Unforced Errors In Golf

When I was watching The Players Championship on the weekend, congrats to Justin Thomas on the win, I was impressed by the stellar play. Conversely, I watched some challenging shots that I thought could have been avoided. Regardless of what I think, the roller coaster round is a natural thing for most golfers as we accept wayward shots as part of the game. Yet, I was a bit concerned by one of the announcers who stated that one of the players just committed and unforced error!

I think that there are two ways of looking at the announcers comments: all missed shots are unforced errors or there are no unforced errors in golf. My logic is simple and I fall on the “no unforced errors in golf” side of the equation. I found the this particular sports analogy might work for other events, but has no place on the golf course. This particular type of analysis does not fit my mindset of how the game of golf is played….at any level!

As any golfer knows, a round of golf is made up of excellent, above average, average, below-average, and poor shots. The varying success of any golf shot is determined my ball contact and/or results. How a shot is rated has so many variables, I am not convinced that there is any specific standard that can be used to make a reasonable assessment.

Three shot birdie at the 14th hole of Osprey Links Golf Course

I hit my first shot into the woods on the above hole; would this be considered an unforced error? I think it is a part of golf. Fortunately, my second shot was excellent that resulted in a birdie. Golf is about playing what we shoot and adjusting our game to adapt to good a poor shots.

Regardless of the skill level of any player, I believe that our intent to always the best shot we can overrides the theory of hitting an “unforced error”. We all mishit shots or just plainly chuck the ball. Because our shot produces a poor result; it cannot be considered an error. Our intent is to always hit the right shot at the right time. Our intent is to use the proper course management strategies. Our intent is to never hit a poor shot. Yet, it happens (and in some cases, happens more often than we would like).

The announcer at The Players called a shot that did not make the green on an approach shot an “unforced error”. I cannot accept this because a round of golf is made of many shots that do not always finished as intended. Sometimes good things happen and other times we shake our head in frustration. So, I cannot seem to wrap my mind around the fact that any one shot would be considered to be unforced.

Maybe I am looking at this entire situation for a purely holistic view, but stuff happens when we play golf. I never think that any shot, at any time can be assigned the moniker of “unforced”. What do you think?

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


8 thoughts on “Unforced Errors In Golf

  1. Personally I believe an unforced error is when a choice is made to play a shot that brings a dangerous outcome into play when a safer shot is available. Lack of execution of a normal swing with a club is not, in my opinion.

    I have heard it said that all heroes make triple bogey, the inference being that taking careless chances have consequences.

    Played my first two games this season on Friday and Sunday. Cool with high winds, but what’s not to love. Played Fescues Edge with my 1930’s Walter Hagen clubs. What a great way to start the season. Hickory golf requires creativity, especially in 40-60 km winds.


    • Lorne,

      Thanks for the sage words of wisdom. I agree that improper assessment of a risk/reward shot does lead to higher scores. Great to hear that you are playing now. We are still at least 4 weeks away. Time to practice.

      Cheers Jim


  2. Jim, the term is borrowed from tennis and means a shot was not made that should have been easily executed. In golf, I’d attribute to a mental error that could have been avoided.




      • Jim, pressure can make a mess of your mental as well as physical game and create unforced errors. Yesterday, I was rooting hard for Westwood in The Players, but was disappointed in his decision to play very safe on #17. He’s down by one, needs a birdie, and 18 was playing tougher than any hole on the course. His decision to play away from the flag was an unforced error in my judgment. I mean, he’s won no majors or The Players, why not go for it? What did he have to lose? Maybe that’s why he’s winless on the big stage.




      • Brian,

        I understand your view about unforced errors. It does make sense. Westwood’s decision on 17 to not be aggressive might fly in the face of a champion approach to winning, however I also think he pulled his ball a bit that cause the long, difficult putt. I think he lost the tournament on 16 by hitting the traps twice and lessening his opportunity for birdie on a simple hole. I guess it is easy for me to say sitting on my couch…haha.

        Cheers Jim

        Liked by 1 person

  3. While I understand the concept you present I’d have to argue that unforced error’s are a thing. There is a difference between them and a bad swing though an unforced error may be the cause of a bad swing. Skip your routine and hit it bad, you just had an unforced error. Chose the hero shot over the safe one and blow it whether you hit it good and bad, that’s an unforced error too though it may also be a calculated error at the same time.

    As for the pro who missed the green short, that’s a tougher call. Even if I saw it I might not be able to say which it was, error of just isolated subpar swing or both. And I’d most likely defer to the player for a decision. But not committing is an unforced error. Even us amateur know we need to commit before we swing, yet all of us, including the pro’s are guilty of it sometimes. So I’d not be too surprised to hear the pro decide that miss was an unforced error.

    And I’d say that pin on 18 saved me from one on Friday since I didn’t bother to even consider the danger behind the green. It was at least as deadly to my score had I gone in there. I’d have been dropping 4, hitting 5 and begging to get up and down for a bogie at best. The fact that the shot came out way hotter than I expected wasn’t the unforced error. The fact I didn’t consider the consequences if it did was.


    • Kevin,

      You make several valid points to support the term unforced error. I just think all that you described is part of an amateur’s game; as I stated to Brian, I might be over thinking this….haha.

      Cheers Jim


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