article by Golf Monthly in association with TaylorMade.
Creating good birdie opportunities isn't just about firing your irons close. If your distance control isn't spot on, an arrow-straight approach may not find the green. To control your distance, you need to make minor adjustments to the way you attack each shot. Retief explain his strategy from three key yardages - 200, 150 and 100.
The first thing to do from any yardage is to assess the lie of the land around your ball and up at the green itself. These slopes, however small, will dictate the way you play the shot, as will the location of the pin. In this instance the ball is slightly below my feet while the pin is on the right-hand portion of the green, so it makes sense to hit a gentle fade. It's also easier to hit a fade with a straighter-faced club. At the same time it should offer good control when it lands on the green.
Once you have determined what sort of shot you will hit, it is vital to select the right club. Remember to ignore what others are hitting and concentrate solely on your game and your distance. From 200 yards a 5-iron is usually the correct club for me, but after studying the particulars of this shot - such as the fact that it is playing uphill - I will hit a soft 4-iron with a gentle fade. Hitting a three-quarters shot will also help me keep the ball down, out of the wind.
From 150 yards, an 8-iron is perfect for me, but whatever iron you choose make sure that you aren't hitting it flat-out. At the top of my backswing I'm in a controlled position. If you hit the ball hard from this range, too much backspin will cause it to balloon into the wind. To maintain a lower flight, take one extra club, grip down the shaft and swing easy. This will help you control both distance and trajectory.
From 100 yards out there are plenty of ways to get the ball close, so again you must think carefully about the conditions, the lie of the land and the pin placement. The wind is into my face here so I'll play a little 'knock down' shot to keep it below the breeze, it will also allow me correctly judge the spin giving me the distance control I need.
If you are playing a 'knock down' shot make sure the ball sits back in your stance and close the face fractionally (if you don't do this the club will sit open at address). If you are after a higher flight move the ball forward in your stance.
The most crucial aspect in getting your yardages right is to commit fully to the shot - something that many amateurs fail to do, especially when they are nervous about the trouble that often surrounds greens. Whether you are hitting the shot high or low, remember that your weight should ALWAYS move onto your left side through impact. Never lean back as this will increase your chances of thin or duff strikes. In the perfect finish position, you right heel should be off the ground and your upper body should rotate to face the target.