How to Hit More Greens in Regulation and Lower Your Golf Score

In the previous lesson, Scratch Golf Lesson 03: Fairways in Regulation, we discussed the importance of starting your hole off right by hitting a good drive into the fairway. By playing your second shot from the fairway, you are giving yourself a higher percentage chance of hitting the green compared to hitting from the rough, sand, or behind a tree.

This is the first step to hitting more greens in regulation. Hit more fairways!

Why are hitting greens in regulation so important to your golf score?

Let’s put it this way. Would you rather have birdie putt opportunities or chip shots from 10 yards off the green and out of the rough?

I think most golfers would rather have birdie chances as they give you the opportunity to cut strokes off your score.

When you miss the green in regulation, you place stress on your short game. You’ll be required to pull out your wedge and hit a golf shot that lands on the green, plus rolls the right distance that allows it to snuggle up next to the hole. This can be challenging to accomplish.

Carry vs Roll is part of “chipping feel” that takes lots of repetitions to acquire. And even when you have a good feel for the carry and roll, wet grass, thick rough, and other course conditions can derail your envisioned chip shot making you come up short or blade the shot altogether.

Short game is an area many amateur golfers lack and without these skills, it’s tough to be a scratch golfer.

So to avoid stressing the short game, let’s help you improve your greens in regulation percentage and start giving yourself more birdie opportunities.

3 Ways to Increase Your Greens in Regulation

Tip #1: Hit More Fairways to Hit More Greens

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, hitting fairways is very important to setting up a successful approach shot and GIR opportunity.

One idea you’ve likely thought of before is hitting 300+ yard drives because you know it will leave you a shorter second shot with a wedge or short iron. While this can be a great strategy if you’re hitting those drives into the fairway, it often times leads to out of control swings that get you into trouble.

Instead of trying to bomb 300+ yard drives, consider accuracy and control as more important factors when stepping up to hit your tee shot. Choke down a little on the driver to give yourself more control.

Additionally, you could swap clubs to something you feel more comfortable hitting such as a 3 wood or 5 wood.

Sometimes I’ll even dial it back to a 4 iron, sacrificing 60-70 yards in order to ensure I hit the fairway. One hole in particular is a 390 yard par 4 with woods on both sides of the fairway, starting at about the 150 yard marker and running all the way to the green.

It’s tempting to bomb a drive and leave yourself 80 yards into the green, but you’re risking being behind trees and your ball being nestled up against tree roots in the woods. Instead, I lay back to the 150 yard marker or further to ensure I won’t be in the woods if my drive doesn’t go straight.

The summary of tip #1 is select a club you’re most confident and start hitting more fairways without sacrificing too much distance.

Tip #2: Lay up to your strongest club distances

Let’s consider a 560 yard par 5 for this example. For many golfers, this would be a tough hole to go for it in two strokes. The key strategy to consider here is picking out the distance you’re strongest from that you want to be your approach shot.

For example, my strength is 120 yard wedge shots because I can take a full swing with a pitching wedge or gap wedge and get the ball to go roughly 120 yards and fairly straight. I also have good ball striking with this club and rarely chunk or blade the shot.

My weakness on the other hand would be the 60 yard wedge shot. I can’t take a full swing with my wedges, which makes the distance and power tough to gauge during the swing. I also tend to chunk or blade these shots more frequently than other shots.

On a 560 yard par 5 I would come up with a game plan of how I’m going to set myself up for a 120 yard approach shot on shot #3 instead of hitting my first two shots as far as possible, leaving myself 60 yards into the green.

To reach the 120 yard zone, my first two shots need to move the ball 440 yards so I may start out with a 270 yard drive and a 170 yard easy, controlled 6 iron.

Another example is a 380 yard par 4. Instead of maximizing your 270 yard drive that leaves you 110 yards, you could hit a wood that leaves you 140 yards to the green if the 140 yard shot is stronger than your 110 yard shot.

The summary for tip #2, is utilize your strengths and figure out what yardages you want to hit to on each hole off the tee to give yourself a strong approach shot into the green.

Free Resource: The Best 15 Drills that Helped Me Shoot Par Golf

Tip #3: Know When to Go For the Pin and When Not To

The first tip talked about hitting more fairways to set yourself for a higher percentage chance of hitting the green in regulation. The second tip talked about hitting to a specific yardage that you’re most confident from, giving yourself a higher percent chance of hitting the green.

Tip #3 is about flag hunting.

Many beginners will constantly aim at the flag and go for it every hole. The professional golfers and scratch golfers understand when to go for it and when to lay off the trigger.

The reality is that most golfers won’t hit the perfect distance and won’t hit straight, so aiming at the flag stick rarely works out in your favor unless you’re a professional golfer.

In most cases, it’s best to just aim for the center of the green. This allows yourself a margin of error left or right in case you don’t hit straight. It also allows you a margin of error long and short in case you misjudge distance or mishit the ball.

Times you should definitely NOT go for the flag include:

  • Guarded by bunkers
  • Guarded by water
  • Very close to the edges of the green

In these times, you’re best bet is aiming dead center of the green and letting natural error possibly bring you back close to the flag stick by accident. I’ve had some shots before where I wasn’t flag hunting and ended up a few feet from the hole.

Times you can go for the pin include:

  • Dead center of the green
  • Favorable slopes that will stop your ball
  • Favorable slopes that will funnel your ball to the hole
  • Hitting from a distance or with a club that you have a high percentage of skill and accuracy

In these cases, go for the pin and give yourself a chance at birdie! Don’t hold yourself back and potentially cost yourself a stroke you could have gained back on your scorecard from a birdie.

Concluding Thoughts on How to Hit More Greens in Regulation

Overall, if you want to reach scratch golf then you need to increase the number of greens in regulation you are hitting per round. This will give you more birdie opportunities which can lower your golf score.

It can also cut down on the bogies that result from poor chipping and wedge play around the greens. By being safely on the green in regulation, you have a high percentage chance of making par, plus the upside of a potential birdie.

In reality, you can shoot scratch golf without any birdies at all. Just hit lots of greens and walk away with pars! Easier said than done of course, but today you have 3 key tips that will help you hit more greens:

  1. Set yourself up for an easier approach shot by being in the fairway off the tee
  2. Pick out distances you’re strong from and get yourself to these distances for your approach shot
  3. Know when to safely aim for the middle of the green and when to go for the pin trying to make birdie

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