When players are hitting the ball fairly solidly, the two reasons for missing greens that I see most often are bad club selection and being overly aggressive.
It is vitally important that every golfer knows how far they hit each club in their bag in the air (or, carry distance) under “normal” conditions. Ask yourself this: How often do your solidly-struck shots fly over the green, and how often do your shots come up short? Check your pride at the door and head to the range with your range finder or someone who can assist you, and find out how far you actually hit each club in the air.
Now that you know your yardages, start the club-selection process by determining how far you are to your target. Once you determine your yardage, quickly go through the following checklist: Is this an uphill or downhill shot? Is the wind helping, hurting or across? Is the lie of my ball going to affect the distance, such as being on a severe uphill or downhill slope? Is there anything else that will affect the distance, such as playing in cold weather or rain?
Playing in Scotland on a cold morning, I hit a 4-iron from 150 yards, which is normally my 8-iron. The shot was at an elevated green and into a breeze that my caddie estimated at over 40 mph. Using this method, I added one club each for the elevation and temperature and two clubs for the wind. Go through this simple and quick checklist and select the right club for the distance the shot will play. Lastly, I often hear players say that they are “in between” clubs. If the hole is located in the front of the green, hit the longer club, as a solid shot will land in the middle of the green and won’t come up short. If the hole is in the back, I hit the shorter club knowing that I won’t go over the green.
Adjust your aim and expectations based on your skill level and the club you are hitting. A smart single-digit handicapper may be able to hit his wedges and short irons more aggressively at flags, but will play to the middle of the green with mid- to long-irons and woods. Higher handicap players will do themselves well by having realistic expectations and hitting toward the middle of the greens with all their clubs, as it will yield them more greens in regulation, more pars, and lower scores. Play your normal shot shape toward the middle of the green. If you fade the ball, don’t try to draw a shot into a tucked flag. Instead, play your shot and give yourself the best chance to get the ball on the green. Now that you’re hitting more greens in regulation, you can make some easy two-putt pars and take some pressure off your short game.