Most of the strokes you take in a round of golf are from around the greens.
So, it stands to reason that most of your practice time should be spent in the short-game area.
One shot in particular that can save you a bunch of strokes is one often overlooked by amateur golfers and it's one that was on full display at the Valero Texas Open -- the bump and run.
For some reason, a lot of golfers have it engrained in them that the closer they are to the green, the shorter/more lofted club they should be playing. That's just not the case, explains 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi.
"Knowing how and when to play a bump and run shot is a great asset," Guzzi said. "If you trust it, it can be the difference between a great up and down for par and a big number."
Here's how you do it:
1. Take your 8-iron through pitching wedge to the short game area.
With those three clubs, you've got yourself three options that will allow the ball to roll out and have some pop to it after it hits the ground.
2. Pay attention to what the ball does when it hits the ground.
The ball is going to react differently to the turf on every shot you hit. The longer the club, the harder the ball will skip forward when it hits the ground. The shorter the club, the more spin and the less roll out. Know what each club does.
3. Remember to use your regular chipping motion.
The only difference between a bump and run and a chip with a sand-wedge is you're keeping it lower to the ground. There's no need to change your set up. Hit a regular chip, but instead of the hole being your target, have an intermediate target in between -- the target, or patch of grass, you want to hit before the green where you want the ball to start rolling.
4. For a longer pitch shot/bump and run, it's OK to use your lofted clubs.
If you want to try a bump and run from say 40-50 yards out, that's the perfect spot to do so with a pitching wedge or gap wedge. From that distance, you're creating acceleration and speed through your shot that just can't be generated from just off the green. A lower shot with a lofted club from that far out will still bounce and skip forward, but also provide that little bit of "stick" you want to deaden the shot.
The bump and run was on full display in San Antonio over the weekend.
Andrew Landry won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday -- his first on the PGA Tour. He played fantastic golf all week, but his lone bogey of the final round came at the 11th hole with an interesting decision from the back of the green.
Landry attempted an uphill bump and run shot, but since he chose a lofted club -- as opposed to say an 8- or 9-iron -- the spin he generated with whichever wedge he used caused the ball to die as soon as it "bumped," therefore eliminating the "run."
"I was a little surprised by that play from that spot," Guzzi said. "When you take an 8- or 9- iron from that spot, you're still going to have that giddy-up once the ball hits the turf and then rolls onto the green."
Again, Landry managed to recover beautifully and it wasn't an issue. It's only fair to note he also had his share of perfectly executed bump-and-runs throughout the week to save pars.
Guzzi said that the most important thing for golfers to realize is that they have options around the greens. A chip shot isn't always meant to be just flipping a lob wedge or a sand wedge on the green and right at the hole.
This is especially true when you've short-sided yourself and don't have a whole lot of green to work with. In that situation -- to get close -- you need to execute the perfect flop shot. In most cases, however, that shot is still going to run out and leave you a long putt coming back if the ball even holds the green.
"When I take students to the short-game area, I like to see what their first play is going to be," Guzzi said. "More often than not, they reach for that lofted club. It's just one-dimensional thinking. If you opt for a bump and run instead, you have a chance to get up and down from what would seem like an impossible position."
Arguably the best bump and run shot ever executed came in a playoff during the 1987 Masters. Augusta's own Larry Mize found himself pin-high, but 15 or so yards right of the 11th green in two shots.
Had Mize tried to go at the hole with a lofted club to a green that was running away from him, there's a good chance his ball could have met a watery grave.
Instead, he went with a bump and run. The ball hit the ground short of the green twice before finding the green, rolling like a put and dropping in the hole for the unlikeliest of birdies.
When Greg Norman failed to match the birdie moments later, Mize won the green jacket.
"That's just textbook bump and run right there," Guzzi said. "It doesn't get better than that."
And one final thought...
"If hitting a bump and run is something that you don't feel comfortable with, there's nothing wrong with hitting a shot on the green and past the flag," Guzzi said. "But if you put some time into it and watch the ball hit short of the green and run on, you see the shot better and come to understand that it's a safer play."