A high, soft shot that stops quickly on the green is a crucial addition to your short-game arsenal. Greens are getting faster, and courses are more apt than ever to cut pins close to trouble. And maybe it's just me, but every time I miss an approach shot and have to try to save par, I need to carry a bunker, a creek, or a tier on the green. This is where the value of the high, soft shot comes into play: It's the perfect solution to clearing trouble and landing the ball softly and with a minimal release.
Unfortunately, very few weekend players know how to hit this shot properly. They think they have to rip into impact and then stop abruptly, which results in a lot of tension and pressure in the hands and wrists.
Tense muscles only rob you of your natural feel and swing speed, so I recommend the opposite approach. Try executing this shot with your body completely relaxed. Your grip pressure should be light—about a "6" on a scale of 1 to 10. And as you swing into impact, move your hands, arms and lower body in unison. The big mistake? Letting one part of your body race ahead of the others. (Most weekend players tend to power this shot with just their hands and wrists.) Try to swing through the ball as opposed to hitting it, with your lower body constantly rotating toward the target.
• I repeat: Set up loose and tension-free, so that you can hinge your wrists fully, as I've done in the far-left photo. But don't just hinge your wrists. Allow your body to turn away from the target, as you do in a full swing. Stop your backswing when the club reaches a position parallel to the ground.
• Stay in sync. The high, soft shot requires that you swing the club with your hands, wrists, arms and lower body all accelerating in smooth unison. Look at my positioning in the middle photo: The club and my hands are in front of my chest, and the shaft and my left arm form a straight line. When you look like this, you know you're synced. Even as I strike the ball, my overall posture and physical state is relaxed, and my grip pressure is light. This frees the clubhead to fully accelerate through the ball for maximum backspin.
• Don't quit on it. Continue swinging your hands, arms and lower body together into a relaxed follow-through (far right photo), with your weight balanced over your left side and your grip pressure as light as it was at setup.
No need to carve a divot here—simply "brush" the grass under the ball. And stay loose! The moment you get tense, the more likely you are to skull this one or catch it fat. Let yourself relax, and it will be easy to fly it high and land it nice and close to the flagstick.