What is the number one thing you can do to lower your score? Hitting it longer? No. Hitting it straighter? No. Better short game? Yes and No, but not the #1 thing you can do. If you want to break the scoring milestones of 80 and 70, it’s a must that you hit more greens. And have a process to hit more greens that stands up to any pressure situation. As one of the best golf instructors Orlando, I challenge my clients to subscribe to the same statistical facts as the world’s best players do. Hitting more greens and being closer to the hole when you do hit more greens is the #1 skill you must improve, refine, and maintain if you want to shoot low scores.
Let’s explore how you can create a process to hit more greens that fits your style and thought process as well as allows you to be objective in how you go about hitting more greens.
Identifying the Critical Elements
Hitting more greens involves a combination of technical skill, course management, and mental focus. It’s not enough to just have the general prerequisites of these 3 key elements. For your process to hit more greens to work, each element must be highly evolved, consistent, and be able to withstand any extra pressure you may face in any given situation.
Technical skills are just that. Your ability to produce a repeatable swing every shot. This does not happen overnight. It takes time. It takes patience. And most of all it takes details honed into a subconscious habit that no matter the situation, your brain can call upon the skill to repeat without any unnecessary thought.
You may as well call course management, “Self-Management”. At John Hughes Golf, that is exactly what we call it. You can’t manage the course. The superintendent and the higher powers do that. But you can manage yourself. A basic understanding of how your technical skills fit into the design of each hole is the beginning of this element. Followed by refinement of your ability to decode the variables presented to you with each shot. Weather, pin position, lie, distance, and other variables are all in play.
For some, mental focus is the toughest of the elements to improve. Both on and off the course, you’re bombarded with distractions. The ability to withstand and deflect every distraction and stay highly focused upon the simplest of tasks is what differentiates the world’s best from everyone else.
The combination of all 3 elements can and will allow your process for hitting more greens to naturally mature. So long as you leave your ego at the door when it comes to you confusing 2 uniquely different phases of the process, actually hitting a green. Versus hunting for pins.
Hitting Greens vs. Knocking Down Flags
Make no mistake, hitting more greens does mean you aim at smaller targets, like the flag on every green. But is that flag in a position on the green that lends itself to you playing aggressively? Sometimes your want to be as close to the hole can create a bigger number on the card faster than you are short sided just off the green.
Hitting more greens starts with being able to identify and take aim at the middle of every green. Versus “Pin Hunting”. Your quest to knock down every flag. When you’re attempting to consistently break 80, the middle of the green is your friend, every hole. Unless your predominant ball flight allows the opportunity for your approach shot to land closer to the hole.
There is a time and place to go after a flag. But I’d suggest that if you can’t consistently score in the 70’s right now, opt for hitting more green centers first. As your technical and course management skills improve. And you begin to experience how each of these elements intertwines with the other, your unconscious ability to play more aggressively will evolve and become more dependable.
The Process within the Process
Understanding and utilizing objective data and trends begins the process of you learning to hit more greens. And then applying the process of learning to a process of doing.
With the details below, you’ll being the “process within the process” of hitting more greens. within the process. Statistical data combined with a thorough understanding of your tendencies is the beginning of the process.
- Know Your Carry Distances – Throw “total yardage” out the window and focus solely upon your carry yardages for all your scoring clubs. It’s critically important to know how far you hit each club. in benign conditions. And in adverse conditions. Having this information is the first step to selecting the absolute correct club for each approach shot you attempt.
- Where Are Your Misses? – Do you know where you’re missed approach shots “miss” the green? Are they spread out all around the green like a shot gun blast? Or highly concentrated in a general area related to any green? Knowing where you miss greens is part of the process within the process to make better decisions.
- Do You Know When You Miss? – It’s not enough to know where your missed approach shots end up. You also must know when you miss. Early or late in the round? Par 3’s more than Par 4’s? With a certain club or yardage? Of a specific weather or lie condition? Knowing the trend of when you miss an approach shot adds to the process within the process by providing the “red flags” you need as you create your process to hit more greens, on the course.
- Are You Practicing? – Practicing to improve technical skill is not enough. You must learn to practice how to hit a green more often. And this requires you to practice under pressure. Both at the practice facility as well as on the course. And are you practicing from perfect lies all the time? Or changing it up and learning to hit scoring clubs from various conditions in a controlled environment?
- What is Your Overall Expectations? – Based upon your current statistical averages of hitting greens in regulation, what is a realistic expectation of improvement? And what is the GIR expectation long-term based upon your long-term scoring goals? Hitting more greens does not happen overnight. The improvement curve for this statistic is somewhat dependent upon others. However, hitting more greens overall is a good place to start. Then break it down based upon yardages and clubs. Realizing that the longer the shot or club used, the lower the probability of hitting greens and being close to precise hole locations.
Let the Process of Hitting More Greens Begin
Now that you understand how to use 4 basic informational points to “process the process”, now it’s time to get to work. Below are what I believe to be the quintessential bullet points to creating a process of hitting more greens.
The Pre-Shot Routine
Similar to any other shot, your pre-shot routine for approach shots should not differ. But the routine may include extra bits of info to assist with determining the outcome and success of the shot.
- Visualizing the Shot – An important factor in hitting more greens is actually seeing yourself hit the shot you choose. Whether closing your eyes. Or tracing an imaginary ball flight with your eyes and club, visualizing an approach shot to an exacting target allows your brain to be less “swing thought” conscious and more “reactive” to the shot you’re choosing to hit. Close your eyes and imagine yourself hitting the ball perfectly onto the green.
- What is the Target – Again, trying to break 80, I believe the target is the middle of the green. Find a mound, edge of a bunker, a tree, anything, that lines up with the middle of the green and take dead aim. If you can break 80 consistently and now need to record scores below 70, you can be more aggressive with your target selection. Be sure to adhere to the “conservative aggression” idea of making a conservative target decision that allows you play aggressively to your target. And when it is time to “pin hunt,” be sure that any miss continues to provide you the opportunity to keep par in play.
- What is the Yardage and Club – Have a total understanding of the exact yardage your shot need to travel in the air to provide you a realistic opportunity to make par at worst. Choosing the club based upon how you will flight the ball is another choice you’re faced with when determining yardage and club selection.
- What is the Lie – Will where the ball lies provide you a realistic opportunity to hit the shot you are planning? Be sure to take into consideration any moisture on the ball and club, the slightest of hill conditions, and other variables that are part of the lie you are facing.
Noticed I mentioned these 4 bullets in reverse order than what you are accustomed to seeing each in. And performing on the course. The reason for doing this is no matter the shot, you must be able to see yourself make the shot happen, ingraining a deep sense of trust, before you can hit more greens.
The Swing Itself
Trust, trust, trust! If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? Same goes for the process of hitting more greens. Without trust, you’ll doubt. And with doubt comes thoughts that are not needed. Again, listing the bullets backwards:
- Finish Your Swing – It’s called a golf swing, not a golf steer. At the breaking 80 level of play, often a golfer is going to attempt to “steer” the ball to the target. Doing so forces the momentum of your swing to slow down, and in all probability, you fail to complete the swing to a full and balanced finish. If you truly trust yourself and your swing, “sticking” your finish and posing for the cameras as you watch your approach shot hit your desired target on the green is ultimately what trust provides.
- Keep your Target in Mind – As if you’re looking at the bull’s eye of a dartboard and throwing a dart, your mind as you swing should be imaging the target. Not attempting to hit the ball. If your technical swing skills are sound, this is much easier to train yourself to accomplish.
- Set Up for Success – Based upon the decisions you made during your pre-shot routine; ensure you are setting up for a well-balanced swing to happen. Do not leave any stone unturned in the set-up process. And if the set-up does not feel right in your gut, preventing you from keeping the target front and center in your mind, then back away and start the set up again.
Post Shot Evaluation
The shot is not over when it comes to rest. You must evaluate your performance, so you improve your chances of hitting more greens as the round progresses.
- Was the Overall Result of Your Shot a Success? – I see so many golfers complain to themselves and anyone else who will listen about how “bad” their shot was. Yet, the ball is on the green. Remember, golf is a game of good misses, not perfections. If the overall result of your approach shot checks the box for a green hit, then relish in the victory. Especially if your GIR percentages are low. You must start the improvement curve at some point. And hitting the green is just that, hitting the green. When you’re on TV every day playing for a living, then share your complaints with me.
- What Could Have Been Better? – This is not the same as “what went wrong?” Dwell in the negative and you’ll most likely repeat the negative. Start with what was right about the shot and find one main item, that if thought of or executed better, would have in turn created a better result. Write those “one item” discoveries down and I bet you’ll start finding an easily fixable trend to hitting better approach shots.
- Leave the Emotions Behind – When you’ve handed the club to the caddie or put the club back in the bag, it is time to move on. And leave all emotions, good or bad, at the spot where you hit your last shot. You can’t play your next shot if you’re dragging the baggage of the previous shot with you.
If you follow this process on every approach shot, you’ll be well on your way to hitting more greens.
Practice, Practice, Practice
At world class levels of competition, the process of hitting more greens is practice more often than all other skills, except green speed understanding and control. And there are various ways you must practice your process to hit more greens to insure that under the most pressure packed moments, this skill is your utmost strength.
Mechanics to Merger to Trust
More often than not, most amateur golfers are constantly practicing mechanics. And for good reason, you have other life priorities. And with those priorities is less time to practice. To hit more greens, your practice must evolve into a process of trusting the mechanics, merging your mechanics to a simulated situation to those you face of the course. And then trusting you can pull the shot off, no matter the condition.
Start with randomizing the clubs you use, to random yet specific targets. This simulates the fact that you do not hit the same club 2 times in a row on the course. Continue to practice to different targets with different weather conditions. This forces you to consider ball flight trajectory and curvature. Doing this at the practice facility, replaying approach shots you’ll face the next time you play, goes a long way to being able to take this skill to the course on command.
You probably remember the situations where you miss greens the most. So why not remember those situations at the practice facility and recreate the experience. Doing so and working through what you learned from the mistake you made on the course provides you with more experience. And with more experience comes better handling of a similar situation you may face in a future round. This can also be accomplished on the course when “score” is not the focus. But “scoring” is the focus.
What is the ultimate circumstance you face on the course? One attempt to get it right. And living with and dealing with the outcome, desired or not. Do you practice this way?
Whether using technology like FlightScope Skills app to “Score” your practice and provide circumstantial feedback. Or being willing to put something on the line that is a sacrifice to you if you fail. Doing so places an abnormal amount of pressure on you as compared to how you normally practice. The more pressure you place yourself in from a circumstantial viewpoint during practice, the better you’ll become at hitting more greens when the pressure is at its worse.
If you’re serious about improving your iron play and hitting more greens, there is no better time than the present to develop a process of hitting more greens. Receiving great coaching along the way from John Hughes Golf to help guide and keep objectivity as part of the process is not a bad idea.
Follow where your current stats and feedback takes you to strengthening the 4 critical elements needed to draft the process. Then work the process within the process to the style best fit for you.
Work on the pre-shot, in swing, and post shot parts of the process in a disciplined way so when on the course, the process is automatic. Be kind and patient with yourself as the process begins, keeping in mind realistic expectations and goals to ultimately accomplish. And schedule as much practice time as you can to learn the nuisances of acquiring more specific targets and allowing yourself to trust your process. Versus manipulating it.
Your process for hitting more greens will be somewhat different from others. But for the most part follow the bullets provided you within this blog post. If you follow your process for hitting more greens, chances are you will hit more greens. And provide more opportunities to break the scoring milestone you’ve set as your ultimate goal.