Playing Target Golf

Golf is a target game. That’s why golfers pick targets before hitting the ball. Maybe it’s a distant tree, a telephone pole, or a church steeple, whatever it is, we all have some idea of where we want to hit the ball. These targets are directional goals and we need them to minimize scores.

Then, of course, there are distance goals. We need them just as much as we need directional goals. Maybe it’s a brown patch just to the left of a bunker, a yardage marker in the center of the fairway, or the center of the green. Regardless, distance goals are just as important as directional goals.

The key to playing target golf is consistent contact. If you don’t hit the ball well time after time after time, as I stress in my golf lessons and golf tips, you don’t know where your shot will land. Maybe it will be too short or maybe too long, but you’ll never know for sure where it. If you want to play good target golf, you must have control of your shot.

If you don’t make consistent contact and you’re serious about reducing your golf handicap, work on it until you do. While there’s no magic wand to help you make consistent contact, you may want to commit yourself to holding the club gently and making your hands soft and supple when you play. You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll hit the ball.


Poor distance control is a major reason for three-putting a hole. At least 85 percent of the time, your putt will miss farther short or long than it misses to either side. That’s on straight putts. On breaking putts, distance control is also a key to putting well. Short putts require distance control as well. You need to hit the putt fast enough to hold the line, but slow enough to go in the hole.

Here are 4 tips to improving distance control when putting:

• Read putts from side to side as well as from behind
• Calculate direction and distance separately
• Control distance by the length of your backswing
• Practice breaking putts as much as you can

Keep these tips in mind when you’re playing and you’ll have better control of your distance when putting. And practice distance control putting as much as you can.

Approach Shots

The key to full shots to the green is solid contact. To achieve it, try the following: First, let the ball’s lie determine where you hit the shot. Generally speaking the worse your lie, the more downward a blow you’ll need. On short approach shots (100 yards and in) choose your club based on the trajectory you want for your shot. If you have a poor lie and you’re playing the ball back in your stance, you have to subtract loft.

On long approach shot, choose enough club so there’s no chance of you overswinging. In other words, choose a club that allows you to swing easily and still reach the green. Finally, stress distance control in practice, just as you do when working on your putting. Hit shots to greens on the practice range. If there’s none, pick out a spot or a marker on the range and pretend it’s the green. Hit to it.

Advancement Shots

Advancement shots, as I’ve explained in my golf tips, are tee shots and shots from the fairway or the green when you don’t expect to hit the green. Unfortunately, players tend to disregard distance control on these shots and shoot entirely for a directional goal. Instead, try this: Choose a direction for the shot. Create an imaginary path for it. Select a spot on that “line” that you know you can reach with a smooth swing. And erect a “mind’s eye” flagpole on that spot. Then aim for it. This visualization technique transforms advancement shots into approach shots.

Trouble Areas

Is this an all too familiar spot for you? The need for a specific distance target is seldom greater than when playing from trouble spots where direction seems ultra important. Again, separate distance and direction. Pick a distance target along your direction line, just as you would off the tee. Remember, when you’re in trouble, every shot is a distance shot, just as it is with every other shot.

Playing target golf, as I teach in my golf instruction sessions, is one of the fastest ways to shave strokes off your golf handicap. But whether it’s a putt, an approach shot, an advancement shot, or a shot from the rough, directional AND distance control are equally important. The key to achieving both is consistent contact.

Copyright (c) 2006 Jack Moorehouse