Pressing Your Advantage in Competitive Golf

Golf strategy is varied and limitless. There is no wrong answer as to when a player applies their strategy in either match or stroke play. The factors are almost incalculable before the moment, but any experienced player understands that at any moment pressing one’s advantage in competitive golf is a double edged. Regardless of the result, the prior to the shot the decision on the risk/reward is really what drives a competitor’s decision to press their advantage.

I have played many rounds of competitive golf. I have administered and received a knock out blow because the situation dictated the shot. In my case, I would always analyze the loss/gain factor along with the risk/reward of the shot. I found that in many cases, playing the smart consistent shot was more fatal to my opponents psyche than hitting a ‘Hail Mary’ from trouble. My consistent and ‘boring’ approach to competitive golf was generally enough to cause fits to my fellow golfers. However, there were situations where I needed to press my advantage during a match because my normal approach was not having a desired affect.

Senior Men’s Ryder Cup Opponents who knew when to press their advantage.

I remember during on stroke play event where I was in a group of golfers with varying skill levels. During a stroke event, my first goal is to score lower than everyone in the group. If I did this, I would worry about the field later. During this one round (it was a two day tournament) I was down one stroke on the 13th hole. This longish par 4 offered a great risk reward opportunity if I hit the ball well off the tee. Fortunately, I hit my ball in the middle of the fairway about five yards shorter than my opponent. This meant I was to hit first on our second shots.

I had a clear shot to the green, however their were bunkers on the left and right short of the green. I could not hit over the bunkers, but there was a small gut in the middle that was perfectly lined up from my tee shot position. My opponent was in the first cut, but off to the right. He had to play over a bunker to reach the green.

I pulled out my three hybrid and hit a great 215 yard shot through the gut. I chose this shot because I figured that if I hit the ball poorly, I would be short of the bunkers and still have an excellent shot at par. Of course landing in the bunker was a possibility, but that was the risk/reward of the shot. I think my opponent was shocked at my great shot and decided to challenge me. I was hoping he would take the bait and as a result he hit his ball in the bunker. As we approached his ball, we noticed that it was a fried egg lie and he had a fair bit of work to do.

After all was said and done, my opponent shot a double and tapped in for par. Suddenly, I was one stroke up and reverted back to my strategy of steady play. My opponent did not recover and I ended up shooting three strokes lower than him. He never really recovered as he struggled during the last five holes.

Knowing when to pressing the advantage in golf is key to great strategy. I am believe that picking the right moment is key to success on the links. The loss/gain and risk/reward aspects of this important shot cannot be overstated. I cannot provide a template as to when the time is right to press an advantage, but the more I play golf, the more I recognize these opportunities. The next time you are playing someone, try to identify a potential pivotal moment in your match. You might be surprised on the positive affect pressing your advantage will have on the match.

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


6 thoughts on “Pressing Your Advantage in Competitive Golf

  1. Jim, Your “Steady Eddie” approach has worked the best for me in competition. Players are always preoccupied with making mistakes. When they go head to head with someone who doesn’t make them, it’s unnerving. Nick Faldo comes to mind from the modern era. He often bored the tv audience with par after par in the major championships while destroying the field.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If you care about what your competitor is doing, you’ve most likely already lost. You took a risk that worked out but could just as easily have left you stuck buried in the wall of the bunker with little chance to get up and down. I’m not sure I’d call that pressing an advantage. With his ball in a bad position you could have chosen to lay up short of the bunkers and also put pressure on him with less risk. Obviously your decision worked out well for you and that happens but I think you might have dodged a bullet. Had you landed and buried in a bunker wall, his shot would have looked a lot easier to him and the tables might have turned the other way.
    Now in the skins matches I play every week, that strategy of yours is perfect. It’s all or nothing then so you go for it because your opponent will be with every shot too. But in stroke play, it seldom pays to take a risk like you describe. Of course, the picture in my head may be different that what you saw and I could be way off. But I think you’ll see my point.
    I come from behind more often to win than I do any other way it seems. What you do and what you’ve done don’t factor into my thinking at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. When I’m not hitting first and you give me a target to get inside of, I will try and do just that. But my thinking isn’t about taking advantage it’s done to boost my own confidence. I know I can do it even if you’re just 6 inches away and it brings a kind of incentive that dates all the way back to my early days of golfing with my brother and dad. My brain keys in on that same competitive spirit we had and my body reacts, so in that way I guess I seek competitive advantage. It’s just not “over my competitor” but from within myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin,

      I think we are describing the exact same thing. We might be saying it differently, but every time we take the risky shot in golf, are we not pressing an advantage or at least trying to gain an advantage? I think that it does not matter the format of the competition, pressing an advantage is an important part of all strategy. Choosing the right time time to gain a stroke or two is always part of my competitive efforts. I agree that for the most part I do not pay attention to my opponent, but in the back of my mind I am aware of everything going on in my group.

      Cheers Jim


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