You are standing on the tee box of a 175-yard hole. The green is slightly elevated with three bunkers surrounding it. There is no trouble in front of the green, just fairway leading into fringe. There is no forced carry off the tee and no water hazards on the hole. Chances are when you get to a hole like this, you would grab your 175-yard club and swing away, right?
Now, we are going to change the scenario slightly. Suppose when you arrived on this tee box and I made a bet with you. If you make a 4 on the hole, I will give you $1 million dollars! You will get no additional money if you make a 2 or 3, and a 5 gets you nothing. Would your strategy on how you play the hole change now? My guess is that it would.
Okay, the scene has now been set. And even better is that people are watching you knowing big money is on the line. What do you think your comfort level will be? Well, if you are like anyone else, you are going to be very nervous. How will these nerves affect the quality of your shots? To account for these nerves (and the less than perfect shots that will result) you need to have a sound strategy in place.
We have 4 shots to earn our million dollars, so let’s not be afraid to use them all. They would be:
1.) Tee Shot
2.) Chip Shot
3.) Lag Putt
4.) Short Putt
When coming up with a strategy, I like to think with the end in mind. What is our goal here? To make a 4. So with that being said, I think a realistic goal would be to have a 3-foot putt left for a 4. Imagine there is a 3-foot circle around the hole. With this in mind, we have 3 shots to get to the ball inside of that circle: pretty manageable!
We then look at the lag putt. What would be the farthest distance you feel comfortable getting it inside of that circle. I think 20 feet is a realistic goal. So now we have two shots to get the ball on the green, within 20 feet of the hole. Again, very manageable!
Next we move onto the chip shot. Where would you feel comfortable chipping from to get the ball inside of 20 feet? Ideally from the fairway where you could use a hybrid, or even a putter as there is no trouble short of the green.
Now that we are there, what club should you hit off the tee to be in that position? You want to avoid any bunkers or rough and leave yourself the best lie possible. You also want to give yourself a big margin for error. In this situation, your 7-iron would probably be a good choice.
With our strategy in place we can begin to play the hole:
1.) The first shot is a 7-iron that travels 130 yards. By choosing this target you avoid the bunkers and high rough around the green. You also give yourself lots of green to work with for your next shot.
2.) You are 20 yards off the green but have just fairway in front of you. You can use a hybrid or a putter and roll the ball up onto the green. This is a great option because it allows you to get a way with a less than perfect shot.
3.) After two successful shots, you are on the green 20 feet away. Remember you don’t get anything extra for making this putt so don’t try to. Imagine a big 3-foot circle around the hole and just focus on stopping the ball inside of it.
4.) Because you stuck to your plan you have 2 foot putt for a 4 on the hole.
Congratulations, you are now a millionaire!
Darren Falk, PGA
Director of Instruction
Holly Ridge Golf Club