what club to use. Others are unsure how to play the shot. You have several choices of club and a couple of different approaches to hitting the shot. But you can simplify the process if you approach it logically, as I teach students to do in my golf lessons.

A major factor in club choice is how well you play. If your short game is weak, you’ll want to use a club that provides good control and is easy to hit, cutting down on your chances of mis-hitting the ball. Your club choices are a hybrid club, a fairway wood, and 8-iron, or a wedge.

You also must decide if you’re going to play this shot aggressively or conservatively. If you consistently break 80, you’ll use a different approach than you would if you have trouble breaking 100. Evaluate your skills honestly before deciding how to approach the shot. Below are three scenarios.

Breaking 100
If you have a hard time breaking 100, you’ll probably want to take a conservative approach. The best choice for a tight fairway lie is using either a hybrid club or a fairway wood. Select whichever one feels most comfortable and use a putting stroke to hit the ball. First, picture how you want the ball to bounce and roll on the green. Keep in mind that if the first bounce is before the green, the ball will roll on the green like a putt.

Once you decide how you want the ball to bounce and roll, take a normal putting stance and choke down an inch or two on the club’s shaft to provide greater control. Position the ball in the middle of your stance, with your weight evenly distributed, just they way you’re taught in golf instruction sessions. From there, make a normal putting stroke, accelerating through impact. You need to make level contact with the ball, so avoid a downward stroke. Imagine the shot as a long lag putt, with just a little extra pop.

Breaking 90
If you break 90 consistently, you’ll probably want to be more aggressive. Use an 8-iron with a standard chipping technique. Play the ball off your right instep (for right-handers), set most of your weight on your left foot, and use a firm wrist motion. Swing the club’s grip end to about the height of your right pocket, going back and through to your left pocket.

Your set up with this shot promotes a descending blow. You need to determine where you want the ball to hit and how far you want it to roll, just like on the previous hole. Play for about one-third carry and two-thirds roll, with the first bounce just off the green. Remember the longer the roll, the easier it is to control the shot.

Breaking 80
For players who consistently break 80, taking a more aggressive approach is not out of the question. You usually have low golf handicaps and are probably more accurate with your short game. Instead of trying to make the ball bounce before the green, try flying the ball onto the green to avoid any impressions on the front of the green. Use a pitching or a sand wedge, position the ball in the middle of your stance, and set more weight on your left side than your right. Swing your arms back to the 9 o’clock position, letting your wrist hinge the club up.

Swing through to 3 o’clock, turning your body through so it faces the target. Plan to hit the green with this shot. Play for two-thirds carry and one-third roll. This approach is riskier than a chip shot, so make sure a mis-hit won’t find disaster over the green. This approach works well for many veteran golfers. With practice, you’ll able to get the ball within a foot or two of the hole.

Fifty feet away from the pin, as I caution players taking golf lessons, is a difficult shot for weekend golfers. Indecision is the main problem when it comes to hitting the 50-foot shot. Be decisive. Choose a club and an approach that fits your game and your golf handicap, and then practice the shot until it becomes ingrained. If you’re truly serious a lowering your golf handicap, you’ll learn to master this shot.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse