Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Monday, September 20, 2010

Going for the Green

My last post was about laying up, so I thought I should follow up with a post on “going for it” or “going for the green in two.”

Whether on a par four or par five, going for the green in one or two can be a risky play. As much as a layup shot is a conservative play, going for the green is the ultimate risk play. If successfully executed, going for the green can put your ball in position to make a birdie or eagle. However, if the shot is not properly executed, a player can easily make bogey, double bogey or worse.

When we hear the phrase “going for the green” we automatically think of a par five. However, on many golf courses there is the occasional opportunity to go for the green on a short, drivable par four. With the Ryder Cup quickly approaching, this is a good time to mention it. Almost every Ryder Cup has at least one hole where the course setup will allow for the players to drive a par four.

I played over the weekend at a friend’s club and had a chance to go for the green in two on a par five. I was not doing very well in the skins game and we came to the final hole - a dogleg par five with a lake fronting the entire length of the green. Here is a view of the hole from behind the green.

Since I had played the course before, I knew if I hit a good drive I would have a shot at the green. So I approached the ball, hit it extra hard, and was rewarded for the aggressive play. I was already behind in the match and there was no trouble off the tee, so I had nothing to lose. When I got to the ball it had tailed off into the rough. However, it was sitting up very nicely. I had 172 yards to the flag and asked the caddie if he liked the 6 iron. He didn’t say anything and as I went back to the bag and pulled the seven iron, he immediately said “I like that much better.” I proceeded to hit a high, towering seven iron right at the flag and the ball landed softly, about ten feet to the left of the flag, pin high. Unfortunately, I missed the putt as the ball broke about 18 inches and the greens were running twelve on the stimpmeter. However, it was worth the risk because even if I would have come up a tad short or mishit the shot I still would have cleared the water.

Based on my own experiences, I think players should go for the green when they are confident with the club selection, are willing to risk a bogey or worse, and are comfortable that they can successfully execute the shot. It’s not a hope and a prayer shot, but more of a calculated risk.

What do you consider when going for the green? How do you decide if the risk is worth the reward? Feel free to leave a comment on your strategy.

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