Playing the Odds In Golf or Not!

If anyone ever tells you that golf is not a thinking game, then they have not played it competitively. Initially, golf is a sport where one plays against ones self and eventually expands into playing against others. During that entire journey, all golfers (regardless of their skill level) think about the 100 influences during every shot. There are times when I walk off the course mentally drained instead of physically. On those days, I usually played in a competition of some sort. To keep me mentally sharp for 4+ hours I play the odds to make smart swing decisions and sometimes not!

Playing the odds is golf is the most effective way to lower your golf scores. Examining all outcomes of various shot selections will help you determine the correct course of action. The most interesting aspect of this mental puzzle is that it is completely for every golfer.

I presented the shot below on my Facebook page, and provided the following description: Tough par 3 uphill with a false front. It was 165 yards with a 30 foot uphill grade. What club would you use?

Image may contain: grass, tree, sky, outdoor and nature

How would you play this shot?

I received answers varying from a 9 iron to a 5 iron. Some described a draw and others a fade. Each answer demonstrated that players play the odds for this shot that best suits their game. It is different of everyone and as you can tell from the answers, the variables are many. In case you were wondering, I hit a 6 iron to the left center of the green; made par.

However, we as amateurs, do not play the odds. We look at the solutions and decided to play the low percentage shot. Sometimes we do it for fun, others to press a match and unfortunately other times, we do not know any better. We think the low percentage shot is the right one and it only takes one successful shot to reinforce poor mental decisions.

My best example is hitting over a body of water. On the 17th hole at Osprey Links, the picture below, is of a down hill 200 yard par 3. The blue tees are 50 feet higher than the green. The wind usually blows from left to right and will affect the ball. This is a tough shot because it is all carry, I am amazed at the club selection of my playing partners.

What Club would you use on this shot?

I noticed anything from a 6 iron to a 3-wood. The most interesting point about their decision is that most players under club. Because they made it over the water once before with the lesser club, they believe that it is the club of choice and will not vary their selection regardless of the variables. When they hit their ball into the water, they are puzzled by the result. In this case, they thing the best odds are with the wrong club. This is a very challenging conundrum. Of interest, I always hit the center of the green from the blues with a 4 iron or 3 hybrid – it depends on the wind.

Well there you have it. If you ever thought that golf is not a mental game, then I hope you have changed your mind. Go is nothing but a mental game and playing the odds is critical to low golf scores. Understanding those odds, for your game, takes time and effort because the odds for you shots are yours alone! So next time you are faced with a challenging shot and the course of action you chose results in failure, re-examine your choice, you may not be playing the best odds.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

Written by Jim Burton from The Grateful Golfer blog.


4 thoughts on “Playing the Odds In Golf or Not!

  1. Jim,
    Most amateurs would pick the wrong club for one of three reasons.
    A) They don’t know their true carry distance
    B) They think they are longer than they really are
    C) They are a prisoner of their best shots

    It’s easier to reconcile A and B; just take an extra club. On C, if you practice visualizing a perfect shot before you hit it, you may well be captive of unreasonable expectations. Interesting conflict.

    Good post; thanks!


    Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah. I don’t think it’s worth the time to even try with some people. My neighbor was one of those. Years ago I tried to tell him the work we were both doing in the net was causing his pull. His aim changed over those months and he just refused to see it no matter how obvious it was to the rest of us. He still pulls it to this day because of it. But at least he compensates with his body alignment now and is back to playing better. I’m sure he lost over two years of decent play over it though. It was really hard to keep my mouth shut but I had to because he isn’t the type that appreciates any comments.

        Side note: The wind is noisy out there right now. Makes me wonder how far I could hit a ball with this hurricane at my back.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kevin

        We all have friend like yours. Not somethkng I spent time trying to fix. They have to figure it out on their own. Hitting a ball with a hurriacane at your back, now tbat is something I need to think about. Stay safe!



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