BirdiesUp Golf Logo

Best Approach Shot Strategies in Golf

Elevate your golf game with winning approach shot strategies! Learn yardage tips, club selection, aiming techniques & more to conquer any situation & lower your scores.
Approach Shot in Golf

When close to the greens, people under-value how important it is to practice these short little swings. These shots seem simple and you did a great job getting to that position but you have to realize that you should be focusing on how close you will get to the hole rather than just getting on the green. This shot requires a blend of precision, distance control, and strategic thinking. Let’s discuss how to approach and succeed with this shot that will save you strokes more than you think.

Benefits of Mastering Approach Shots

  • Improved confidence: Mastering different approach shots fosters confidence and a sense of control on the course, allowing you to tackle any situation with a composed mind.
  • Reduced frustration: By having the right tools and strategies in your arsenal, you can minimize mishits and wasted strokes, leading to a more enjoyable golfing experience.
  • Lower scores: You spent all that time on the range with the drives but this is where you can save your pars and make birdies to make up for other mistakes.
  • Flexible shot types: Not all of your shots will be the exact yardages when you practiced or perfect lies so be creative with your shots when practicing.  

Essential Skills and Strategies for Hitting Approach Shots

1. Get Exact yardage

Use a rangefinder or GPS device to determine the exact distance to the green, factoring in any slope or elevation changes. Use your time on the driving range to determine how far each type of shot will travel.

2. Choose the right club

It’s frustrating to hit the perfect shot but you hit the wrong club.  Take in consideration the wind, elevation, and where the ball lies to your feet.  

3. Aim with intention

Don’t just aim for the green! Pick a specific landing zone based on pin location, green contour if you know it or any bunkers that could come into play. Visualize the ball flight and trajectory and commit to your shot.

4. Be confident with your shot 

I see lots of bad contact for such an important shot so use your practice swing as a way to feel confident and balanced.

5. Choke down on your club

Choking down on a golf club can help you control this swing, leading to more accurate shots. It will reduce your distance but that does not matter since it’s an approach shot, so don’t rush this shot with a shorter club but find a good tempo to help you decide how far to land it. 

Various Approach Shots Scenarios

Distance to the green:

  • Long approach shots (150-200 yards): Prioritize distance control over pinpoint accuracy. Choose long irons or hybrids, aiming for the center of the green to avoid trouble zones.
  • Short approach shots (less than 100 yards): Focus on accuracy and trajectory. Utilize wedges, aiming for specific landing zones based on green complexity and pin location.

Lie of the ball:

  • Uphill lie: Aim slightly right (for right-handed golfers) to compensate for the ball not rolling as far after landing. Consider using one more club due to the uphill slope reducing distance. Hitting an uphill lie take practice, so I would recommend practicing this shot on the range.
  • Downhill lie: Adjust your aim slightly left (for right-handed golfers) to compensate for the ball rolling forward after landing. Consider using one less club due to the downhill slope aiding distance.
  • Fairway lie: This is considered the ideal lie, allowing for a full swing with minimal adjustments.
  • Rough lie: Expect reduced distance, less spin and more roll out. Choose a club or two more, and focus on making clean contact
  • Sand trap: Utilize sand wedge or other specific clubs designed for bunker shots. Focus on proper technique to ensure the ball escapes the sand cleanly.

Greenside features:

  • Elevated green: Always take more club if the green is elevated and watch out for those front pin locations with the false front.
  • Sloping green: Consider the slope’s direction and adjust your aim accordingly. Aim uphill for a draw shot (ball curves right for right-handed golfers) to hold the green, and aim downhill for a fade shot (ball curves left for right-handed golfers) to avoid rolling off.
  • Water hazard near the green: Be cautious and choose a club that allows for a comfortable margin of error.

These are just some examples, and the specific adjustments will depend on the unique situation and your personal skill level. 

FAQs: Addressing Common Approach Shot Concerns

Q: How much should I practice my approach shots?

A: Dedicate a significant portion of your practice sessions (both on the course and on the range) to honing your approach shots. This includes mastering different types of shots, understanding club distances, and practicing under various lie and weather conditions.

Q: How can I manage my emotions during pressure-filled approach shots?

A: Develop a pre-shot routine that includes deep breathing exercises and visualization of a successful shot. Stay present in the moment and focus on executing your chosen strategy. The most consistent iron players always seem balanced with their swing so it’s not how far you hit your irons but how accurate you are no matter what club you use.

Remember, mastering approach shots takes time, dedication, and a willingness to learn. By understanding these factors and adapting your approach accordingly, you can become a more versatile and adaptable golfer, ready to conquer any challenge on the course.

Table of Contents

Picture of V Tongwarin

V Tongwarin

Visanu Tongwarin or “Coach V” is a Class A PGA Teaching Professional at Legacy Ridge Golf Course and Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster, Colorado. V's brings his passion for teaching the game of golf to all levels of golfers from running children clinics to training state champions and seasoned professionals.