Taking Appropriate Risks On Delicate Golf Shots

Every golfer will find their ball in a tough predicament in almost every round of golf. Shots made by Rory McIlroy and Victor Hovland on the 17th hole from across the road on the 17th hole at The Open demonstrate that all players need to take risks on delicate shots in order to shoot lower scores. In the case above, Hovland used a putter to save par and McIlroy chipped to save bogey. Each had to navigate a tough situation and Hovland’s delicate shot happened to work out better than McIlroy’s. Regardless, both players prevent a big number by taking the appropriate risk for their shots. It is a lesson for all golfers, but the real question is what is considered appropriate risk during a delicate golf shot?

The risk/reward scenario is constantly rearing its head during every round of golf. The challenge that most amateurs, including myself sometimes, misread the reward for certain shots. One of the fundamental tenants of hitting a golf shot is that a straight line to the pin is not always the shortest route. That does not seem to prevent most higher handicappers for giving a difficult shot a try when the situation arises. An important aspect of taking risks on delicate golf shots is if I miss, where am I going to leave the ball. This thought has to be at the forefront of our decision making on risk/reward shots.

Most delicate shots that require a no-fear approach are those around the green where you are short sided. There is very little green to work with, but we need to take a longer swing with a higher lofted club. This scenario sets up for either a chilli dip or skull shot. Either is a fear of all golfers, but one the requires no attention when setting up for such a shot. Here is a perfect example by Tiger Woods:

For my game, committing to the shot is best way to reduce the risk during a delicate shot. I decide on the lofted club (usually a sand or lob wedge), choose my landing area, set up to hit this spot and swing without fear of making a mistake. I have considered where my ball will stop if I make a mistake and that is usually past the hole. I feel that this position on the green is better than having to chip again. I reduce the risk of the delicate shot by committing and executing my shot with focus on hitting my landing area.

Now that you know how I approach delicate shots around the green, it is important for you to develop your own methodology. What works for me many not work for you. However, I will say that committing to the shot is key and understanding that the straightest line to the pin may not be the best way to play your delicate shot. If you want some great examples, watch the fourth round of The Open today. It is a clinic on taking risks on delicate golf shots.

Just for fun, I want to be able to do this during pressure situations:

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


6 thoughts on “Taking Appropriate Risks On Delicate Golf Shots

  1. I really started to get better at this after reading Dave Pelz short game book. I was able to find a shot i knew I could trust and am able to take the right risk when my go to is the appropriate shot for the situation. I say get a go to shot and really hone it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim, most amateurs take too much risk for their level of ability and rarely think about where to miss it, as you have described. Course management is definitely a learned skill.



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  3. A skins game is all about taking risks. That’s the main reason I enjoy it. There every shot has more significance. More pressure. You go for every pin and every putt. And I think playing that helps normalize me when I’m playing for score and and trying to manage risks but forced to take the higher risk option.

    Also I don’t want to be static. I want to stay moving once I have taken my grip. I’ll focus on the target line while shuffling and waggling and once I feel ready I’ll go. I won’t just stand there over the ball for any length of time once I have the club in my hands. That’s not athletic and it allows the mind to interject bs.

    Liked by 1 person

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