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Date : 5/11/2018

Freund Friday 5/11/18 - Course Management: The Approach Shot

The topic last week was Course Management, specifically regarding teeing off, so this week’s Freund Friday is going to touch on approach shots into the green. Often times golfers will walk up to the ball, use a range finder to determine the distance to the flag,  grab a club, and aim directly for the flag. But is this always the correct play?

Golfers rarely doubt themselves. They visualize stuffing their approach shot right next to the hole for an easy tap-in putt. They are so engrossed with the perfect, successful shot they see in their head that they often fail to take into account the whole picture. Before hitting a shot at the flag stick be sure to check the hole location on the green. If a right-handed golfer, who naturally hits a fade, faces a hole with the flag on the very right edge of the green, aiming for the flag might not be the best choice. If they hit the ball at the flag with their fade they may end up in the rough to the right of the green with a short-sided chip (a very tough shot for anyone). But if they were to aim at the left side of the green then a straight shot should still end up on the putting surface, and if the ball fades then it will work its way towards the hole and is much more likely to have a reasonable putt.

The same idea works in reverse. Visualize the same pin position, only this time the golfer hits a draw. The common thought is aim for the right rough and carve the ball into the hole; this gives the player the best shot at a hole-in-one. After all, isn’t that what we are all trying to do? In this scenario the golfer is guessing how much draw they are going to play. If they draw it too much they will be on the green. If the ball doesn’t draw enough they are faced with a difficult chip and a very low chance to get up and down. But, if they aim for the flag, a straight shot is close to the hole, meanwhile a draw places them safely on the green with a good chance to hole the ball in 2 putts or less.

Let’s take this out to hole number 7 here at Three Lakes. Imagine the flag is in the back, left of the green. On the left edge of the green is a bunker. To the left of that is no-man’s-land. Like-wise if your ball goes short of the green and slightly left, you have a blind shot from the weeds and saving bogey from here is a good score. If you hit the ball long you will be left with an incredibly difficult flop shot to a green that is rolling away while navigating through the trees. Again, bogey is a great score from here. In this situation the smartest play is the shot that is most likely to stay on the green. If you fade the ball try to start your shot at the hole so that it fades into the center of the green. If you fade it too much you might end up just off the green with an uphill chip and a reasonable chance to make par. If you draw the ball (like I do), aim the ball at a spot on the green about 5 feet from the right edge. This way a straight shot still finds the green and a draw is working its way towards the flag.

The whole idea here is risk versus reward. Is the reward (a tap in putt) worth the risk? This is not to say you should look at every shot in a negative light. You should look at every shot reasonably. What is the most likely outcome? Minimizing risky shots often leads to lower scores. And isn’t that what we all want?


Anthony Freund
Assistant Professional
Three Lakes Golf Club

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