Greg Norman

Yardage is only the beginning

It pays to know how to move beyond pure distance and consider the more subtle factors.

Nothing’s more frustrating than to hit the right shot with the wrong club. 

In any round of golf you will have to make dozens of decisions regarding the proper club to hit, so it pays to know how to move beyond pure yardage and consider the more subtle factors. 

Take the shorter club when (1) you’re playing downhill or downwind; (2) you’re playing on dry, hard fairways; (3) you’re excited, angry, or for whatever reason your adrenalin is pumping; (4) the worst greenside trouble is beyond the green; (5) you’re basically an aggressive player like me and you’re most comfortable hitting shots full bore; (6) you’re playing an intentional draw or hook; and (7) you have a lie in light rough which will likely produce a flyer.

Take the longer club when (1) you’re playing into the wind or uphill; (2) you’re playing to soft greens with no roll; (3) you’re in a fairway bunker; (4) the worst greenside trouble is short of the green; (5) you’re playing an intentional fade or slice; (6) you’re a smooth-swinging player and you’re most comfortable swinging within yourself.

Between clubs, go with your tendency
When you’re facing a shot that puts you in between clubs, the usual advice is to make a smooth swing with the longer club. I think that works for some players and not others. My own general rule is to go with your first impression, whether that was the long club or the short. Your instinct is usually your best friend.

But when your instinct refuses to make a choice – or tells you that you’re smack between clubs – the best choice is the one that reflects your tendencies as a golfer and person. If you’re what the psychologists call a Type A personality – a hard-driving, impatient sort – you should probably take the shorter club and give it the good aggressive whack you like to use. Tom Watson was this sort of player and he always took the shorter club. If, on the other hand, you’re a milder Type B, more like Ben Crenshaw, with a smooth swing, you’ll usually do best with an unhurried pass with the longer club.

By Greg Norman