[Comments added January 2018.]
There’s a chapter by this name in Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book. He says the three most important clubs are, putter, driver, and wedge, in that order. Ben Hogan, he reported, said driver, putter, and wedge.
Penick went on to give the reasons for his order, but we never heard Hogan’s reasons for his. Here they are, gathered from what I have read of Hogan’s writings.
Hitting a good drive puts you on offense. It leaves the ball in the part of the fairway where the green, and even the pin, can be attacked.
You should have a plan at the outset of every hole, and getting the ball off the tee into the right place is the key to carrying out your plan.
Hogan off the tee wasn’t interested in distance. He had a spot marked out where he wanted the ball to end up and his goal was to hit it there.
[For recreational golfers, getting the ball in the fairway off the tee is paramount to making par.]
The putter is next, of course. Hitting your irons close doesn’t count unless you sink that putt.
Yes, Hogan hit his irons close, but he didn’t make birdies by hitting six-irons to two feet. In his prime he was regarded and on of the tour’s best from 10 feet in, and he made his share of 12- to 15-footers, too.
We can sum it up so far from another point of view. I heard Byron Nelson, Hogan’s contemporary, say on a televised golf match from the 1950s, “If you can drive and you can putt, you can play this game.”
[Try carrying two putters.]
And the wedge. Sometimes we miss a green, or in the case of a par 5, we need a third shot to get on.
Hogan prided himself on being able to get his wedge shots close. He felt if you could, there was no way a pin could be hidden from you.
In fact, he called his pitching wedge his “equalizer”, and Hogan irons do not have a P or a PW in the set. They all have an E.
How can this inform your game? Practice your swing with your wedges. All the principles of the golf swing that you need to pay attention can be perfected in this swing.
Before you hit your driver in practice, hit a few wedges first, then with the driver with the same swing. All you have to do is stand up a little straighter.
Hit very few drivers in practice. That sounds odd if it’s such an important club, but it’s a seductive club that can ruin your swing.
Practice your putting every chance you get. Practice your stroke at home every day for ten minutes or so on 3- to 5-foot putts. Every time you go to the range, practice approach putting from 30 feet to leave the ball inside 18 inches.
[This is easy to do if you learn the TAP method.]
Wedge? Find two distances, 30 yard and 60 yards, and practice until you can hit the ball on a dime from each one, and straight at your target. A few yards to either side isn’t good enough.
Learn to chip with your wedges, too, but make sure you’re running the ball to the hole, not flying it up there. Balls that run to the hole have a much better chance to go in.
Get good with these three clubs. Imagine what golf would be like if you routinely found the fairway off the tee, closed the deal right away on the putting green, and put those short shots one-putt close.
All the good players you play with? That’s exactly what they do.
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