Golf Tips: Success on your approach to the green

By: Shawn Kelly
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In our two past golf tips articles, you'll remember that we got off the tee and down the fairway. We now need to approach the green with accurate distance control.

How many times have you ripped the ball down the fairway and set yourself up for an easy shot into the green only to miss-hit the shot and end up scrambling just to make par? The pressure of hitting a green and creating the opportunity to make birdie can be very overwhelming.

Most of the time we try too hard, which makes it impossible to make an effective swing. Distance control, proper calculation of your distance to the green and positive visualization can make hitting greens much easier.

The first key to hitting greens is to calculate the distance to your landing area. Distance calculations can be tricky because terrain, wind speed and direction as well as air temperature all need to be factored in to determine the optimal club to choose.

If the green is uphill or down you may need to compensate by adjusting 20 yards or more in club selection. Wind conditions and air temperature affect ball flight in every round, so learn to deal with them accordingly as well. Down wind and warmer temps will tend to allow the ball to go farther and conversely, shots into the wind and cooler temps will make the ball fly shorter.

Once you have the correct distance to the target in mind, club selection is important to be able to make a confident swing. For me, every club in my bag has a distance zone of 10 yards. For example, the seven-iron is my 155 through165 yard club, so if my calculations put me into this zone then that is my club of choice for that shot.

I always trust that I will strike each shot solidly, which will give me true distance so I won't pick one club extra "just in case I miss-hit it" because that's a negative swing thought.

After you have calculated the distance and chosen the club for the shot, it is time to visualize. Stand behind the ball in a direct line to the target, take a deep breath to relax and try to imagine the shot at hand. Visualize the ball flying through the air and landing on the target. See the ball flight in real time, don't cut the shot off short, and let your mind see the ball land and then roll toward the target.

Once in a while you may have to visualize the shot a couple of times to trust it. Let it become like a video that you see in your mind's eye and don't set up to the ball until you can see a high-quality visual sequence of that shot.

A positive image can help you relax and make the balanced swing you need to hit the green.

Don't take dead aim at the flag each and every time because sometimes you may be better off to aim into the middle or "fat part" of the green just to get safely on. Then, take your two putts or maybe drop a "bomb" if you're lucky. You can always try to score on another hole that is easier to get closer to.

At times, I find myself aiming at only half the pins I play to or aiming at a slope on the green to let it move the ball to the hole. The key is to get it on the green somewhere to have the opportunity to make a putt.

GIR or greens in regulation is a closely watched percentage on the PGA Tour.
Generally, the higher their percentage of greens hit, the lower their scores will be. Find ways to get your GIR percentages higher and you will also lower your scores. Hitting greens can be easy if you prepare before the shot, calculate your distance and select the appropriate club. Staying positive will help you hit greens and enjoy the game a good deal more.