Monday, September 10, 2007

Punch Shots

by Mark Blakemore, PGA Professional

What is a punch shot?
Punch shots can be referred to by different names. You may have heard things said by pros or TV commentators like, "I just punched a little 9 iron" or "It's a little knockdown 6 iron" or "Look at how he shut off that follow-through." The definition of a punch shot might be a bit subjective (it depends on who you ask). But generally it is a shot with and abbreviated swing, especially an abbreviated follow-through. Depending on who is playing the shot and the situation they may call it a punch shot, a knockdown shot, a squeeze or other names.

Why would you want to hit a punch shot?
You see touring pros on TV hit punch shots all the time. There might be many reasons for hitting a punch shot, but the most common reasons are
* To keep the trajectory of the shot down lower than usual (handy in the wind)
* To have better feel for the force applied to the shot, distance control (handy when the specific yardage you need is between clubs)
* To decrease the amount of spin on the ball (assuming decent contact, the harder the ball is hit the more spin the ball will have on it - and good players don't always want the maximum amount of spin on the ball)
* The backswing or follow-through are obstructed in some way (unavoidable at times when you find yourself in tree trouble)

Here's a situation that comes to mind where I would play a punch shot. I'm thinking of a par 3 that I have played a few times that is scary to me. It's only about 165 yards, but it has a real deep and narrow green with a hazard/gully short of the green and wrapping all the way back on the left side, and OB long and all along the right side (you have to cross a bridge to get to the green). As if that's not enough to contend with, the wind is always blowing very hard in your face and a bit to the right, and the tee is elevated about 30 feet. Without wind this situation would call for probably a smooth 8 iron for me. But in that much wind and with that much trouble all around the green I don't have the... nerve smile to take a full swing and throw the ball way up in the air. So I pull out a 5 or 6 iron instead and use a little half swing with a half follow-through, making sure that I keep my hands forward. I like to think of it as just a big chip shot. The result is a shot with a penetrating trajectory that does not climb up into the wind and that carries approximately the right distance.

How do you hit a punch shot?
Punch shots are usually played by somewhat more advanced players, as they are mainly about feel. Because they are about feel techniques probably vary a bit between individuals (just as do the names for the shot). But an easy way to think about it is that it is a partial shot (i.e., not a full swing). So, as an example, a common punch shot might begin with a backswing where the hands only reach shoulder-high and finish with the hands again shoulder high on the follow-through. It is also common to exaggerate the position of the hands forward (toward the target) to decrease the loft of the face a bit and keep the trajectory down.

If this type of shot sounds interesting to you ask a reputable teaching professional about it and start experimenting on the range. If you are a beginner or a high-handicapper it is probably not a necessary part of your repertoire just yet, and may just confuse an already-confused issue. But for middle and lower handicap players a punch shot/knockdown shot (whatever you want to call it) can come in handy. I don't ever play a round of golf without one.

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