Picture this: You’re faced with a shot to a pin 50 feet away. You have no bunker to carry, a clean fairway lie, lots of green to work with — a pretty easy shot. You could use almost any club in your bag. Which one should you reach for?
The truth is, there is no single answer. But there is a best way for each golfer, and you need to learn which way is best for you. Look at my example at left and note the putts resulting from five shots hit two different ways: lofted pitches with a sand wedge and running chips with an 8-iron.
The question is not which shot ends up closer on average, but which shot leads to more one-putts. That’s a crucial distinction that many golfers don’t recognize. When your shots end up within three feet of the hole, you’ll one-putt almost all of them. When they end up four to nine feet from the hole, you’ll miss about half, and from more than 10 feet, you’ll two-putt the vast majority.
So here’s the drill: Find out which club, shot, and swing technique leaves you more putts inside three feet. For any given shot around the green, hit five shots one way, then five another, and repeat this three times. After 20 shots each way, count how many putts you left inside three feet. Then you’ll know which technique is better for you.
Every golfer should test two greenside shots in particular. With your ball against the collar, try the 5-wood chip (A) and the bladed wedge (B). From a nesty lie, try the grassy blast (C) and the chop shot (D). Once you learn which one does a better job of getting you into one-putt range, you’ll start saving strokes.