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The three most important golf shots


Robert L.
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In his book The Little Red Book Harvey Penick says the three most important clubs are the putter, the driver, and the wedge. He also writes that when Ben Hogan was asked the same question Hogan said that the most important clubs are the driver, the putter, and the wedge, only changing the order around. In that same spirit I'm asking you all what do you think are the three most important golf shots? Here's mine.

 

1. The drive. A well struck drive with accuracy and distance sets up the entire hole for effective scoring. Whether it's with a driver on a long par 4 or 5, a 3-wood on a tight fairway or an iron on a par 3, a good shot sets up everything to follow. I've noticed that whenever I hit a good drive I almost never have a blow-up hole, whereas my blow-up holes always start with a poor drive. So, a good drive is extremely important.

 

2. A reliable pitch shot. Dial in a reliable 30, 40, 50 and 60 yard pitch shot. Practice the hell out of them, and your scoring will improve tremendously! Get a good pitching form, slide the club under the ball, and land the ball softly on the green, hopefully close to the hole.

 

3. Good short putting skill. the odds of sinking a mid to long putt are not good, so it behooves a golfer to work on short putts. It's a shot that can be practiced in your living room. Nothing worse than missing a short putt for par, and compounding things by missing short putts. Scott Hoch missed a two-footer at the 1989 Masters, which is why he doesn't have a green jacket.

 

So these are my three most important shots. What are yours?

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The putt, for sure.  You absolutely plan to use a putter on each hole...the same can't be said for any other club in the bag.

 

I take a little issue with the presumption that irons aren't important.  Sure, if you're distilling golf to just 3 shots, it would be drive, wedge, and putt...but, your irons are the meat of the sandwich.  Irons make up for a bad drive.  Irons comprise the absolute bulk of the shots you'll take each round.  I'd go so far as to say that irons are more important than wedges.

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Looking at my own game - and general SG for different amateurs cap level, I'd go:

1. 130-150-170yds range approach shot

2. Drive; relatively long and accurate

3. 6ft putt...

 

Vast majority of other shots can be somewhat derived from these three... and they are the 3 biggest differential between caps (frequent shots during a round ; that can make, break or save a hole)

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1.  First shot (on a hole)

2. 2nd shot

3. 3rd shot

 

If you can't drive it well, you better be good with your irons.  If both of those aren't very good, you better be effin' good with your short game.

The tee ball sets up the entire game.  You may as well go home if you can't get off the tee, because it's gonna be a long day.

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My lowest rounds and my best out of town rounds always 100 percent start with driver being on point. For me that means going under par and putting a really good one on the board. 

 

If I hit it long and straight I have more wedges and shorties into par 4's which I will almost always statistically hit closer than mid or long irons.  

 

I can attack par fives and possibly make some low stress easy birdies and I spend all day with no pressure on my game having to chip out or reload or punch over/under/around trouble and waste shots.

 

From there if I can get up and down reliably the times I do miss the green I will escape making big numbers. Chipping #2 for me.

 

Finally its the putter, specifically the 10 foot and in range. If I am rolling it good I will make a couple birdies, drain a few par savers etc.

 

Drive-Chip-Putt for me.

 

 

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#1 Driver

If I’m driving it well, I play well. As goes the driver goes the round.

 

#2 Pitching

Typically close enough to the greens with my irons not to really rely on chipping the ball any distance , but pitching over a sand trap, grass bunker or hill with accuracy is needed the majority of the time. I do feel chipping goes hand in hand with the pitch shot. Although both are my downfall!

 

#3 Putter

The need to make 2-4 footers is a must to payoff the pitch shot. Also being able to roll the ball close for a two putt is a round saver.

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1 hour ago, Motoboss said:

#1 Driver

If I’m driving it well, I play well. As goes the driver goes the round.

 

#2 Pitching

Typically close enough to the greens with my irons not to really rely on chipping the ball any distance , but pitching over a sand trap, grass bunker or hill with accuracy is needed the majority of the time. I do feel chipping goes hand in hand with the pitch shot. Although both are my downfall!

 

#3 Putter

The need to make 2-4 footers is a must to payoff the pitch shot. Also being able to roll the ball close for a two putt is a round saver.

You got it, dude. I feel the same way!

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Didn't Broadie's work answer this question from a statistical strokes gained analysis?  Obviously individual skill level will influence which order is most important to that particular person.

 

For example, I bet today Bryson wishes his putting had been quite a bit better.  His wedge shots could have been better too.  Driver seemed to be just fine.

Edited by oikos1
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Agree with choices - slightly different order though:

Putter

Wedges

Driver.

 

Probably 60% - 65% of all shots on a scorecard will be from 100 yards in. Putter and wedges. If you don't have a short game, you don't have a game. Driver consistency is also critical. I'll sacrifice 20 yards in distance if my second shot on an average par four is from the fairway. I'm too old to be a bomb-and-gouger. My entire course management is to get to within 100. From there, I'm two or three shots from par. 

 

I'd only add that in practicing putting, I'll commonly practice 15 feet, 10 feet, and five feet. Practice five footers obsessively (it is amazing how - even at the level of the pros - entire tournaments can be won or lost due to a short putt). Doesn't seem like much use to practice anything longer than 15 feet - it is extremely rare to have a 20 or 30+ foot putt that has no breaks. Long distance ones often have double breaks. So anything longer than 10 or 15 (and sometimes less) I'm usually mentally seeing two or three different putts in a single stroke. 

Edited by bobfoster
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You’re asking shots, not clubs. With that said you only need 2.

 

1. Approach shot. 
2. shot after the approach shot. 

Nothing else is nearly as important when it comes to score. A great drive can be ruined by a bad approach and a bad drive can be saved by a great approach shot. 

 

Edited by Rosco1216
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7 hours ago, Rosco1216 said:

You’re asking shots, not clubs. With that said you only need 2.

 

1. Approach shot. 
2. shot after the approach shot. 

Nothing else is nearly as important when it comes to score. A great drive can be ruined by a bad approach and a bad drive can be saved by a great approach shot. 

 

I think how you define "bad" is the key determinant of how much it impacts the hole's score. If bad is generally far, but not straight, how much off line? if it's playable then we're good to go, if it's OB, that's a different story. If I hit a 40 yard topper that barely rolls past the forward tees and leaves me 250 in on a shorter par 4, I can make par. If I hit that same shot on a 450+ yard par 4 it's a little harder, but can be done if I hit a laser 3 iron. However, If I hit that same shot on hole requiring a forced carry, holes' over before I even start. 

 

As we all know, "bad" is a relative word that means different things to every golfer.

 

MTC

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5 hours ago, putterboy75 said:

I think how you define "bad" is the key determinant of how much it impacts the hole's score. If bad is generally far, but not straight, how much off line? if it's playable then we're good to go, if it's OB, that's a different story. If I hit a 40 yard topper that barely rolls past the forward tees and leaves me 250 in on a shorter par 4, I can make par. If I hit that same shot on a 450+ yard par 4 it's a little harder, but can be done if I hit a laser 3 iron. However, If I hit that same shot on hole requiring a forced carry, holes' over before I even start. 

 

As we all know, "bad" is a relative word that means different things to every golfer.

 

MTC

Let’s say going into a tournament and before you tee off you could choose only one shot for all 18 holes to hit exactly how you intended. Tee shot, approach, chip or putt? 
 

Edited by Rosco1216

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8 minutes ago, Rosco1216 said:

Let’s say going into a tournament and before you tee off you could choose only one shot for all 18 holes to hit exactly how you intended. Tee shot, approach, chip or putt? 
 

As you mentioned - it’s the approach shot; biggest differentiator between cap levels (all the way through)… and you get 18 of those (compared to 14 drives usually)… drop all those 18 shots from 130-150-170yds to 20ft and it’s a stress free round of golf… one where you don’t even have to ‘save’ it once with short game or a long putt that drops… 

ADD56EEB-4D10-4347-800E-F95F8B8C0635.jpeg

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This is a good question, and I think there is an exact answer. It depends on the player as much as anything. For me Driver is #1 without question. If I am hitting fairways I am going to play well. Scoring from the trees or thick rough makes approach shots impossible. A good scrambler can safe a round all day. Tiger spent much of his career scrambling and he is arguably the GOAT. Someone has to be a good putter to go low. It is all relative.

 

I would ultimately say:

1. Driver

2. Wedge

3. Putter 

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39 minutes ago, MtlJayMan said:

As you mentioned - it’s the approach shot; biggest differentiator between cap levels (all the way through)… and you get 18 of those (compared to 14 drives usually)… drop all those 18 shots from 130-150-170yds to 20ft and it’s a stress free round of golf… one where you don’t even have to ‘save’ it once with short game or a long putt that drops… 

ADD56EEB-4D10-4347-800E-F95F8B8C0635.jpeg

 

good stuff

 

i think the oversize driver has a lot to do with that though, seen any number of guys who can drive it reasonably, and cant do very much else.

 

Im still going with the driver as the most important. Ive never seen a quick (110+) even moderately straight hitter who wasnt low single figures at least. Damn easy game if you rarely have more than an 8 iron in your hand

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I'm really interested to hear the stories about the penalty strokes and shots hit OB with the putter that makes putts some guys' most important shot.

 

Woods was the closest to the hole in his prime, by a significant margin.  His approach game was that much better.

 

The old "drive for show putt for dough" comes from the fact, at the professional level, putting is the only area to really gain strokes in a particular week, because most everyone at the top of the leaderboard is reaching the green in the same number of shots.  But we're not the pros.  Keep it in play off the tee, and hit the green in reg more often will yield far bigger benefits than lots of putting work.  Even pros on perfect greens are only 50% from 8 feet.  Not three putting is a goal to strive for, but that can also be a function of getting closer to the hole on the approach.  

 

Certainly nice to make more putts, but there are so many variables there that you almost can't evaluate based on the ball going in the hole.  But you can most certainly evaluate not driving the ball OB, and hitting the ball to 30 feet rather than 60 feet on the approach.   

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I'm with Mr. Penick: Putter, Driver, Wedge.

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1. Approach shots

2. the drive-it sets up the approach. 

3. Makable putts. You know, the ones you always think you should make. 
 

 

I have a really good wedge game, so it’s important I take advantage of it, but if my approaches were better I would be putting for birdie not par.  

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I've played rounds where I hit damn near every fairway but still scored terribly because my irons play was off. And I've played rounds where I couldn't buy a hit fairway but my irons were on and I scored well. 

 

So for me, I'd say irons/wedge, putter, driver. 

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#1 First shot at the flag. It’s your first opportunity to make it... If you hit good ones you’ll score low 

 

#2 Shorter putts... 

 

#3 Longer putts... 

 

Sure driver is important because it supports the most important shot... first shot at the flag. But we’ve all made par/birds after bad drives, just watched Phil recently make a bird after he sprayed it.  But no one makes birds after bad putting. 

Edited by Barfolomew
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