Mastering the In-Between Shots

You Need More Than 14 Shots

Wind, lie, and elevation are just three of the things that make every shot in golf more than just the yardage.  While the possible shots are infinite, we can carry a maximum of fourteen clubs.  If you want to be better equipped to deal with all the things the course can throw at you, you need to master the in-between shots.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You want to improve your scores

You want to add versatility to your game

Why Partial Shots are Hard

Hitting an in-between shot should be easy: make your normal swing but smaller.  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  Often, players who try to take something off their swing end up laying the sod over the ball.

Why does this happen?  Your golf swing has a lot of moving parts, and it’s reliant on timing.  Your body is used to the feel and tempo of a full backswing before starting the downswing.  With a partial swing, the timing can feel different, and you’re trying to move into the downswing from a different position.  It can feel like trying to fire a slingshot without putting tension on the rubber band.

13 More Shots the Easy Way

The first step to adding more shots to your bag doesn’t require you to overcome the problem above.  All it takes is moving your hands to the bottom of the grip.  You’ve just removed about an inch of length from your club making it something in between the full length version and the club below it.

As I’m going to say about every tactic discussed here, you need to practice with this to find out what it does for you.  On average, how much distance does it take off?  Does it change the trajectory?  Does it change the shot shape?  It may also change the consistency of your ball striking.

A final note on this concept: avoid getting too cute with how many different hand positions you use.  I have seen Tour players talk about moving their hands to three or four different locations on the grip, but I think this is a bad idea.  Even for a Tour player, it’s more psychology than reality.  When you look at the data, even Tour ball striking isn’t consistent enough to see meaningful variance in 1/4″ grip changes.  Recreational players should stick to a “full length” grip and one that chokes down to the metal.

Growing Your Repertoire

If you want to add more versatility to your shot making, you’ll need to vary the length of your backswing.  As with hand position, I strongly recommend starting with something that’s substantially different than your full swing.

My suggestion is to try a half swing.  Make a backswing that feels waist high.  This is important: it doesn’t matter if it’s actually waist high.  My half swing gets the club head to shoulder height most of the time, but it works.  Having a consistent, repeatable feel is what’s important.

The reason that I like using a half swing instead of 3/4 or 80% is that it’s further from your full swing.  As you get closer to your full swing, your body will be drawn to the motion that it’s more familiar with.  This can lead to the issues I mentioned earlier.  Creating a half swing is almost like starting from scratch.

Again, this is something you’re going to want to practice with.  If this is going to be a reliable tool on the course, you need to know the distance of your half swing as well as the trajectory and shape.  Also, keep in mind that these things will vary throughout your bag.  You may hit a pronounced draw with your half-wedges but a half-4I flies straight.

Filling Out Your Arsenal

With a half shot in the bag, plus two hand positions, you’re now able to hit four shots with every club.  This puts you ahead of most golfers and well on your way to meeting any challenge the course may throw at you.  It would be completely fine to stop here and just sharpen the tools you have.

For those that want to go even further, the next step would be slotting in a 3/4 shot.  As with the half shot, it doesn’t matter where your hands, arms, or club head actually end, it’s a matter of finding a feel you can rely on.

Getting this shot to be consistent will likely be a bit more difficult because it is closer to your full swing.  It’s common to get out of sync from either rushing your downswing or being too lackadaisical.  To combat this, I recommend using Tour Tempo [learn all about it HERE].  Having the cues can keep the tension in your slingshot, even with the shorter backswing.

Once more, make sure you practice with this.  Depending on your swing speed, you may not see a huge distance gap between your 3/4 and full swings, in which case you should stick to practicing one or the other.  However, you might find a difference in trajectory or shot shape that makes the 3/4 shot a meaningful addition.

What tactics do you use to add variety to your shot making?

Share your ideas in the comments section!

Matt Saternus
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  1. Great article, Matt. Another tool I add to the toolbox is varying ball position. I have found that in addition to needing in-between yardages, I often need different shot shapes to get around trees I inevitably find myself in. I think this is different than “shaping” the ball on demand like hitting draws and fades to attack pins. I’m not that good so I tend to hit a stock draw 95% of the time, but I know, for example, putting the ball a “ball” or two back in my stance and hitting punch shots from that position results in low slices so I can rely on a low slice whenever I need it.

  2. I used to live near a par 3 course that only had 6 holes, but it was also lit up at night. Holes ranged in yardage from 180 to 100 with a good variety in between. I’d take just a 6 iron, a lob wedge, and a putter. Learning to hit all the way down to 100 yards with my 180 yard club was a game changer as far as shot making when you are on a real course with a full bag. Kind of took me back to when I learned to play and only had a 3w,7i,pw,and putter.

  3. Rick Bennett

    Your tour tempo for $25 is which item on their web site. Not sure what you think would help an average senior golfer but willing to pay $25.

  4. Robert Ross

    Great article. Another “cheat” I use is tee height. Suppose you’re on a par 3 and you’re in between clubs. I find that if I tee it up a little higher than normal, I tend to hit higher on the face and the ball doesn’t travel as far.
    Another good shot to have in the bag is being able to punch a 3 wood or long iron when you’re under some trees and need to keep the ball low and can’t do a full back swing but need to advance it down the fairway. Of course, if you can put it in the fairway to begin with, you wouldn’t need this shot.

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