Hitting to the second green from 150 yards out!
Playing to win at golf is no-brainer. It is not a profound statement, but carries many “ah-ha” moments. Avid golf pundits suggest that course management, playing the ‘smart’ shot, or avoiding a hazard at all costs will lower your golf score. In some cases, the logic of playing it safe is a solid approach to golf, however it cannot be the default approach to play winning golf.
As always, when my friend and I get together we talk about our golf game. We talk about the recent changes to our swing, new techniques we discovered and how we play certain holes on our home course. We both find the conversation very interesting and sometimes very enlightening. Last night was one of those conversations where I experienced an “ah-ha” moment.
He described his double bogey on a short hole, just over 300 yards, at the Northwood Golf Club, Middlesex, UK. His shot off the tee only has to carry about 190 yards to clear a sand trap. He suggested that it is narrow past the trap and playing for position was the ‘smart play’. Never seeing the hole, I agreed that it seemed like a logical approach. He says that hitting a 5-iron off the tee puts him into a safe position and clears the traps without any real problem. Recently during a career round, he approached the 17th tee and started to think. After a ‘angel verses devil’ conversation in his head he took out his 6-iron. He wanted to flop the ball just over the traps to play it safe and to protect his score! Well as expected, the ball did not carry far enough and lodged itself just below the front lip of the sand trap! Five-strokes later he recorded a double-bogey!
This situation has happened to us all! Instead of riding the wave of success, we try to protect our score. This phenomenon is common in golf because most players count their score when playing well. As a result, our decision-making is impaired and more times than not the results are not what we expect. In my friend’s case, playing it different did not work to his advantage.
Another situation of interest during our conversation focused on greens in regulation or GIR. As stated before, I believe GIR is the most important statistic in golf. If a player has a high GIR percentage, they are likely to score very well.
Our discussion turned to playing a shot from 180 yards from the green. He said that often he will play a shot 160-170 yards up the middle of the fairway to make sure that he is in play. He would then rely on his short game to get up and down. Further inquiry gleaned that he uses this approach for two reasons: he is confident with the shorter iron and to protect from pushing his ball left or pulling right into trouble. He stated that this approach works for him and has helped lower his score in the long run.
Well his approach is definitely playing it different to what I would play. At 180 yards I would still recommend going for the center of the green if you can carry the ball that far. My friend unquestionably has the skill to do so and I would recommend that he start being more aggressive. It is possible that this change in tactic may not positively affect his score, but in the long run I believe it would be better for his game. A by-product to my approach is an improved GIR stat and given how well he putts, a lower score.
The interesting point about our conversation was that there are no right or wrong answers. Each golf shot should be played at the moment after taking in all the prevailing factors. There is little question that my friend’s approach works for him and has produced the results he looks for, however it is not the approach I would take. No matter how we look at golf, everyone has an opinion that suits their game and playing it different in golf is whats makes it fun!
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!