Recently, I was working with a student on the range and discussing what kind of shot to hit into a green with the pin tucked in a corner. I told him to imagine that there was water immediately right of our target green, and to start his shot left of the flag and fade it. He hit two balls trying to perform under the circumstance I had given him and did not hit either well. He stopped and said that he would never approach that situation the way I had described. A little confused I asked him what he would normally do. He said “well I would start it towards the water on the right and draw it into the pin.” His reasoning was because he was more comfortable with a draw. While a draw was the more comfortable shot for him, it was the wrong shot to play in that situation. Not only did we need to work on how to fade the ball properly, but I needed to make sure he understood the best way to hit approach shots to certain pin positions.
Right Pin Placement, Trouble on Right
When the pin is on the right side of the green and there is a hazard (bunker or water) on the right, you should aim to the middle of the green and try to hit a slight fade. This is the ideal way to play to a right pin placement. Here’s why: If you hit the ball straight, you are in the middle of the green and have a realistic birdie opportunity. If you hit the shot perfectly the ball will start the ball at the middle of the green with a nice fade and roll towards the hole when it hits on the green. Even if you hit a pull you will likely still be on the edge of the green. Only one shot can get you in trouble and that is if you hit the ball right.
Left Pin Placement, Trouble on Left
When the pin is on the left side of the green and trouble surrounds the left side of the green, you should start the ball at the middle of the green and draw the ball toward the pin. Once again, if you hit the ball straight you are in the center of the green with a putt for birdie. If you hit a nice draw the ball will roll towards the pin when it hits the green, leaving you a short birdie putt. Even a push shot will put you on the right side of the green. Only a shot to the left will derail your score.
Back Pin Placement, Trouble Beyond Green
When the pin is in the back of the green and there is trouble behind the green, play your shot to the middle of the green with a lower trajectory. By playing the shot to the middle of the green you eliminate the trouble beyond the green. For example, if you have 150 yards to a back pin placement, hit the ball 145 yards with a lower trajectory. Hitting the shot with a lower trajectory will allow the ball to roll back to the pin after it lands.
Front Pin Placement, Trouble Short of Green
When most golfers see a front pin they try to pull a club that will go that exact yardage even if there is a hazard in front of the green. Imagine you have 145 yards to a front pin placement with water in front of the green. From practice you know that your 9-iron is your 145 yard club. If you have to hit the shot perfect in order to clear the hazard, then you need to play the shot as a 150 yard shot and hit a nice 8-iron. This takes the water out of play and will still leave you a nice birdie putt.
Begin to strategically play your approach shots to pin placements and your scores will come down as a result.