Mastering the Game Within the Game
Today, I decided to talk to everyone about something very few people have on the golf course: management. Time and time again, I’ll be playing in a foursome with friends, strangers, etc. and they immediately take out their driver on every par 4 or 5 without looking at what’s in front of them. I’m here to tell you it’s the wrong decision!
After spending hours and hours of my life on the golf course, I’ve learned many choices you make while playing can be mathematically simplified. While this certainly won't work for everyone, math comes easy to me and feels like a natural solution.
Let’s take a look at an example. You’re playing a par 5 and just hit your driver in the middle of the fairway. Left with 275 yards, you know your 3-wood only goes 245 yards after carry and rollout (meaning total distance). In the best-case scenario, you’ll be left 30 yards from the green. Depending on the skill of your distance control, this can be easy or very challenging to maneuver; not even including the fact that the pin position might be tucked away in a tight spot, for example: lying immediately behind a bunker. For me, this is where mathematics comes into play. If I hit my 3-wood correctly 6 out of 10 times (60%), and my distance control isn’t adequate, then I don’t see any reason as to why I should try and go for the green in two. On top of that, the other 40% of the time, I’ll end up in trouble and potentially make a bogey or worse.
Now, if I were to lay up with a pitching wedge that I’m generally more accurate with (let’s say 90% of the time), I’ll be left with a gap wedge in my hand, which again, could be a much easier shot at times than a 30-yard pitch. The Lay up immediately removes the possibility of a big number on your scorecard, so why not go for the smart decision? Even if you hit a fantastic 3-wood towards the green, who’s to say you won’t end up short-siding yourself?
Whether you’re on the tee-box, facing a tough approach shot, or anywhere else on the course, you should always take an extra 30 seconds to assess all possible factors. I’ll be honest with you; there are times that I’m inside 50 yards, and I don’t attempt to go anywhere near the flagstick. Golf is a game that you should play to your strengths.
Let’s take a look at another example. You’re standing on the tee box of a short, 310-yard par 4. You have one of two options; go for it or lay-up off the tee with an iron in your hand. Again, you should take a few extra seconds and compare the risk with the reward. If you can reach it with an excellent drive, but your big miss is to the RIGHT and it just so happens that there is water all down the right side, then you should lay-up with a long iron. Worst-case scenario, you’ll make an easy par or sloppy bogey. If your big miss is left, and there’s plenty of open fairway on the left side, then you should go for it. The flag position also should have plenty to do with your decision. If your big miss is on the same side as the flagstick, you should lay-up for the simple reason that you may very well short-side yourself (even if you drive it somewhere near the green). If the flagstick is on the front left of the green and you naturally play a left-to-right shot, then you should go for it. Worst-case scenario, you’ll have plenty of green to work with for your second shot.
I can continue listing examples that require your attention, but the moral is clear: take your time. Assess the wind, pin position, distance from the hole, risk versus reward, etc. Once you calculate, make a logical decision that will grant you a better result. If you take a few extra seconds to analyze each shot, you’ll not only be playing smarter and better, but you’ll have more confidence than ever before.
Once again, I’ll repeat what I said earlier. DO NOT just grab a driver and walk to the tee box before you even have a good look at the hole!
Shauheen Nakhjavani is a golf teaching professional in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He is 25 years young and has plenty of accolades in his short golf career but it’s nothing compared to what he wants to achieve when everything is said and done. He has more interesting stories that he would like to share with you about the mental and physical side of golf.
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