Retief Goosen: How to Dominate Par 3s

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How to Dominate Par 3s 1. Check the Wind Wind is always the biggest factor on a golf course. It affects your club selection and the type of shot you want to hit, and since you only have one chance to hit the green on a par 3, adjusting for wind is a critical step. As soon as I reach the tee I pluck some long grass from the side of the teeing area and toss it into the air. The direction the grass blows indicates the direction of the wind. Once I know the wind, I pair its direction to the pin position. On this hole the pin is on the right. If the wind is off the right, I'll aim at the left side of the green and play a cut. If the wind is off the left I'll aim at the center of the green and try to hold the ball against the wind with a hook. Obviously, if the wind is behind me I'll take one less club than what the yardage tells me. Do the opposite if the wind is in your face.
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2. Pick the Right Target A. Find the Safe Spot The pin here is right. Missing it right puts me in the lake, so my best spot is two to five yards left of the pin, even in calm conditions. In fact, unless I needed to force a low number on this hole, I wouldn't even look at the right side of the green. B. Check the Trouble There's a nasty bunker behind this green. That means the longest iron I'll play regardless of the wind or pin position is one that gets me to the center of the green. If the pin is back, I'll ignore it — never go long into trouble. C. Look for an Out Once I plan my shot, I look for places where I can miss and still get away with it. Here, it's short and left into the collection area, which leaves an easy chip to the pin. If the wind or pressure is severe enough, I might consider this my first option. D. Throttle Back If the distance to the pin forces me to swing a 5-iron or longer, I'll find out the yardage to the front and play to there with a mid-iron. I'll take hitting a six-iron and leaving a longer putt than trying to get the ball close with a 4-iron any day. E. Tee it Up I tee the ball fairly high on a par 3. I'll try to sweep it off the peg and not worry about taking a divot. If you struggle to make decent contact with your irons, tee the ball so half of it sits above the top of your club. It'll improve your chances for a pure strike.
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3. Watch Your Aim Some tee boxes can align you in the wrong direction. The one pictured at left points me toward the left side of the green — I actually have to aim across the box to hit even the center of the green. Look for these architect tricks on every hole you play. Yes If the pin is right I'll tee the ball on the left side of the box to bring more of the green into play.
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No Lining up on the right side of the tee box when the pin is right gives you less room for error. A slight push or cut puts you into trouble.
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4. Feel the Shot I'll almost always play a draw or a fade into a par 3. You don't have to make a big deal out of shaping shots. If I'm hitting a fade, I'll pull more with my left hip and shoulder on my downswing. This helps me clear quicker and swing slightly across the ball and impart left-to-right sidespin to it. For a draw, I'll do the opposite: I'll feel like I'm pushing the ball out there with my right side. Need to hit a draw? Feel like you're pushing the ball out to the right with the right side of your body.
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Simple Shotmaking To hit a fade, pull your left hip and shoulder hard to the left in your follow-through, which will allow you to clear your left side and cut across the ball.