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How long do I need to be to start scoring/improve?

bonvivantvabonvivantva Members Posts: 97 ✭✭✭

I'm a 20 handicap. I mostly just play with my friends on weekends and have a few beers, but we've been doing more golf trips recently, and I'd like to get better. My number one goal to enjoy golf more is just to stop flubbing (topping and chunking) my irons. I played a round last weekend in which I didn't flub a single ball. I wasn't driving the ball very well, but my iron game was much better than usual. I shot a 99, which is more or less usual for me. I've really been working hard on my iron game. I go to the range two or three times a week and hit 80-160 balls each time only working on irons. At the range, I can generally get my path in out, and my contact is pretty good. On the course, pressure often gets to me and I still swing too hard, which means I fall into my old habits getting steep and over the top.

So my question is about length. If I practice the driver some, or even just play more, I know I can swing easy and put the ball out about 220-240 in play pretty consistently, which isn't impressive, but seems fine. After that, I'm not sure I have enough length. Right now, my longest club I hit well is my 5i. I carry a 3 and 4 hybrid, but when I get steep I don't make good contact so I usually play it safe with the 5i. I hit the 5i about 170-190. At the range, I roll it up to a 200 yard flag. On the course, my gps watch says I get about 180 total out of it.

This weekend we finished up on a par-5 18th hole. I skyed my driver to only about 150. Then I hit my 5i, I pulled/hooked it a little, but I still got about 180 out of it. I had something like 220 left. So I couldn't really go for it with my 190 club, plus there were bunkers and other trouble. I hit an easy 9i with a nice draw about 130 into the middle of the fairway, and then about a 75 yard lob wedge right onto the green about 10 feet or so from the pin. It worked out, so in retrospect, it sure feels like I played that hole well, but if I had a longer club, I could have hit my second shot closer, or gone for it will my third.

I do hit my 18 degree hybrid on occasion, but it's just no where near as reliable as my 5i, and I only get about 20 more yards out of it best case scenario. I carry a 3w and a 5w, but I literally can't remember the last time I hit either. Sometimes I can get the hybrids working at the range, but I've never experienced anything close to consistency with the woods.

So in the short term, I plan to continue to work on my iron game. I could really get used to not flubbing shots. But to improve my score, do you think I need to figure out something longer than 180? Should I work on my hybrids, or maybe try out a utility iron? I know there are plenty of other ways to drop my score. Putting for instance. Is 180 enough to break 90?

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Comments

  • North ButteNorth Butte Members Posts: 11,495 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Go back to the first paragraph in your post. It's the flubbed or mishit shots that determine the difference between your shooting 99 and maybe one day shooting in the 70's or 80's.

    I play with guys who don't have a single club in their bag (other than driver) that goes more than 170 yards. But they shoot around 80. If you can drive the ball 220+ and there's an iron or hybrid that you can hit 180 without flubbing it, then distance is not what holding you back. Driving it 220 puts you in about the top 10% of golfers in terms of driver distance and hitting an iron from 180 would be way better than average as well.

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  • CelebrosCelebros Vandalia, OHMembers Posts: 209 ✭✭✭
    edited Sep 10, 2019 2:44pm #3

    Finding some sort of club, be it a fairway wood/hybrid/utility, to use outside of your 5-iron range would certainly be helpful.

    Honestly though, if you are playing reasonably appropriate tees, hitting it 220-240 off of the tee and then 180 should mean you are able to get on the majority Par 4/5 greens in-regulation as is, so just improving your consistency and short game will likely gain you more shots than just trying to hit it longer/finding a club to hit longer.

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  • davep043davep043 Members Posts: 3,658 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    First, get some instruction if you're not already doing that. You may be practicing, but chances are you're simply grooving a swing with some significant issues. Beyond that, take a few balls each time you practice and hit your longer clubs. Use the clubs you have. practice your hybrid, practice your lofted woods, practice your driver. As your swing improves in general, your success with the longer clubs will improve as well. Yes, you do need to hit it further than 180 off the tee, but the way to do that is by gaining consistency with your longer clubs. If you hit solid drives 220 or more, you have enough length to shoot in the 80s, as long as you can do it consistently, and keep it in play. Just for comparison, I'm 63 years old, hit my driver around 240 in the air (a little longer than you, but not much), and I'm a 4 handicap. I hit my 5-iron about 170 yards, similar to you. Distance isn't keeping you from improving, consistent good contact with all your clubs is what you need. And of course, spend some time on your short game and putting, but improved full swings will get you the largest gains.

  • third-times-a-charmthird-times-a-charm Members Posts: 1,849 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Your brain trains itself to remember certain swing thoughts on the range, but you forget them in your 'autopilot' mode on the course. You also need to work on translating your range game to the course while looking at pins, targets, etc. This is part of course management which is a big part of scoring better.

    Also not perpetuating bad swing mechanics is a plus.

    It usually takes 2-5 years to get into the 80's in golf.

  • bonvivantvabonvivantva Members Posts: 97 ✭✭✭

    I've been a pretty casual player since I picked golf up in college back in 2006. The last two or three years, I've really started working on my game.

    I really have been hyper focused on just my irons. I typically hit my 8 and 7 iron the most, and then 5, 6, and 9 some as well, but thats typically it. I had a sway, I let my left wrist break at the top of the bs, and I started (and still often do) my ds with my shoulders, especially when I'm trying to kill it. I've recently gotten to where my path is workably over the top at worst, and in to out at best. I've weakened my overly strong compensated grip to more neutral but still strong. If I can keep the decent/better contact up, I'm going to start working on eliminating one side. Right now, my miss tends to be left. No matter how hard I try to push it, I hit it dead straight. But if I just swing easy or naturally, I get a shot that starts out on line or slightly left, and draws/hooks farther left.

    I appreciate all the advice. I definitely need to translate what I learn at the range better to the course. Autopilot is exactly me. I know what I need to do. I even have it written down. But I keep trying to kill it. I did a much better job of not rushing this past round, but its definitely something I need to read up on more and work on. I know that no matter how easy I swing, I'm not going to leave the 5i shorter than 150. Even little punch shots at the range go that far. I just need to trust my swing and go easy. That's definitely my focus now while I'm still working on contact and consistency. I've been thinking about lessons and/or a clinic or two.

    In the longer term, 180ish to 230ish seems like a pretty big gap, even if I can score. I guess I need to practice my hybrid more. I really don't see any utility in working on my 3w. It doesn't seem much shorter than my driver or longer than my hybrid, but it does seem way harder to hit well. If I could get my hybrid working, I'd have 230ish, 210ish, and 180 at the top of my range. But no matter how much I start practicing the hybrid, I doubt I'm going to have the confidence to choose it over the 5i anytime soon. My clubs are about 15 years old. When I get new clubs, I think I'm going to get new irons, a new driver, drop the woods for the time being, and fill in the gaps I have with my wedges. Right now I have a 60 degree that goes about 75. A 56 that goes 100. A 48 that goes about 110. And my 9i goes 130.

  • McgeenoMcgeeno Members Posts: 2,104 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I just watched a golfsidekick youtube video last night where a guy hits his driver 180-200 and breaks 80 regularly.

    Sure he obviously couldnt do that from the tips or from 6500+ but he can travel and shoot low scores/beat a majority of golfers with his game.

    The guy had the ugliest swing I've ever seen but could chip, putt and minimize damage. He didnt hit flubbed shots and kept his driver in play.

  • jvincentjvincent Members Posts: 809 ✭✭✭✭✭

    From your descriptions you seem to have plenty of distance to score a lot better. At 230 yards with the driver you should be able to handle pretty much any course 6600 yards or shorter.

    I don't know what your practice routine is like, but I'd suggest mixing up the clubs you hit. Just bashing away at one or two clubs isn't going to help the others and will just groove the feel for one club so when you get to a different club you struggle. As an example, one day hit all your even clubs, only 5 or 6 balls with each club before switching, all the way up to driver and then work backwards down to wedge. The next day hit the odd clubs. Make sure when you are practicing you ALWAYS aim at a specific target.

    There are some theories out there that suggest varying the makeup of your practice actually helps you to improve more quickly.

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  • davep043davep043 Members Posts: 3,658 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    @Mcgeeno said:
    I just watched a golfsidekick youtube video last night where a guy hits his driver 180-200 and breaks 80 regularly.

    Sure he obviously couldnt do that from the tips or from 6500+ but he can travel and shoot low scores/beat a majority of golfers with his game.

    The guy had the ugliest swing I've ever seen but could chip, putt and minimize damage. He didnt hit flubbed shots and kept his driver in play.

    If he didn't flub shots, and he kept his driver in play, he's a whole lot better player than a 20 handicapper struggling to break 90. Those are the two things that pretty much every single 20-handicapper needs to do better.

  • nicelifenicelife Members Posts: 86 ✭✭✭

    Quit drinking.

  • bonvivantvabonvivantva Members Posts: 97 ✭✭✭

    @nicelife said:
    Quit drinking.

    I have noticed I play a lot better when I'm not playing with my friends... I shot 12 over par on an executive course the other day. But that was no driver, and you really never need or even want more than 180.

  • bonvivantvabonvivantva Members Posts: 97 ✭✭✭

    If the sidekick is that bucket hat guy that lives in Asia, I've seen him before. I have a friend that plays that way. I'll admit that when I sky a driver only 150, playing three 6 irons does start to make a lot of sense.

    That said, I'm going to stick with the driver off the tee when it makes sense. But breaking up 190 into 130 and 70 seems like a pretty good compromise, as long as you have the consistency to string two playable shots together...

  • McgeenoMcgeeno Members Posts: 2,104 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    @davep043 said:

    @Mcgeeno said:
    I just watched a golfsidekick youtube video last night where a guy hits his driver 180-200 and breaks 80 regularly.

    Sure he obviously couldnt do that from the tips or from 6500+ but he can travel and shoot low scores/beat a majority of golfers with his game.

    The guy had the ugliest swing I've ever seen but could chip, putt and minimize damage. He didnt hit flubbed shots and kept his driver in play.

    If he didn't flub shots, and he kept his driver in play, he's a whole lot better player than a 20 handicapper struggling to break 90. Those are the two things that pretty much every single 20-handicapper needs to do better.

    True. And the OP in my opinion is concentrating on the wrong issue.

    His distance is fine.

    Like I said I watched a guy hit every shot on his way to breaking 80 on youtube last night. He didnt hit a driver over 210.

  • RoodyRoody You ride her until she bucks you or don't ride at all Rochester, NYMembers Posts: 1,111 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm currently a 7 handicap, and while I'm not the shortest hitter on the planet I'm not necessarily long either. I can hit my driver anywhere from 230-260. My driver swing speed is only about 95 mph. You don't need to be long.

    I guess a couple things I would suggest:

    • Find a way to train your mind/body to not try to "kill it" on every swing. Think tempo, and tension free when you swing. You'll likely hit the ball farther when it's struck smoothly.
    • Move up a set of tees for a bit. You'll probably shoot better, and it will help you gain confidence. Move back after you've broken 90.
    • If you find you can't reach a GIR without trying to kill it or whatever, there's no reason you can't lay up to a yardage that leaves you a comfortable next shot. I don't reach a lot of par 5's in two, and I'm often doing the math on my second shot to hit a club that will leave me about 80-85 yards in on my third. That way I can hit a full lob wedge, and still give myself an opportunity for birdie, and at worst par.
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  • davep043davep043 Members Posts: 3,658 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    @Mcgeeno said:
    True. And the OP in my opinion is concentrating on the wrong issue.

    His distance is fine.

    I said much the same thing, his potential distance is fine, but I do believe he needs to be able to hit his longer clubs with some kind of consistency, to not be limited to 5-iron or shorter. The road to doing that is by improving the full swing.

  • North ButteNorth Butte Members Posts: 11,495 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    I know it's a GolfWRX "meme" of sorts that there are allegedly 20-handicappers out there who just stripe the ball with a full swing yet shoot in the 90's due to short game or putting issues.

    But I don't buy it. I'm darned near a 20 hcp myself and I've played with plenty of others. In the vast majority of a 20 hcp's rounds he's making anywhere from 3-4 to as many as a dozen purely awful full swings that waste something close to a full shot (or more if it entails a penalty). Until you can knock that number back to one or two per round, consistency with the full swing has to be a priority.

    How far you can hit it with a good swings, over the course of a round, affects your score less than how much trouble you hit it into with your bad swings. I say this from sad personal experience.

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  • aenematedaenemated Los Angeles, CAMembers Posts: 225 ✭✭✭

    Before worrying about just "getting more distance," you need to work on hitting the ball in the middle of the clubface and improving your overall ball-striking. A great thing from Tiger's "My Game" series on Golf Digest I've been thinking about a lot is something his dad impressed upon him - if you can maintain balance and hit the middle of the clubface, swing as hard as you can. If you can't do both of those, you don't get to swing hard.

    Work on consistent, solid contact first. THEN worry about distance.

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  • davep043davep043 Members Posts: 3,658 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    @aenemated said:

    Work on consistent, solid contact first. THEN worry about distance.

    Heck, if you learn to make consistent solid contact, your distance will improve on its own!

  • aenematedaenemated Los Angeles, CAMembers Posts: 225 ✭✭✭

    @davep043 said:

    @aenemated said:

    Work on consistent, solid contact first. THEN worry about distance.

    Heck, if you learn to make consistent solid contact, your distance will improve on its own!

    Precisely!

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  • TerrapinGolferTerrapinGolfer Members Posts: 113 ✭✭✭

    drop the driver and use a 3 wood off the tee. You will notice that your distance off the tee is virtually the same except one will be in the fairway vs 2 holes away

  • MychMych Members Posts: 1,999 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Based on the distances you gave for that par 5 (150+180+220), it's a 550yd hole. Even for long hitters that's a tough hole to reach in 2 shots (300+250). So for most people, that's going to take 3 shots to get to the green. Knowing that, you could theoretically hit the 5 iron 3 times (180+180+180 = 540) and 2 putt for a par.

    Once you start hitting your clubs consistently, you'll have plenty of distance if you're hitting 5i 180.

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  • MooJerseyMooJersey MarylandMembers Posts: 538 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @North Butte said:
    I know it's a GolfWRX "meme" of sorts that there are allegedly 20-handicappers out there who just stripe the ball with a full swing yet shoot in the 90's due to short game or putting issues.

    But I don't buy it. I'm darned near a 20 hcp myself and I've played with plenty of others. In the vast majority of a 20 hcp's rounds he's making anywhere from 3-4 to as many as a dozen purely awful full swings that waste something close to a full shot (or more if it entails a penalty). Until you can knock that number back to one or two per round, consistency with the full swing has to be a priority.

    How far you can hit it with a good swings, over the course of a round, affects your score less than how much trouble you hit it into with your bad swings. I say this from sad personal experience.

    I used to think the same, but this is my game now. I drive the ball 250-260 on average. My approach shots could be better, but I never outright fat an iron. Thin ... sometimes yes, but that just sends it a bit low without spin, usually ends up on the back of the green. I get up and down 1 maybe 2x per round (bad). Sand saves maybe once if I'm lucky. Not as many 3 putts, but probably 4-6 per round still, mostly due to bad lags. I'm about an 18 index.

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  • smashdnsmashdn Let's cut them trees down. Members Posts: 1,483 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Don't practice what you are doing well. If you hit irons well on the range start working on a consistent drive, a "fairway finder" swing that gets it out there ~230 but you know will keep you in play and most likely in the fairway. Being in the fairway statistically is not the most important factor in determining score, distance or some iteration of distance is, but when you are not long off the tee being accurate and ensuring you are hitting your second shot/approach from the short grass is key. Driving the ball well takes a lot of pressure off other facets of your game and the converse is doubly true.

    Do your best to get on the green or near the green in regulation anyway you can. If you do that well then you can rely on the easier to get good/master short game.

  • bonvivantvabonvivantva Members Posts: 97 ✭✭✭

    The only clubs I take less than full swing on are wedges. When I try to swing easy on say a 5i, I end up miss hitting it. That's not to say that swinging too hard isn't my issue, its just that a full shot is not the same for me as swinging as hard as I can. When I swing, let's call it 80%, I usually get a pretty good result. It's just when I really try to give it everything that I can't hold my shoulders off enough and I come over the top.

    I practice my irons because in my mind, that's my weak point. I putt and chip as well as my friends. My driver doesn't get me into too much trouble. It's fat or topped iron shots that really keep me from enjoying golf more. I went to the range since posting this. My contact was pretty good, but I'm still fighting my path. I'm hitting some really nice draws, but the majority of my shots are still starting on line and then bending left. My improved contact is also changing my distances. My PW (48*) has typically been my 110 club. I was rolling it up to the 130 pin that I usually attack with my 9i today. Contact and distance today really were much better than usual. But my dispersion was all over the place.

    I have a golf trip to Myrtle Beach in November. I'm going to really keep at the irons and see if I can find some more consistency and figure out how to keep from coming over the top.

  • ralph11ralph11 Members Posts: 39 ✭✭

    Based on your story, I would spend time hitting 100 yd. wedge shots, and much time chipping and putting.
    If you can drive 200+ yds. , you can post low scores.

  • andrueandrue Members Posts: 1,319 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    edited Sep 11, 2019 8:33am #26

    Speaking as a 22 there are three things affect my score:

    • Chipping.
    • Approach shots.
    • Psychology.

    Despite being a 22 I don't miss-hit the ball very often. For sure the ball doesn't always go where I want it to (my approach shots often miss the green) but shanks, duffs, tops are uncommon. My drive is occasionally a stupid skied pull but most of my shots launch reasonably well and fly the distance I expect. They just have a tendency to be several yards off target.

    It's the third one that gets me. In social golf I'm mid 80s to low 90s all day long at most courses. The only course I don't often break 90 on is a long course (6,800 yards). But in comps things just tend to go wrong. I think I feel a bit self-conscious and that can eventually lead to mistake. And from there I start to feel like I just want it to all be over which of course makes me rush things. It's noticeable that my two best comp scores (an 89 last year and a 92 this year) occurred when I was playing with people I knew well and it felt like 'just a round of golf'.

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  • golfandfishinggolfandfishing Members Posts: 3,671 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    OP- on average, once you are wedge yardage or closer, what is your average number of strokes taken?

  • bonvivantvabonvivantva Members Posts: 97 ✭✭✭

    @golfandfishing said:
    OP- on average, once you are wedge yardage or closer, what is your average number of strokes taken?

    That's hard to say. My favorite distance in is probably 110-130. I'm most confident with a 9i, or maybe a PW. Inside of 70, I have to hit a partial shot, which is not my favorite. I'm also not great out of bunkers. But my putting is pretty decent. I'd say I two putt pretty often, and three putt just under half the time.

    @North Butte said:
    I know it's a GolfWRX "meme" of sorts that there are allegedly 20-handicappers out there who just stripe the ball with a full swing yet shoot in the 90's due to short game or putting issues.

    But I don't buy it. I'm darned near a 20 hcp myself and I've played with plenty of others. In the vast majority of a 20 hcp's rounds he's making anywhere from 3-4 to as many as a dozen purely awful full swings that waste something close to a full shot (or more if it entails a penalty). Until you can knock that number back to one or two per round, consistency with the full swing has to be a priority.

    How far you can hit it with a good swings, over the course of a round, affects your score less than how much trouble you hit it into with your bad swings. I say this from sad personal experience.

    I really agree with this. At my last trip to Myrtle Beach, I was driving the ball better than ever. I had a couple drives per round that registered about 260 on my watch. At that distance, even when I lost a ball, it wasn't much different than taking several shots to get there. My point being that when I'm bombing it, when I'm just putting it out about 220 and safe, or when I'm really not driving well (like this past weekend), my scores still hang around high 90s, low 100s. My putting and chipping is also pretty consistent. I'll use a putter when I can, run it up with a mid iron, or whatever gets the job done. I don't practice chipping or putting much at all, and really just play by feel, which is totally different from my approach to irons (which could be part of the problem).

    My high scores come from poor iron shots. Take this past weekend when I shot a 99. I was really happy not to have chunked or topped a ball, but I still did have several miss hits. The rough was particularly high where we played, and I recall several 5i and hybrid shots that didn't get any loft and died in the grass. With some roll, we're talking about what could have been 160+ yard shots, but since they were worm burners in high grass, they'd stop at 100, 130, etc. Those don't break your heart like a topped ball that goes 5 feet, but they don't help your score either. That's one of the reasons I mostly kept the hybrids in the bag. When they're only going 130, I'm better off swinging my 9i that is at least more accurate. I also pulled/hooked several balls to the point that I'd have to punch out/lay up. Again, these were mostly 5i shots where I needed more than 180 (or at least felt like it), so I tried to give it something extra. Even my bogey scores often involve two bad (but not terrible) shots and some scrambling. Even at the range I tend to miss right and rush my shoulders. I think iron consistency is key not only to better scores, but better enjoyment of the game.

  • golfandfishinggolfandfishing Members Posts: 3,671 ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

    “Inside of 70, I have to hit a partial shot, which is not my favorite. I'm also not great out of bunkers. But my putting is pretty decent. I'd say I two putt pretty often, and three putt just under half the time.”

    This is your key to improving your scores. You could add 75 yards to each club and as long as you are bad with wedges, around the greens and 3 putting almost half the time you are still going to be shooting a million.

    You don’t have to be good to improve your scores. Simply being competent would save you 10 strokes per round. Once at wedge distance, average 3 or less to get in the hole is something anyone with your playing experience should be able to do.

  • HatsForBatsHatsForBats Members Posts: 1,813 ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    @bonvivantva said:
    The only clubs I take less than full swing on are wedges. When I try to swing easy on say a 5i, I end up miss hitting it. That's not to say that swinging too hard isn't my issue, its just that a full shot is not the same for me as swinging as hard as I can. When I swing, let's call it 80%, I usually get a pretty good result. It's just when I really try to give it everything that I can't hold my shoulders off enough and I come over the top.

    When I try to take something off an iron whether it be a 5i or a gap wedge I still swing with the same effort but the backswing is shorter. The shorter the swing the shorter the distance. A 3-quarter backswing takes off about 5 yards and a half-swing takes off about 10 for my swing/clubs. Choking up on a club can also take a few yards off. The more you choke-up the more yardage you can take off. I use choking-up as a fine tuning of the yardage and shorter backswing for times when I need to take off more than a few yards. The key is not to swing easier than you are using for your full shots. Just take less of a backswing and keep the acceleration of the downswing the same as for full shots.

    For more consistency you may also consider toning down the 80% on all swings to something lower until you can more consistently hit good shots.

  • jmgledhilljmgledhill Members Posts: 53 ✭✭

    You need to stop making scores worse than Bogey is the simple answer. So, I agree with the peeps saying focus more on your short game (trade one range session for a practice green session / week).

    If you can keep the ball in play and not roll / chunk too many shots low 90s should be no problem if you change your strategy slightly. Think about how you can give yourself a putt for par on each hole- meaning on par 4s how can you get it on the green in 3 shots. It doesn't have to be close it just needs to be on the green to give yourself a reasonable chance at bogey. Bogey golf is a 90. Keep 2 shots within play to get it within 100 yards of the green (this could be 2 five irons) then hit a wedge at the center of the green and 2 putt you eliminated the double bogey. Note the last part of hitting toward the center of the green, this gives you a better buffer to actually hit it on the green compared to hitting it toward a pin on the left side of the green and missing the shot left, in which case you're wedging again.

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