The toughest shot in golf is your next one. At least that's the approach you need to take to avoid those dreaded round-killing shanks that make you want to wrap your 5-iron around a pine tree. You've got to keep your cool, and you're going to need that 5-iron.
That's especially true when you're golfing in Myrtle Beach. Going on a golf package puts added pressure on your swing. You didn't come hundreds of miles to play like a hack on the Grand Strand's elite courses so it's important to maintain your focus.
And when you do run into one of the three most difficult shots in golf, take a deep breath and follow these simple rules. While we can't guarantee success, at least you will know you tried to do the right thing even if you made the wrong swing. Here are a few tips on how to handle them:
Plugged bunker shot
You've been here before: You swing hard and the ball makes a beeline into the hole – make that a really big hole filled with sand. You arrive at the bunker to discover half your ball atop the sand and you can only hope the other half is on the green. But it's not, of course, it's buried so deep that you need a garden hoe instead of a sand wedge, but that's the best option in your bag.
A normal bunker shot calls for striking the sand about 2 inches behind the ball to make a perfect pitch, but a plugged shot calls for some adjustments. Instead, mentally draw a square around the ball about 3 inches on each side and try to remove the entire square with your swing. Alter your stance so that the club enters the sand at the same point that your swing would normally contact the ball.
Keep your club face square and use a firm grip so the sand doesn't soften your stroke. Maintaining proper form on your follow-through will put some loft on the ball and take some heat off of the shot. You may not get much roll on the ball but the object here is to get on the green and play the rest of the hole with a putter.
The swing side of a tree
Funny how you can't seem to hit a flag stick but you have no problem landing one beside the only tree near the fairway. Not just beside it, but precisely where the tree is standing in your spot. Short of using a foot wedge or literally being a tree-hugger, you're going to have to play this one left-handed (or vice versa for southpaws).
Again, the object here is to get back on the fairway, so you want to use a sand wedge regardless of your distance to the green. Of course, you don't happen to keep an opposite-handed sand wedge in your bag and you're not ambidextrous (or amphibious for southpaws).
You have two options on how to play this: One, set up for a left-handed swing, turn your wedge upside down and chip it into fair territory. Or two, turn your back to the target, hold the sand wedge backward in your right hand and make a no-look chip shot. No matter which one you choose, just don't hit it next to another tree.
10-foot downhill putt
How can a seemingly simple shot be so unnerving? Short answer: Gravity. The severe downhill slope puts you at serious risk of facing an even longer second shot coming back. The last thing you want to ruin your round is a three-putt on a hole you should have birdied.
Unless you're confident in your ability to simply roll it in and give a Tiger Woods fist pump, the key to this shot is to miss it on the high side. Sure, you want to hole out if you can, but if you are going to err, make sure it’s too little instead of too much. That will ensure an easier second shot and avoid potential disaster.
There are a couple of things you can do to get a better feel for the shot. Take a walk around the hole, bend down and examine your line and the severity of the slope. Use your knowledge from earlier greens to determine how far the ball might travel with just the right nudge. Take a few practice strokes and visualize the ball rolling the distance you want and execute.