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Opinion & Analysis

What’s Your Favorite Shot to Hit?



What’s your favorite shot? I mean other than the tap-in for birdie?

“A big drive, out past everyone I’m playing with,” said Eddie, who’d out-driven me all day. He’s from British Columbia and we were on the 14th hole at Indian Wells Celebrity course.

“That’s why he plays with me,” said his friend Brandon who was 5 over through 13. “He’s always longer than me off the tee. Doesn’t mean I don’t beat him though.”

Brandon’s favorite shot is a wedge from around the green, and he’d demonstrated it earlier with a couple of good up-and-downs for par. “I just feel confident I can figure out where to land the ball so it will get near the hole and that I can hit that spot — or nearby.”

“Any shot that doesn’t have water in play is fine with me,” said Garett, a long-hitting though erratic 20-something (age, not handicap) playing at Sierra Lakes. His buddy Daniel, who clearly had made the transformation from college athlete to good golfer, said his favorite shot was a birdie putt from anywhere.

[quote_box_center]“I’d love an 8- to 15-foot birdie putt, but really, anytime I have a birdie putt, even if it’s 35 feet, I’m happy,” he said. “First, it means I hit a good or maybe even great approach shot, and second, now I’ve got my putter, my favorite club in the bag, in my hands.”[/quote_box_center]

Me, I just get more nervous when I’ve got a chance to turn a three-putt birdie into bogey.

“No, you can’t worry about that,” Daniel said. And I had the feeling he meant it.

[quote_box_center]“I love a short par-4 where you can hit a 3-wood or hybrid off the tee and then have a wedge or 9-iron into the green,” Alec told me at San Dimas Canyon. “They’re the two easiest shots for me to hit, maybe because I’m not trying to kill the ball.”[/quote_box_center]

Playing in the threesome with Alec, Jonathan, a physically unimposing guy a little taller than average, maybe a stroke under 6 feet, disagreed.

[quote_box_center]“I love to kill the ball,” he said. “To watch it take off from the tee and in that instant I already know I crushed it. Man, that’s the best feeling.”[/quote_box_center]

And I wondered what it feels like, not ever having hit a drive over 260 myself — and that probably required some combination of downhill and tailwind.

“You know it at contact,” he said, and I remembered the drive he hit on No. 3 earlier; it hung in the air high against the mountain backdrop for a long time until it disappeared over the hillside past the big pond.

“In your follow through your brain is going, ‘Wow, yeah, all right, move just a little left,’ and you see the ball take-off like a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier and it’s just a rocket shot.” And I suppose I would mix metaphors, too, if I ever hit one like that.

“A wedge from 110, third shot on a par-5,” said Sam who likes to play at Desert Willow where he gets the resident-rate savings even though he was born and raised and lives most of the year 3,000 miles away. “I play the white tees here at Firecliff, from the blues, I never get to 110 on the par-5s.”

“What shot do I want if I could choose any shot to hit?” asked Dillon, a high single-digit, early-40s guy who did indeed correctly understand my question.

[quote_box_center]“What shot don’t I want? Anything I could chili-dip or shank. Nothing that has to carry over water. Not a drive, those are problematic.”[/quote_box_center]

He was really giving this some thought.

“I love a 130-yard to 150-yard downhill shot to a green. An 8- or 9-iron, especially when the ball is sitting up in the fairway: a perfect lie, on nice firm, springy turf and the green is right in front, below you, and you see the flag more than you see the traps surrounding the green,” Dillon was on a roll.

[quote_box_center]“The mountains are in the background behind the green, or maybe it’s the ocean, or just some trees, or the desert like here. It’s still all green and beautiful. And I’m here with my dad or good friends and we’re drinking beers and smoking cigars. It’s noon on a weekday; a light, comfortable breeze is blowing, it’s nearly 80 degrees outside and we’re only a few over par with some birdie holes coming up.”[/quote_box_center]

I was aware as he spoke that the answer I’d thought was about one anticipated result was instead much grander. When I’d considered the one shot that’s my favorite to hit — with my solitary focus on a club meeting a ball to produce an outcome — the playing of the stroke overwhelmed the essence of the game.

In the end, I realize, it doesn’t really make a difference if the ball ends up tight to the flag, or 300 yards off the tee. Since I’m not getting paid to play, golf is actually about so much more than just the score.

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Tom Hill is a 9.7 handicap, author and former radio reporter. Hill is the author of the recently released fiction novel, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, a humorous golf saga of one player’s unexpected attempt to shoot a score he never before thought possible. Kirkus Reviews raved about A Perfect Lie, (It) “has the immediacy of a memoir…it’s no gimme but Hill nails it square.” ( A Perfect Lie is available as an ebook or paperback through and the first three chapters are available online to sample. Hill is a dedicated golfer who has played more than 2,000 rounds in the past 30 years and had a one-time personal best handicap of 5.5. As a freelance radio reporter, Hill covered more than 60 PGA and LPGA tournaments working for CBS Radio, ABC Radio, AP Audio, The Mutual Broadcasting System and individual radio stations around the country. “Few knew my name and no one saw my face,” he says, “but millions heard my voice.” Hill is the father of three sons and lives with his wife, Arava Talve, in southern California where he chases after a little white ball as often as he can.



  1. Mike T

    Apr 8, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Whoops, wrong article… Big driver, for sure, is what I play for.

  2. Mike T

    Apr 8, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Makes complete sense, unlike those barefoot style golf shoes. Unfortunately the price is a ripoff for a product that cost the same to make as any other pair of Adidas.

  3. other paul

    Apr 7, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Any drive with the wind, for me. My favorite local course has a shorter (520 ish) par 5 that tends to run with the wind. Love trying to see if I can hit a 8i or less at it. I think I am 1 for 20 tries ????

  4. Tyler

    Apr 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    My favorite shot is a second shot 250+ yard bullet on a par 5 with a 3w off the deck. When I execute that shot perfectly there’s nothing that makes me feel more like a good player than that. That shot separates the duffers from the players.

  5. Chad

    Apr 2, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    High baby draw all day

  6. SMH

    Apr 2, 2015 at 11:33 am

    personally my favorite shot is snap hooking one OB

  7. CHRIS

    Apr 2, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Wedge shots. Anything 100 yards and in. 8 out 10 times I’m within 8 feet.

  8. Gib15

    Apr 1, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Tequila. Good in all weather conditions and very playable on any course.

  9. Busterpar

    Apr 1, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    My favorite shot is my next one. Just like my favorite club is the next one I get to use. If I wait for a “favorite” shot, I’d just be looking at all the others negatively. Can’t play golf that way!

    • Tom HIll

      Apr 1, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Of course you are correct Buster, but that wouldn’t make a real funny or very interesting golf story. Thanks. Hey – you can buy my book, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, at and use the coupon code GOLFWRX for free shipping on the paperback.

  10. JMaron

    Apr 1, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Anytime I have an iron into a par 5.

  11. Dave N

    Apr 1, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    For me, it’s usually an approach shot that is between clubs and requires clearly obvious shaping, like a choked up draw from 130 from a side hill lie to a back left pin. Or a high fade to avoid some limbs of a greenside tree because I was a little erratic off the tee. I’m not always successful, but I love the challenge and it’s so rewarding to pull it of whether I’m out with my buddies playing for $ or trying to squeeze in a few holes solo before the sun goes down.

  12. Ron

    Apr 1, 2015 at 10:58 am

    My favorite shot is a cut SW to a tight pin placement. Love the feel and control! Oh, yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. TJ Horton

    Apr 1, 2015 at 8:59 am

    A good one…badumtiss

  14. Alex T

    Mar 31, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Cool article, reminds me that every golfer is different and what might be a perfect shot-making opportunity for one might be someone else’s nightmare. Personally I love it when it’s windy. When the conditions are good I put too much pressure on myself to hit a perfect shot because I know there’s no excuses if I don’t execute well. Gimme a swirling headwind, slightly downhill, slightly dog-legged tee shot (left or right doesn’t make any difference to me) and pass me my three wood. There’s nothing I love more than sculpting a low slinging hook; gimme that shot and I guarantee I’ll find the fairway everytime, sometimes even the green on anything less than 260 yards. Gimme gorgeous sunshine, firm fairways and no wind/rain and the chances are I’ll top it. Golf is such a weird sport like that.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Consistent setup is key to success



In follow up to last week’s post, Top 4 reasons golfers don’t improve, I want to dive into what I believe to be the most common problem affecting mid- to high-handicap players. This is a big topic that will help nearly every golfer, regardless of your skill level, so it’s going to take two articles to cover it.

Here’s part 1.

We all tend to play golf in a constant cycle of swing-and-correction, swing-and-correction, but my observation is that most of the time our bad swings are caused by improper, or inconsistent setup.

I’m a firm believer that once you have played golf for a while, you have probably developed the ability to have a reasonably repeating and effective swing path and method. Even though it might not be textbook, it’s yours and has your fingerprints all over it. And the fact that you occasionally strike really good shots proves that your swing has the capability of producing results that are gratifying.

I certainly don’t suggest you shouldn’t work to improve your swing technique – the better the mechanics, the better and more consistent the results you are going to get. But my point is that your swing has produced good shots before, and it can do so more often if you just “fix” one thing – your starting position.

The single issue that troubles golfers of all skill levels, from tour player to 100-shooter, is the ability to be consistent. And I’m a firm believer that many – if not most – bad shots are the result of a bad starting position. Think of it this way: no matter how good your swing might be, if you start each shot with the ball in a different position in relation to your body core’s rotation axis, you simply cannot get the clubhead back on the ball consistently.

The ball is 1.68” in diameter, and the effective striking surface of an iron or fairway wood is only an inch or so across. That puts pretty tight demands on your ability to get the club behind your head and back on the ball with consistency.

Let’s compare golf to a baseball hitter. He’s standing in the box and the pitch can be anywhere in the strike zone. He’s got to have good technique, but is heavily reliant on his eye/hand coordination to get the bat on the ball. Darn difficult task, which is why the very best hitters only average .350 or so, shank off lots of fouls and completely whiff the ball at least 20% of the time! If you translated that to golf, no one would ever break 150!

The single thing that makes this game remotely playable . . . is that we get to start with the ball in the exact spot where we want it – every time.

I have a friend in the custom club business that did some research measuring the setup consistency of hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. What he found is simple, but revealing. His methodology was to have golfers address and hit a series of 6-iron shots, stepping away and taking a fresh setup for each one. He found that good players with low single-digit handicaps showed the ability to put themselves in almost the exact same position in relation to the ball every time. Measuring from the back of their heels to the ball showed an average deviation from shot to shot of less than 1/4 inch.

But he saw that the higher the handicap, the more shot-to-shot error in setup consistency the golfer exhibited – 20-plus handicap golfers exhibited an average shot-to-shot deviation in distance from the ball of up to two inches or even more! That’s the entire width of the clubhead! It’s a wonder they ever hit it at all!

This variance is a major reason why we can get “in the groove” on the practice range, but have difficulty taking it to the course.

So, think about that for a few days, and next week, I will share how you can quickly build a solid and repeating setup, so that you can give yourself the best chances of hitting good shots more often.

If there is any true “secret” to improving your ball-striking, shotmaking, and scoring, this is certainly it.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: High octane ball compression and artistic touch around the greens



From the Olympics to taking out the glancing blows in your irons and chipping it close. Wisdom in Golf has your back.

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The 19th Hole (Ep. 165): One-on-one with Shane Bacon



Host Michael Williams talks with the co-host of the Golf Channel’s Golf Today about the Open Championship and Collin Morikawa’s place in the history books.

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