Consistent Golf: Lay Up or Go for It?

When trying to be a more consistent golfer, most are aware that they need better course management. This often leads to the question "Do I lay back here, or do I hit it as far as possible?" 

The answer 95% (my stats are made up, but Lou's are not) is to hit it as far as possible. This is true from tee to green regardless of if it is a Par 4 or Par 5. You need to hit the ball as far as possible on each shot. This is going to lead to better scores. 

There are of course exceptions to every rule. 

For example, if you typically hit your driver 260 yards, but there is a water hazard at 240 yards and you would need to carry 270 yards to cover it, you are going to want to hit less than a driver. This is more part of the course strategy. 

What we are really talking about in this article is whether or not you should lay back to your favorite number. Maybe you really like the 150-yard shot. You don't really know why other than you always seem to hit the ball pretty well from the distance. 

That might be true, but the data shows that your ability to score lower comes from being closer to the hole. That is what Lou's data shows.

Looking at the data, it seems obvious that the choice is to take the distance. So, how do you put this into practice? 

Begin by thinking about each hole as its own round of golf. Nothing else happening in the round matters when you stop on the tee. This is a new round and you want to have a plan to play it from tee to green. Let's say this hypothetical hole is a Par 4, 380 yards. There is no real danger on this particular hole other than some rough and a few trees. 

What's your plan of attack? 

If you are like the example mentioned earlier, you might be thinking I really should hit a 3 wood here because I typically hit that 230 yards, and I feel really confident with my 150-yard club. Besides, sometimes I lose my driver out to the right, and what if that lands behind a tree? 

If, that's a big if, you hit your 3 wood 230 yards to the center of the fairway. From 150 yards in the fairway, a tour professional has a 19.1% chance of making a birdie. And that is one of the best players in the world. 

Now, what if you hit the driver and it didn't go behind that pesky tree? Well, you would be about 120 yards out and now a tour pro would have a 25.1% of making a birdie. That is a MASSIVE increase. 

The crazy part is that this doesn't even mention that you could most certainly end up behind a tree with your 3 wood. So, ask yourself this question, if you did end up behind a tree would you rather that be closer to or further away from the green? 

Obviously, these stats provided by Lou show a tour professional's chances of making a birdie. Regardless, the same applies to you and your handicap-adjusted score. Your ability to get lower scores comes from hitting the ball as far as possible whenever the opportunity presents itself. 

The next time you play and the question arises of "Do I hit driver or do I lay back to my favorite number?", you know the answer. 

Hit the damn driver.