Every time we play a round of golf we face several holes where we need to “lay up”. Typically, a layup shot is one in which a player chooses to hit a shot a certain distance in order to position themselves for the approach into the green. For the average player this typically occurs four times per round, on par fives on a regulation golf course. However, the layup is not reserved for par fives. There are many times you need to lay up on short par fours or even par threes. Many golf course architects will include a short par four in their course design that allows a longer hitter to drive the green. These players have the option to drive the green or layup. Likewise, on longer par threes, some players choose to lay up short of the green, rather than risking a penalty shot by going for the green.
I decided to write this piece based upon a conversation I recently had with a friend of mine during a tournament round. We were playing a two man best ball event and we were discussing the strategy on his layup shot for a par five. His shot ended up finding the bunker. I asked him how he arrived at his decision to hit that particular club, a 5 iron. He said he was trying to hit to a certain “spot” in the distance. That is how most of us approach that decision. We try to hit a club a certain distance, or try to land the ball in a certain spot on the fairway short of the hole.
I also take this same strategy; however, I also consider two other main points when lying up.
First, I not only look at where I want the ball to end up. I also consider where I DO NOT want the ball to end up. I always consider other factors as well, such as; wind direction, the lie of my ball, hazards around the landing area, etc. In other words, if I mishit the shot or if some other factor influences where the ball goes, what areas do I need to avoid? What happens if there is a gust of wind? What happens if I catch a flier lie? What happens if the ball runs out or stops quickly.
Second, I consider what yardage and angle I want into the green. Most of us are comfortable with certain clubs in our bags. We are also comfortable with certain yardages into the green. My three comfort yardages are 90, 105 and 115 yards. That is because that is how far I hit my 60, 54 and 50 degree wedges respectively. When possible, I want to have one of those yardages into the green so I can hit the shot full with confidence. Finally, I always like to give myself the best angle to the pin that will allow me to remain “below” or “under” the hole. That way I can have an uphill putt that provides me with the best chance of making an aggressive stroke that results in a birdie.
The layup shot in golf is a conservative play and should be approached as such. If you are going to lay up, then take extra time to think about the ball position you want into the green. It will give you the best chance at a successful layup. There is no need to take unnecessary risks when laying up. The risk comes into play when you are “going for” the green.
What do you consider when hitting a layup? What yardages are you most comfortable with? Feel free to leave a comment on your strategy.