When to Lay-Up or Go for the Golf Green!

Steve Stricker’s bid for a 4th straight John Deere Classic title began to unravel when he tried to drive the green at the short 317 yard par 4, 14th hole. Zach Johnson eventually went on to beat Troy Matteson on the 2nd playoff hole after Zach hit a brilliant 6 iron to within a foot for a birdie and the trophy.

Stircker pulled his tee shot into the woods on 14 and after taking a drop, hit a wedge to 6 feet and missed the putt for a bogie 5.

It led to 2 more bogies in the next 3 holes, a final round 70, and a 5th place finish. Hence, he decided to go for it on the 14th and the gamble didn’t pay off.

What’s more, during Thursday’s round, 2012 Phoenix Open winner Kyle Stanley was called a “wuss” by David Feherty after laying up and not going for the green after a huge drive; a lowbrow comment from golf’s court jester.

So when should a golfer “Go For It” or “Lay-Up” whether it be a par 5, but even a par 4 or long par 3?

Here’s 3 quick tips:

1) Do you know the shot? If you have hit the shot before and had a positive outcome the majority of the time, then consider going for it. You have the green light especially if the conditions are good, your lie is clean, and your swing is on.

Stricker had an eagle and 2 birdies on the 14th the prior 3 days! He was also trailing the leader by 2 with a handful of holes remaining. It was the right choice. He made a bad swing, not a bad decision.

2) When evaluating the shot, think about the worst score that can result and also the best score. And then think about its affect on the match outcome, or your total score at the end of the round.

A bad outcome or bad swing after an attempt to “go for it” early in the round leaves plenty of time to peck away and climb back to a great score or match win.

But a “go for it” disaster late in the round could be a fatal blow to a scoring goal or match outcome. If you are trying to break 80 for the first time, think twice about busting a 3 wood over 200 yards of water for that unlikely 10 foot eagle putt.

3) If you decide to lay-up, then make sure you LAY-UP! A lay-up shot should be treated like any other with a precise target and outcome (typically hitting the ball to a yardage where the next shot is a favorite distance or club).

But sometimes when we lay-up the “pressure’s off”, so we relax, and take a languid swing. We then hit the center of the sweet spot, and watch the ball fly 30 yards further than intended into the rough, a green side bunker, or water! Ouch, those are maddening.

In all, golf is great because it presents us with decisions like “laying-up” or “going for it”. They often result in the thrill of victory or agony of defeat moments we talk about for years to come. And keep us coming back to this great game either way!

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Best Regards,

Robert Cotter
Instant Golf®