To have a chance at a par, your shot into the green has to get there. It has to arrive. Where it’s appropriate, for shots you intend to hit the green, be they approaches from the fairway or pitches from closer in, play to hit the ball past the pin. This is the scoring zone.
Most greens are deeper than you think. If you think you have a 6-iron to the pin, hit the 5. That choice guarantees you will fly the hazards around the green, which are usually in front. It allows for hitting less than your best shot, which is the shot we hit maybe 90 percent of the time.
For example, say you can hit your 6-iron 150 yards at the range. But when you’re playing, do you really hit it that far? More likely you hit it 145 yards much more often. That 145 yards, then, is your playing distance, even though it is not all you’re capable of with that club.
If you always play the 6 from 150 yards, you will hardly ever arrive.
True, some greens that are so steep from back to front that hitting the ball past the hole is the last thing you want to do. But that’s an exception.
Vivien Saunders had this to say about arriving:
“… there is just as much space beyond the flag as in front of it. When you watch players approach to green from the side it seems ridiculous that they’re constantly short.
In order to improve, try to pass the flag on every single shot you play. Keep a note on your scorecard. Give yourself a point every time your shot to the green finishes on the green beyond the flag. Professionals find this scoring zone far more often than club golfers. Many club golfers soon discover that they never, ever pass the flag.”*
One time, play a round where all day you pick your club into the green as you normally do, but then use one more club, and see what that gets you.
Hitting the ball at the green, instead of to the right or to the left, will be a problem we face with every shot. Hitting it far enough should never be. Just use enough club. Arrive.
* Vivien Saunders, The Golf Handbook for Women, p. 180.