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Course Strategy 101: Go for it or Lay up?

You know what the crew at No Laying Up would say, but what is the best option for you? Do you lay back to a comfortable yardage or do you try to get it as close as possible? Now that we have a better understanding of applying our course strategy we can look at which option is better.

If we look at distance and scoring we will know that the closer you are, the better chance of scoring. You have a better chance of hitting the green with a wedge versus an 8 iron.

When to go for it

I personally believe trying to advance your ball as far as possible is typically the best approach. In 2019, Ian Poulter led the PGA Tour in birdie-or better percentage when going for it at 71%. The tour average for making birdie or better was 58%. They don’t go for it everytime, but when they do they make birdie more often than not.

So when should you go for it? I believe any time that your worse shot won’t cause any additional shots (chip outs, lost ball, penalty stroke) you go for it. Imagine a hole where there is absolutely no trouble. Would you really lay up to a yardage?

When I know that my next shot won’t get me into trouble I can swing more freely. When I would caddie and players felt more comfortable with the shot we chose, they had a better chance of pulling it off. The moment you start to doubt is when you hit those rare shots.

When to lay up

Again, it is all about your dispersion and risk management. Let’s go with the complete opposite of the examples above. What if you had a forced carry over water to an island green? Depending on your dispersion, chances are you will find the water more often than not.

What if you struggle mightily from 30-60 yards? If there is a shot you struggle with I would try to stay away from it. A great example is hole 5 at Sugarloaf shown below.

If you have 200 yards to the center of the green, you will have to carry it at least 180 yards to carry the left fairway bunker. There are very few golfers that can play a 40-70 yard bunker shot. The fairway is only 20 yards wide and plays slightly uphill from the approach. Chances are you would score lower by laying up short of the bunker than to challenge the green.

Apply correctly

There are certain situations that will call for going for it or force you to lay up. Having an understanding of which option is best will allow you to make the best decision on the course. It will take time to figure out which option is best but once you do, you can eliminate lost shots and shoot lower scores.

What’s Next

We will look at how wind plays a role in your course strategy. We will dive more in depth in all of these aspects in our Course Strategy 101 class that will be going live in March. In the meantime, try these strategies and start shooting lower scores.

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