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Putt With Irons To Save Strokes Around The Green
by Golf Illustrated

If lower scores, fewer short-game mistakes, improved consistency and less stress on tough greenside shots sound alluring, consider putting with lofted irons. This short-game technique can pay big dividends.

While covering the PGA Tour as a broadcaster, Ken Venturi often stated his belief that touring pros should use a putter whenever possible around the greens. His reasoning was simple. Golfers are more accurate, in terms of direction and distance, and make fewer mishits with a putter than when chipping. They?re able to better control the ball and the outcome. Venturi would often lament that a poor putt almost always produced a better result than a good chip.

Although Venturi?s advice is sound, recreational players rarely enjoy manicured courses like those used for tour events with fringe and fairway cuts that are practically green-like. On public courses, putts from the fringe and up to 10 yards off the green can be treacherous. Putting through fringe grass can be a real problem.

However, chipping like the pros often leads to chili-dipped 3-foot shots or skulled shots that fly the green.

Few amateurs have the touch, skill or nerves required to make delicate, lofted shots that drop at the pin. So why take a chance on a shot that might quickly add two, maybe three, extra strokes?

Club Selection The only element of putting with lofted irons that?s more difficult than putting on the green is club selection. Instead of using one or two clubs to chip (usually wedges), or one club to putt, you will select from as many as seven or eight clubs. This normally includes the 4-iron through the pitching wedge.

In general, use less-lofted clubs just off the green and graduate to more-lofted clubs as you move away from the green. Choose the least-lofted club possible that makes the ball travel the necessary distance with the shortest stroke possible. No matter what, don?t flirt with the fringe. Use enough loft and enough stroke to get the ball onto the green. This is critical to success.

Of course, club selection depends on how far the ball is from the green and where the pin is situated. If the ball is just off the green a foot or two and the pin is at a moderate distance, say 25 feet away, a 5- or 6-iron with an average-length putting stroke will get the ball to the hole.

Move the ball 4 or 5 feet farther back and you will want to switch to a 7-iron. The 7-iron provides the loft to get the ball over the fringe yet still rolls the ball to the hole. With a 5- or 6-iron, the stroke required to clear the fringe would make the ball come off the clubface too hot.

Likewise, if you?re just off the green and the cup position is close, say 12 to 14 feet away, you should employ a more-lofted club from the start, perhaps an 8-iron. This club will allow your ball to clear the fringe but not roll as far as it would if hit with a 5- or 6-iron.

Learning which clubs are best for the variety of greenside situations you encounter will take some practice. However, developing a basic plan of attack won?t take long. What might take a little bit of time is simply getting accustomed to the feel of this new style of chipping. Still, the benefits far outweigh the practice time you?ll need to groove the stroke and produce great results.

Although some golfers are able to include a sand wedge in their club selection when using this technique, many players have difficulty making contact with the ball, even with a putting stroke, when using a sand wedge from tight lies. A sand wedge has a lot of sole bounce, which causes the club to deflect (bounce) off a hard surface at impact. This often results in a skulled shot. As you learn this method, leave the sand wedge in your bag. Also, never use a lob or gap wedge for these shots.

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