How to Win the Closest to the Pin Contest

If the longest driver contest is not your cup of tea, you have another opportunity to win a competition on the golf course by playing closest to the pin.  This contest is exactly as it sounds, the player who can get the ball to stop closest to the pin on a designated hole wins the competition.

In most cases, the closest to the pin contest will take place on a par-3 hole.  The reason being every player begins from the tee box, so the starting position is fair for everyone.  If closest to the pin was played on a par-4 or par-5 hole, players will be playing their approach shots from various lies and distances.  That would make it unfair for those who happened to be in the rough or fairway bunker on that hole.

If you are the first person to play the selected hole on the day, you will be handed a tape measure and a marker.  Having played your shot, you measure the distance between the hole and you ball and write it on the marker.  Each time someone betters the distance, they will add their name and measurement on the marker and so on, until everyone has played the hole in question.

At the end of the event, whoever’s name is on the marker wins the closest to the pin contest. 

It is a very simple game to setup and understand but winning it is not easy.  We have some great tips for your below which will help you in trying to win the closest to the pin contest.

  1. Know Club Distances – You must know how far you can hit the ball with each of your clubs.  When you arrive on the hole for the closest to the pin contest, you do not want to be guessing which club you need to use for the distance to the pin.  You can find this out by practicing at the driving range because if you don’t know this information, you are never going to win.
  2. Pin Position – you will be given the distance from the tee to the green but it is unlikely you will always be given the exact distance to the pin.  However, by looking at the position of the flag (is it in the middle, front or back of the green?) and the size of the green, you can work out roughly the distance to the hole.  This will allow you to make a more informed choice of club.
  3. The Lie – When playing approach shots from the fairway, you have to accept the lie you find but, on a par,-3, you can create any lie you wish.  You can use the tee to position the ball in the perfect position for the club you are using to get the ball close to the pin.  So, if you are using an iron, which is most likely, you will want the head of the tee to be sitting just above the grass.
  4. The Weather – The weather conditions can play a big role during a closest to the pin contest.  If the wind is blowing hard and you are using a lofted club such as a nine iron, the ball could move in the air.  This is tricky but you need to consider the wind when aiming your shot.  If you have the opportunity to watch someone else play the hole before you, it will give you a good idea of what to expect.  Wind can be blowing across you, toward you or away from you.  In addition, if the ground is wet, the ball will not bounce or roll as far on the green as it would if it was dry.
  5. Aim for the Hole – This may seem obvious but then playing a standard round of golf, there will be times when you will not always aim directly for the hole.  Perhaps the pin is close to the edge of the green where there is water for example, so you aim for the larger section of green on the other side of the pin and play your putt from there.  This does not apply for the closest to the pin competition.  It does not matter if you leave your ball safely on the green if it is 40 feet away from the flag, you are not going to win.  Dial in on the pin and make that your only target.  You have just one shot at it so attack.
  6. Short Par-3 – If the hole you are playing is a short par-3, the most important aspect of the shot is the tempo.  The distance to the target is not going to be a problem so all you need to do is focus on making a great contact.  Keep your swing consistent and aim for a nice, high ball flight directly at the pin.
  7. Mid-Range Par-3 – Attacking the pin on a mid-range par-3 can be tricky as club selection is not always easy.  One way to tackle this problem is to move one club down from the club which you know will reach the flag but requires a perfect shot to do so.  By gripping lower on this club, you can still swing as hard as you would normally but without the fear of sending the ball over the back of the green.
  8. Long Par-3 – Playing a long par-3 can be demanding at the best of times but there is added pressure when participating in a closest to the pin contest.  Some players may need to use a hybrid club to reach the green and that can be problematic in terms of stopping the ball close to the pin.  If this is the case, try teeing the ball up and playing the ball slightly forward in the stance.  A smooth, shallow swing is what is required, you do not need to swing aggressively when using the hybrid.
  9. Water – Par-3 holes often have a hazard, such as a bunker or water guarding the green.  In most cases, the water is at the front and you need to play a shot over the water to land on the green.  The most common mistake people make when playing a par-3 over water is to try and hit the ball too hard.  The fear of landing in the water leads to players trying to hit the ball a littler harder to ensure it clears the hazard.  This often has the opposite effect and sees the ball travel a shorter distance due to a lack of technique.  The last thing you want on a closest to the pin contest is to miss the green and land in the hazard.  If you are worried about it, take an extra club and swing easy.
  10. Backspin – Having the ability to stop the ball quickly on the green will help you get it close to the pin.  You can aim directly for the hole knowing you can stop the ball when it lands.  Using a short iron will obviously help but you can also hit the shot without using a tee.  Try placing the ball on he ground and aiming for a descending strike, hitting the back of the ball first before the ground.  Play the ball a little further back in your stance and have your weight slightly on your front leg.  Practice this and if you can get the ball to stop quickly, you may decide you do not need to use a tee after all.

What Exercises Can Increase My Chances of Winning the Closest to the Pin Contest at the Steve Mitchell Classic?

You are most likely to be using an iron when playing the closest to the pin contest.  When playing iron shots, it is important to keep the lead wrist (right hand for right handed players and vice versa for left handed players) flat.

Many iron shots go wrong because the wrist of the bottom hand on the club bends during impact with the ball.  To help keep the wrist flat and have a better chance of winning the closest to the pin contest, try replacing your iron with a dumbbell.  Only use a dumbbell which you know you can lift without injury.  Lift to the halfway point of your backswing and come down slowly as if to strike the golf ball.

Try and keep your wrist flat as you do this and make note of the position of your wrist at what would be the point of impact.  Doing this with a dumbbell rather than a golf club will help train your muscle memory to keep the wrist flat.  You can repeat this exercise five times daily.

Weight transfer is often a major problem when it comes to many types of golf shots.  Iron play is a great example and if you fail to transfer your weight from back to front, you will struggle to get the ball close to the pin.

An exercise which can help you with weight transfer requires an exercise band.  Theses can be purchased from most sports stores.  Wrap the band just above your waist, at belly button height and attach the other end to a door or something solid.  For right handed players, hold the band in your left hand and have the right side of your body facing the door.  Now get into your usual golf stance for playing an approach shot to the green.

Now take your normal backswing and follow through as you would when playing a shot.  You do not need to use a golf club for this exercise.  As you turn and follow through you will feel the resistance the exercise band provides.  You will need to turn quickly and strongly to break through the resistance and don’t forget to complete the finish.

The resistance helps your muscles to get into the required position for good weight transfer.  Muscle memory from this exercise will then transfer to the actual golf swing ready for the closest to the pin contest.

What Drills Can I Do to Increase My Chances of Winning the Closest to the Pin Contest at the Steve Mitchell Classic?

Trying to get the ball close to the pin is not easy and there are several factors which can come into play.  The distance to the pin is one of them and the weather is another.  Having worked out the distance to the hole, you must decide which club you are going to use.  However, depending on wind conditions, this is not always straight forward.

You might find the distance is somewhere in-between two clubs for you and that can be tricky.  We have a drill which will help if you find yourself in this situation.  At the practice range, hit 10 balls using a full swing with each iron and work out the average distance you can hit the ball with each of them.  Now, try holding each iron one inch lower on the grip and take a full swing as before, hitting 10 balls with each and recording the average distance.

Now move your hands a further inch down the grip and repeat the process.  You will find you hit the ball shorter distances the further down you grip the club.  This is very useful when trying to win the closest to the pin contest because it gives you a full range of distances.  If the distance happens to be between two clubs, you know you can grip down on the longer club and hit the ball the required distance.

One of the common faults when playing iron shots is hitting the ball fat.  This is when you hit the ground too early ahead of the ball and this reduces the distance of the shot.  When you are participating in a closest to the pin contest, the last thing you want is to come up short of the flag or even the green.

If you find you catch some of your irons fat, there is a simple drill which can help.  When lining up at address, you will be looking down at the ball.  However, if you make a tiny adjustment to the position where you are looking, it could make all the difference.  Try looking slightly to the left of the ball when practicing your approach shot play and see what happens when you play a shot.  If you usually look at the back of the ball but seem to be catching some of your iron shots fat, try looking straight down on the middle of the ball.

Theses are only small changes but can make a big difference.  You do not want to catch the ball fat when playing closest to the pin and this drill will help prevent that from happening.

What Equipment is Recommended to Best Increase My Chances of Winning the Closest to the Pin Contest at the Steve Mitchell Classic?

You will probably be using a short iron when playing the closest to the pin contest.  However, there are a few things you must consider when deciding which irons to buy.  The first is the amount of forgiveness you need from your irons.  If you struggle to find the middle of your irons regularly, a set with more forgiveness would be helpful.

However, if you are an experienced golfer who is determined to win the closest to the pin challenge, you will want to be using an iron which offers plenty of feel.  You want to be able to work the ball so it lands just where you want it on the green and with the desired spin.  Shallow irons tend to work best for feel and control.  Irons with a narrow sole are also good for increased control on shots.

When attempting to win the closest to the pin contest, you want to be in control of your ball.  The green could be very fast or it could be wet and slow.  Having an iron with offers a lot of feel will help you play the type of shot required.

The golf ball you decide to use will also have an impact on your shot when playing the closest to the pin.  Ideally, you will want to use a ball which has high spin.  This is because it will allow you to aim directly at the pin and when it lands it will not roll away.  A soft feel cover is another consideration when deciding which ball to use.  This type of ball does not give the distance of a hard covered golf ball but does provide more control and that’s exactly what you are looking for in this situation.

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