Masters champion Charl Schwartzel exemplified a perfect example of strategy and placement, which led to an eagle during the second round of the South African Open. Viewers are usually treated to eagles that come from smash and gouge play — hitting greens in two shots. Now we see how amateurs, regardless of length off the tee, can position themselves to lower their par-5 scoring average.
The water hazard positioned short of the green on the 17th hole at Bushwillow discourages going for the green in two, but the backstop provides room to get aggressive on the third shot, even when the pin is tucked close to the water.
NOTE: Even when you can go for the green in two, it is not always a good idea. Remember: the longer the club, the harder it is to be precise with distance control. And if going over the green is just as bad or worse than coming up short, think about playing like Schwartzel and laying up to your favorite wedge distance.
Schwartzel left himself an ideal yardage from which he could be aggressive with a wedge, hit his number and know exactly how the ball would react when it hit the putting surface.
One great drill to use to work on your contact and imparting spin with short irons or wedges is the pinch and punch. During your practice swing, make sure you clip some grass and take a bit of turf slightly ahead of where you plan on contacting the ball.
While doing this, finish the practice swing in an abbreviated punch-like motion. A knockdown or punch finish helps build the feel for maintaining shaft angle throughout the swing, a key to striking the ball with a downward path and spinning the shot.
Watch how Charl finishes the full shot. The low and extended arms through impact help to not only flight the shot on a driving trajectory but it also maximizes his spin rate and allows him to rip the ball back to the flag.
He holds a less-than-full finish and shows us that he swings to his exact yardage and shot, another great lesson for amateurs. Just because you are playing from a distance you like, make sure to factor in the green contour and how the shot should be played for the exact shot you are facing.
Making a practice swing that takes a little turf with an aggressive punched upswing will improve your contact and increase your spin rates. Add this better swing motion to a well-planned and visualized shot and a hole-out eagle could be flying your way next time you play.