How to Par on a Links Course
The only certainty when playing a links course is this. With the wind that's certain to blow and the wild bounces that are so common to links golf, we're going to miss greens. That means the winner will have to show some creativity and touch to save par - or even make a good bogey when double or triple could be in play.
Classic links courses like Troon have a wide variety of slopes, valleys and run-up areas around their greens. On these courses, a straightforward chip shot is not always going to work.
When I won at Muirfield in 2002, it was because I felt comfortable playing three shots I don't hit as often at a regular PGA Tour stop - a lob shot to a tight pin, a bump-and-run chip into a hill and a putt from well off the green.
Even if you don't play many true links courses, you'll have more confidence in your short game if you have more options available to you.
I've used these shots everywhere from Dubai to Augusta. It's great to have them when you need them.
1) Fly it to the hole
If there's not much room between the edge of the green and the flag, you've got to hit a high shot to get it close. Set up with your shoulders more level with the slope and your hands forward, ahead of the ball. The upslope will help you hit a high, soft-landing shot with your sand-wedge, so you don't need to help the ball get up. Make a firm, downward strike.
2) Bump it into the hill
3) Roll it with the putter
If you have flat, reasonably good turf between you and the green - fairway or fringe grass, and no sprinkler heads or other hazards - a long putt is never a bad choice instead of a chip. Wind is less of a factor when you keep the ball on the ground, and this shot is certainly easier on the nerves when you're in a pressure situation.
You can miss-hit it a little bit and still get decent results. I've used this shot from as far away as 20 yards off the green. The key is to make a full, firm, downswing and follow-through.
Feel the weight of the putter in your practice stroke, make your decision about speed, then forget about the consequences and let the shot go. If you decelerate and hit it tentatively, you might not even get the ball to the putting surface.