10 simple tips to master some of the trickiest shots in golf

Golfer putting

The tips below can help you get out of difficult situations on the course.

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Most golfers have the ability to hit special on-course ‘trick’ shots, even if they don’t realize it. Most often, all it requires is a small setup adjustment from your normal swing. If you could learn even just a few of these, it’ll help your game when you need it most…

1. More tilt for fairway woods

Long par-3s can be intimidating, and often include water short of the green. If you are a lower-speed golfer, it may be a challenge to launch your fairway woods high enough into the air to clear those kind of obstacles. So what should you do?

The good news with par-3s is that you get to use a tee, so you can adjust your setup to help get the ball in the air. Move the ball more forward in your stance, increase your shoulder tilt, and tee the ball a little higher. All this will allow the ball to launch higher with more carry distance, and land softer.

2. Lean the shaft to putt from the rough

When the rough around the green is longer, getting clean contact on your chips can be challenging. But if your ball is just off the green, in really deep rough, try experimenting with a putter.

Take your normal putting setup but lean the shaft extremely forward, towards the target. Your lead shoulder will drop towards the ground in the process, which will help you contact the ball on a steeper approach. This will help you pop the ball over the grass and release towards the hole, without needing a big stroke.

3. Turn the thumbs away for hooks

If you can understand cause and effect in the golf swing, you can correct a ball flight you don’t like while your playing — and curve the ball on demand to escape situations where you may need to.

If you need to hook the golf ball, turn your thumbs away from the target so they’re more on the back of the grip (like you see in the picture on the right above). This will produce a more closed clubface throughout your swing and help your trail arm fold in the backswing, which will produce a more in-to-out swing path.

4. Turn the thumbs forward for slices

And what if you need to slice the ball on demand? Turn the thumbs on both your hands towards the target side of the grip. This creates a “weaker” grip, which will lead to a more open face throughout your swing, which produces your desired fade or slice.

The degrees of your grip adjustment can produce the desired curve. Move your thumbs more for more curve.

5. Loft down for long bunker shots

Long bunker shots are some of the most impressive to watch, but it’s important to understand the adjustments you need to make for shots between 20 and 50 yards.

It starts like a normal bunker shot: Your setup should begin with your ball position forward, holding the club at full length and digging your feet into the sand.

Then, use a less-lofted club than you usually would. Rather than a 60 or 56 wedge, dry a 52 degree gap wedge, or even a pitching wedge.

And finally, make sure to keep your clubface more square at address, which will increase your overall distance.

From there, make your regular backswing and downswing. The club should dig into the sand, but propel forward with enough speed to travel a longer distance.

6. Underarms in for simple pitches

High, soft landing pitch shots are a thing of beauty — when done right. They require great technique, and with so many moving parts, it takes time and practice to have consistent success.

For a more low-maintenance pitch shot, choose a higher-lofted club with more bounce (like a lob, sand or gap wedge). Set the clubface square with the shaft aligned to the center of your body, and set up with good posture so your underarms are against the side of your chest.

As you make your swing, keep your underarms against the side of your chest. Rotate your torso back and through; this connected rotation will coordinate your arms with your body, and rely on the bigger muscles in your body to produce a more consistent shot.

7. A bump-and-run formula

Bump-and-runs can be such an effective, low-maintenance shot that works well under pressure, because it never relies on a big motion. If you can calibrate one bump and run — meaning one club for one distance — you can rely on it during your rounds.

For example: For a 40 yard bump-and-run, use your 9-iron. Narrow your stance, hold the bottom of the grip, and keep your backswing to below hip level. Knowing this shot will run 40 yards, every time, gives you a trusted weapon you can always rely on.

8. Toes in on short putts

Making shorts putts is a must for lower scores. I see so many recreational golfers move all over the place on their short putts: Their heads move, and their hands let go as if the golfer is wishing the ball into the hole. One of our caddies where I teach says it best: “You move…you miss.”

I realize it’s not easy to stay still, but one trick to help avoid moving is to simply turn your toes in at setup, like you are pigeon-toed. This sounds strange, but turning in your toes like this makes it nearly impossible — and extremely uncomfortable — to move around a lot. If you are a mover, try this trick and watch your short putts go in more often.

9. Heel-up for crispy chips

When setting up to hit chips, similar to bump-and-run shots, your impact position should be preset, with your sternum and weight forward. It should stay there before, during and after your stroke.

If you tend to hit the ground before your golf ball when you chip, you can simply pick your back heel up off the ground and keep it there while you make the stroke.

Picking this back heel up and keeping it up will nearly force you to stay forward during the stroke. Your club should hit the ground when you chip and as long as your upper body is forward, the club will automatically hit the ground after the golf ball. The trail heel up throughout your stroke can help to insure this proper contact.

10. Lean and drop for buried bunker shots

The fried egg….it looks worse than it is.

When your golf ball is buried in the sand in the bunker, you should set up the same, with your ball position forward and your feet dug into the sand.

The big difference is that now you need to change your setup to turn your bounce club into a digger. The club needs to be able to cut into the sand to get deep enough to get down below the bottom of the ball.

Much like when your putt was buried in the grass greenside, you need to excessively lean your sternum, club shaft and shoulders toward the target. When the shaft leans and the forward shoulder drops lower it steepens the angle the the club enters the sand and pushes the leading edge towards the sand, which will help it dig.

This lean will also decrease the loft angle of the face, so if you do not need your golf ball to go farther than normal, you may want to switch to a more lofted wedge if you have one.

These set up tricks that help to produce very specific results in sometimes less than perfect conditions. Having a few of these specialty shots can help improve your game scores and even impress your playing partners. It’s fun to try something new and learn and I challenge you to try a few of these.

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