I'm aware that most of you are capable of knocking down the pin with a full swing from 9-iron distance on down.
When you face approach shots beyond this zone, however, your accuracy suffers. You'd be better served by clubbing-up, especially when serious trouble lurks around the green. Clubbing up allows you to use a half-swing instead of a full one, which will go a long way toward ensuring solid contact in the center of the clubface.
Check the situation I'm facing in the photo. I'm 165 yards from the green on a downhill lie. Anything less than a perfect swing is going to get me into that righthand bunker, but if I simply "bump" the shot with a controlled half-swing and make reasonably solid contact, the ball will likely roll somewhere on the green and put me in position for a two-putt par.
A few years ago I had the privilege of coaching the German national team. During our time together, I asked each member to hit two shots every time they faced an approach of 120 to 160 yards: (1) their regular full-swing play from that distance and (2) a half-swing bump-and-run with either a 5- or 6-iron. The wrinkle was that they had to play both options out. The full-swing shots were all over the place, some landing close but many finding trouble, and the team scored three shots better overall (eight players for twelve holes) using the bump-and-run.
Convinced? You should be. Plus, the mechanics for hitting a bump-and-run are very easy. Position the ball slightly back of center and focus on making a rhythmic half backswing (don't forget to cock your wrists) and follow through to a less-than-full finish. When there's trouble around the green but the front is clear, consider using this shot. It can save you strokes, and also come in handy when you need a low-trajectory shot under a tree or when you're playing into the wind.
This article first appeared in the October 2012 issue of Golf Magazine, available on newstands now.