Picking the Right Shot

Picking the right shot while playing can get quite complicated.  If you really think about it, you will never get two identical shots in any given round.  Consider the fact that there are so many variables to consider in order to hit your next shot; yardage, elevation, wind speed and direction, lie and pin position just to name a few.

I find that many golfers make decisions that add stress to their game.  They pick low percentage shots or pick shots that they have never even tried before.  They shoot at pins because that’s what they think they are “supposed” to do and not what they know they can do.

So, how do you go about picking the right target?  Here are a few steps to follow:

  1. Determine distance of shot you are tring to hit. This is important off the tee as the average golfer usually tries to hit their drives as far as possible.  Tour players tend to play towards an area in the fairway that will set them up for an easier shot into the green.  They look for a shorter landing area and would settle for a longer approach shot into the green if it would mean a flatter lie.  Make sure you factor in elevation changes, wind speed and wind direction when you are determining distance.
  2. Know your carry distance for every club. This is especially important when you are trying to carry a hazard off the tee or a greenside bunker.  Knowing how far each club in your bag carries will help you in selecting a club as well as give you the confidence to make the shot.
  3. Not every flag should be aimed at. There are times when aiming for the middle of the green is a prudent play.  Many have heard of “sucker pins,” but many people still take dead aim at them hoping to pull off the miracle shot.  Tour players rarely take aim at the pin unless they have a wedge in their hands.  Most of the time, they are looking at targets that would give them the best birdie putt opportunity.  Normally, they are looking for a target that would allow them to play their best shot shape and enable them to swing with full confidence.
  4. When in doubt, play to the middle. Playing to the center of the green is always a good idea.  A good rule of thumb is to place the ball in between the pin and the center of the green.  That way, you are always giving yourself a little wiggle room if you hit a less than perfect shot.

Hank Johnson, PGA