I would consider this simple idea one of the most basic in course strategy. Yet, the more I coach, the more I am amazed at how even some of the more elite players don’t understand (or, at least, don’t use) this. This idea could save you an incredible number of shots per round.
The strategy concept I am talking about refers to where your intended target is.
What Is Your Target?
Take a look at the below scenario. What is your target?
This is what we would describe as a ‘sucker pin’. If you have poor course management, it is likely that you will answer this question by saying “The flag”. But in most cases, this is the worst target you can have. It is often too aggressive a strategy to allow for consistently good golf.
You have to be realistic about what is achievable with your shots. Even a top professional golfer averages around about 10 yards away from the flag with their approach shots. This could be 10 yards left or right, giving a 20-yard circle. So even the top guys don’t hit their target all the time, they just get ‘around’ their target more often.
For this reason, you should think in terms of a shotgun-like pattern, spread either side of your intended target. Below is the same flag, with a 20-yard shot spread overlayed.
So we can see, if the player aims at the pin, shots landing in the green zone may be birdie opportunities, shots landing in the yellow zone will be certain pars, but shots landing in the red zone will produce a one-shot penalty plus the cost of getting up and down – essentially 1.5 shots lost (if your up and down rate is 50%) .
By going aggressively at the flag like this, a player believes that they are going to make more birdies. But even for a top professional golfer, if they manage to pull off a great shot and knock it to 7 feet, there is still only a 50/50 chance they will hole the putt (based on tour statistics); a shot in the water costs them a whole shot and a half.
The risk outweighs the reward.
Think In Terms Of 100 Shots
Imagine playing this hole 100 times. If you were to hit 1/3 of the shots in the water, it would cost you 50 penalty shots – 33 shots X 1.5 in penalties (from the drop and the 50% up and down rate).
And the reward? The one-third of your shots which landed on the green area may produce some birdie opportunities – but when you consider that the average player is not going to hole many of those putts for birdie (even if they are around 10 feet from the pin), the reward is too small.
Against All Odds
The math doesn’t add up, and on average you will end up worse off.
Essentially, each time you play the hole with this strategy, it will cost you 0.5 shots from penalties, and save you 0.13 shots with birdies. You are now 0.37 shots down, which doesn’t sound a lot, but do it 18 times and you might see why your handicap is high.
Yet people continue to use this strategy because they chase some kind of idea that this is what the pro’s do. Yet, often times when you see a professional stiff it close when the pin is positioned like this, it is either due to them being on their best form that week – or it is simply a mistake.
Professional golfers do not play this strategy all the time. People also hold on to the memory of the times when they have succeeded with this strategy and made a birdie, and then continue to play this strategy with no awareness of risk/reward or appropriateness (believe it or not, there are some times when this mentality is beneficial).
A Better Option
In the above picture, our target is to the left of the flag (the centre of the green), taking the water out of play (barring anomalous poor shots).
What a difference this makes! Now, if we hit a good shot and hit our target (green zone), it is a certain par. If we double cross and miss further left, this may produce a longer putt and we may 3 putt a small percentage. However, the old ‘miss’ to the right (red zone) which produced a water ball, now becomes a birdie opportunity.
Mathematically, if a yellow zone shot costs us 0.1 shots (we 3 putt 10% of the time), and a red zone shot creates a 40% birdie chance (saving us 0.4 shots each time we play), we now end up 0.3 shots better each time we play this hole.
Compared to aiming at the pin, that is a whole 0.43 shots better.
That could be a whole lotta shots saved per round.
Take Home Lesson
Sure, aiming away from the flag is not the most exciting way to play, but your scorecard will thank you.
You can still make birdies aiming away from the flagstick
In Next Level Golf, I teach a system for improving your course management that is unlike anything you have seen before.
By quantifying your shot patterns (using my unique quantification method), you can build your own personalised strategy, allowing you to shoot lower scores without improving your swing.
Next level golf also explores technique, drills, psychology, motor learning, training and much more. Click the image link below to learn more.
And while improving your strategy is one of the
And while improving your strategy is one of the quickest and easiest ways to lower your scores, the best players in the world combine great strategy with exceptional ball-striking skills.
My online program, The Strike Plan, has sold to thousands of golfers worldwide – and is helping them lower their scores through
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If you want to learn more about The Strike Plan, click the image link below.