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You should fire at more flag sticks, and here’s why

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As a statistician, a common conversation I have with golfers is when they should shoot at flagsticks and when they should avoid them and choose a more conservative target. If most golfers knew what I know, however, I doubt I’d have the conversation so frequently.

Here’s what you need to know.

Tour players are essentially firing at flags all the time. When they don’t, it’s most likely because they have a funky lie and aren’t sure how the ball will react. Otherwise, they are trying to get the ball as close to the hole as they can — and for good reason. They are not going to make many birdies if their birdie putts are more than 20 feet from the cup. Too few birdie chances from inside the 20-foot range means they probably won’t win… or make the cut… or keep their Tour card.

After recording so many rounds and researching the data, I’ve come to believe that while golfers can always improve their swing mechanics, they first need to overcome some defects in their mental outlook or they will continue to succumb to the same pitfalls. I have found that this advice even applies to many Tour players. I could discuss the numbers to give golfers a better idea of when to play safe or fire at the flag, but I’ve found that the numbers are not as important as a golfer’s mentality about good shots and bad shots.

There is an old adage in golf: “The difference between Tour players and the rest of us is that they hit better bad shots.” On average, I find that Tour players do hit better bad shots than the rest of us, however, they also hit a lot of miserable golf shots. Want proof? Below is a video of the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, topping a 3-wood from the fairway.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNM5Ko1_Zsc

A couple of years ago, I had a PGA Tour client who could not stop shanking pitch shots for about a month. Another Tour player, U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson, has also talked about his occasional shanking problems. And I’ve seen Tour players hit pop ups, snap hooks and horribly fat shots as well. Tour players are not robots, and they’re going to hit some horrendous shots.

To me, the belief that Tour players hit better “bad shots” than all other golfers has been detrimental to development of a lot of golfers’ games, because they buy into the concept too heavily. They relate golf to other sports like football and basketball, and forget that golf is different than those sports.

In sports like football and basketball, it is common to see a coach yelling at the players constantly. I have no issue with this, as those sports revolve around energy levels and avoiding mistakes. And in those sports, mistakes are often avoidable. We have all seen the inferior team in basketball and football come out with a high energy level and beat the team with superior talent that comes out flat. And often times, that high energy level translates into avoiding mistakes because the players are paying attention and not loafing around.

In golf, a high energy level can actually work against peak performance. Even more importantly, golf is a game where mistakes are usually unavoidable. I can be paying attention and have the perfect energy level to hit a shot, but we know from launch monitors how slim the difference between a great shot and a bad shot really is.. and that doesn’t factor in imperfect course conditions. Essentially, we erroneously believe that golf is supposed to be a mistake-free game, when in reality it is filled with mistakes — even in great rounds of golf.

The statistical data of golf suggests that the difference between Tour players and the rest of us is that Tour players hit better good shots and they hit those good shots more frequently. A big part of that? Tour players give themselves the chance to hit good shots by aiming at that flag when the rest of us might aim for the middle of the green in fear of mishitting a shot. That’s why I recommend having a mindset of trying to accumulate good shots in a round instead of trying to avoid bad shots. You are going to hit bad shots, even in great rounds of golf. And if you can hit enough good or great shots, you can more than offset the bad ones.

The Masters - Round One

No. 16 at Augusta National.

A classic example of Tour players benefitting from an aggressive mentality is No. 16 at Augusta National. Let’s imagine we have the Sunday pin position on the back of the left side of the green. We know that if the player hits it pin high toward the center of the green, the ball will funnel toward the hole. So let’s imagine that the center of the green, about pin high, is where we want to aim.

One of the things I learned from sports and performance psychologist Dr. Bhrett McCabe is what he calls “good focus,” which is when you focus on one thing and nothing else matters, as McCabe says. By this definition, “bad focus” is when we have divided our focus so everything matters to us.

In the case of No. 16 at Augusta, good focus would be putting our attention on the shot we need to hit to the center of the green. I think we have all experienced good focus at one time or another in golf… you know, the 20-foot putt that we just sense we are going to make. All we focus on is the hole and hitting the ball into the cup, and it goes in. That’s what we want with the shot on No. 16. We want to focus on what shot we need to hit and nothing else.

The issue for most golfers, using No. 16 as an example, is that they have so much fear about hitting their shot into the water hazard that flanks the left side of the green they don’t allow themselves to hit a good shot. Their focus is too divided, and that lack of clarity results in misses: shots hit so far to the right that they can’t make par, or shots hit short or left into the water.

No. 16 at Augusta National.

No. 16’s green complex at Augusta National.

Bad focus comes from what I call “False Confidence,” which is when golfers think they won’t hit a bad shot during a round. What inevitably happens is that the golfer does hit a bad shot and it destroys their confidence. It often happens on a hole like No. 16, where they feel as though they cannot, under any circumstances, hit the ball in the water or their chances of playing a good round will have vanished.

The Tour players who use good focus have what I call “True Confidence;” they know that they are going to mishit at least some golf shots. Tour players are humans, after all. Players with True Confidence are still confident in their abilities, however, so they know that they can always hit great shots in order to make up for their mistakes.

Golfers with False Confidence will hit a drive into the woods and can’t believe they just did that. They resign themselves to making bogey on the hole. Golfers with True Confidence will hit a drive into the woods and focus on hitting a great shot in order to save par. And if they are unable to save par on that hole, they know they can hit a series of great shots in the holes or rounds remaining to negate the bad shot.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Travis

    May 5, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    I think people posting to this comment are: 1) extremely skeptical, and 2) not good enough to make the bold statements that they are. Why also does one assume that “firing at a flagstick” automatically means taking direct aim at the flagstick and hitting the ball straight? Additionally, does everyone on here know Tour professionals and know their thoughts and play styles?

    I am by no means a professional, but I bounce between scratch and a +2. If a pin is tuck right, I am 100% firing at the flagstick by aiming at the center of the green and trying to fade the ball towards the pin. I strongly believe the goal of a PGA Tour player 90% of the time, if not 100% of the time, is to get the ball as close to the hole as possible.

    Statistically, that HAS to be your goal as you are far more likely to make a putt the closer you are to the hole. There is no Tour player out there cashing big checks by saying “my goal is to be 25ft away every single time and pray I make a putt, that statistically I have only a 10% change of making.”

    Your goal every time should be to get the ball as close to the pin as possible. There are many ways to do that which aren’t hitting a dead straight ball aiming at the pin. However, should you “fire” at the pin by always trying to get your ball to end up as close to the hole as you possibly can get it? Obviously.

    – Travis

  2. Matt

    Aug 6, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    I will say an area the author didn’t mention was that PGA Tour players average 6-7 for their approach shots.

    For a high handicap player to average a 6-7 iron into the green they want to average 135 into the green on their approach shots. Their Par 4 yardage should be 355, and should probably stick to what ever tee box gets them 6100 yards.

    Too many times I’ve noticed players constantly hitting hybrids and 3-woods into greens. There is no way a higher handicap golfer can shoot at the pins when they are basically hitting 4-5 clubs more than what a PGA Tour player would hit into the green.

  3. myron miller

    Aug 5, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Interesting: In the first sentence you say you are a statistician and like others complained don’t use any stats to prove your statement. I also am a statistician and look at the odds of the hole and probability chances/average score versus the once in the lifetime shot potential.

    I will much better play the overall odds and with a tucked in front right pin very close to the right side always aim at the center of the green. What percentage of the time will I hit the green versus the percentage missing (9 handicap) either right, long or short. Even on my good days, I’d bet I only hit the extreme right side pin green less than 25% of the time. Put steep bunker or water there and guess what I’m now playing for 4 or 5 at best. Whereas if I am so that the ball goes towards the center, I am at least there or just short which is much easier putt. Now I’ve got chance for birdie and par is much easier. Even 5% birdie chance with mostly pars is better overall average then 50% bogey or double bogey chance.

    Put the flag in the center or back right, of course I’ll go for it. No question. Front right depends on what’s in front of the green. I run the percentages and odds. And most of the time, going for the center of the green yields a better score than going for every pin. (And if I do remember there was a statistician that actually calculated that hitting the center of the green regardless of where the pin was yielded better average scores for the average 15-25 handicap golfer. And it has nothing to do with confidence or whatever. Actually someone in that handicap range is almost guaranteed to putt better than chip.

    As others have indicated, consider the average miss on approach shots. Statistics say that the pros don’t miss left/right/long short by any where near what the average golfer does. And there are lots of stats to prove this. As your average miss distance goes down, so can your percentage of going for the pins The stats will bear this out. For a statistician to ignore them is questionable.

  4. JMaron

    Aug 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Plain and simple, pros are better because they hit way more good shots and they also hit way fewer bad shots. They are simply better.

    The reason amateurs have a split focus and play safe more often is because they are being rational about their abilities. Firing at a flag you have almost zero chance of getting close to is simply bad strategy. Worrying about the water on the right when you slice every shot is just plain sensible.

    I find all this positive focus stuff a bunch nonsense. The best round I ever played involved a 30 on the back nine. I hit every shot almost perfectly (longest putt made was 15 feet or so). I knew I was playing the round of my life, and guess what – I had split focus on every darn shot. Not my normal level of self doubt – I’m talking an escalating level of don’t screw this up you idiot, kind of doubt. Switched back and forth from aggressive strategy on some holes to conservative on others and constantly 2nd guessed myself even as I stood over the shots. Yet it all worked out.

    My believe is that there are levels of abilities and the odds take over. Some days a guy like me who is a 2 handicap gets lucky and flukes out 16 swings in a row that are right at the top of my ability. Maybe the odds of me making 16 in a row is 10,000 to 1 or something, whereas for Tour pros it’s 100-1 or so…..who knows exactly, but my point is that’s all it is. I think the strokes gained statistics have shown that is essentially what’s going on in the game.

    The point the author made about accepting the fact you will hit some horrible shots and focus on how many good ones you hit, might be a decent strategy for enjoyment, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the level of results you can expect.

  5. Andy

    Aug 5, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I agree with the author, but not from a stats perspective, but rather from an emotional perspective. I find when I swing at a pin, I am feeling confident and aggressive and my swing will then be aggressive and often times, my best results come from this “feeling”. I find playing for the center of a green seems to cause some hint of doubt and because my target is not a specific object, my results seem to degrade. I don’t have personal stats to prove this, just memories.

  6. Bob Jones

    Aug 5, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Rich, how did you correct the player who shanked pitch shots? That mistake infects my pitching game, too. Thanks.

    • Rich Hunt

      Aug 5, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      I don’t do any coaching from a mechanics standpoint. I only present statistical information to the player. Any coaching is between the player and their coach.

  7. 8thehardway

    Aug 5, 2015 at 10:58 am

    NEVER fire at the flag stick.
    If you shoot 75-79 you probably miss 9 greens a round; 12 if you shoot 81-85. Greens are massive, golf holes are tiny – if you can’t hit a 100×100-foot target more than half the time, what are the chances you’ll be within 15 feet of a 4.25” hole? Well, what are the chances you play like Justin Leonard? He was the PGA Tour’s leader from 50-125 yards in 2014 and his average proximity was 15 feet, 6 inches, from which distance tour players 2-putt most of the time (77%). So if you are 150 yards out and betting with someone who isn’t Justin Leonard, now you know what not to do.

    • Richard Grime

      Aug 23, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. I also play off nine and I only play better when I play to the safe side of the flag.

  8. Gordy

    Aug 5, 2015 at 9:02 am

    I’d put it this way to every golfer, unless you have a wedge in your hand, just be happy with being on the green and putting for a birdie. if every golfer hit 12-13 greens a round their overall handicap would go down. If you squeeze a few of those shots inside of 10 Feet or are on a par 5 in 2 you’ve got yourself a couple of birdies. But the real key is that, if you leave your self 5-6 holes to just get up and down on, and convert let’s say on average 25%-50% for par you’ve got yourself a decent round of golf. The real problem with AM’s is we expect far to much. We watch sunday golf and only see the guys in the lead shooting darts. Try watching the other groups who are just playing regular tour golf. Your expectations will go down.

  9. larrybud

    Aug 4, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Kinda flies in the face of Rory (and many others) saying “Conservative target, aggressive swing”.

  10. Progolfer

    Aug 4, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    I’m a professional golfer, and I don’t fire at every flag I see. Honestly, it’s all about the moment and the comfort I have over the shot. If I’m hitting it really well, I might be more confident and more aggressive than usual; if not, I will play more conservatively.

    Jack Nicklaus almost NEVER aimed at flagsticks. If a pin was on the right, he’d aim at the middle of the green and hit his fade– if it didn’t fade, he had a 20-footer; if he hit a perfect fade, he’d be close; if he faded it too much, he’d be near the right edge of the green with a 20-footer. The only time he’d fire at a flag was when the pin was on the left side, knowing if he hit is fade he’d still be on the green.

    Too many people in this game are taking a pre-conceived notion into the way they play, and it’s hurting them. Golf and life are about being in the present moment and doing what feels right. Stop forcing things, listen to your intuition, and it’ll all work out.

  11. Griiz01

    Aug 4, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    I’m not going to go in length. Especially since many have already expressed my sentiments. So, just being straight forward here. You are nuts! Must be the worse advise ever given on any golf medium in years.

  12. Matt

    Aug 4, 2015 at 9:53 am

    A good way to look at it is by proximity.
    PGA Tour players average proximity, which is about 5-6% the distance they have from the hole.

    100-125 yards: 6 yards
    125-150 yards: 7 yards

    When you are playing a course where the pin is 3 yards from the edge of the green. What’s more a better scenario from 110 yards? Aiming at the flag and bringing in a bunker, rough or water into your shot zone area. How about aim 3 yards more towards the center of the green and make sure you hit the green nearly all the time and giving yourself a birdie putt? If the worst situation from 110 yards out is 18 FT away for birdie I think a lot of players would take that.

    For a golfer who shoots 90, the average leave from the hole is about 12-15%. From 110 yards they average about 15 yards. If they aim at a flag that is 3 yards from the edge of the green. A BIG chunk of their area is going to be off the green. 90 golfer’s short game is typically not impressive.

  13. Shawn

    Aug 4, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Watch a few rounds of pro golf. Almost nobody fires at pins on most holes, because when they do they end up with a bunch of birdies and bogeys and shoot even par. That’s why a guy like Phil is so much fun to watch. He’s an outlier. Even on Sundays you’ve got guys within a few shots of the lead played steady golf. Pros rely on making an occasional long putt, birdies on par 5s, and only firing for pins that are set up perfect for it. Now one thing that can be lost in the above, is that they often know exactly where to hit on the green to feed the ball closer to the hole. AMs don’t often have that luxury, so that leaves them literally firing at sucker pins.

    What pros do very well though is distance control. They’re pin high all the time. With approach shots you deal with long/short and left/right. If you can eliminate on of those variables, your scores will go down dramatically. Now long/short is easier simply because you can measure distance. The best bang for the buck any golfer can get via a piece of equipment is a laser rangefinder. Start getting pin high and your putts will be shorter.

  14. Graham

    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Rich, I am sorry because I do enjoy most of the articles you write but this is perhaps the singlemost potentially harmful article to most golfers’ games that I have ever read on this site. I am surprised that the editors here allowed this to be published. At the moment this is an unsubstantiated assertion using numbers (I assume, as none were provided) from the PGA tour, without any breakdown of the math behind the assertion or how this applies to the average 15-handicap.

    This is very simple. Should you aim at more pins? Yes……. IF AND ONLY IF your score will benefit more due increased birdie frequency than it will suffer from a decrease in GIR. This is only true for some very small subsets of golfers. Golfers who have the accuracy and consistency to be shooting around par may benefit from increased aggressiveness, as they likely have the short game to ensure a high % of par saves when things go wrong. More birdie putts from inside 15 feet will result, but so too will short-sided chips, etc. If the increase in birdies helps more than the increase in missed greens hurts, then by all means fire away. But unless you are better than about a 5 handicap it’s pretty unlikely this will apply.

    Alternatively, a tiny group of amateurs who have good chipping/pitching abilities but are terrible at lag putting may find this strategy lowers the expected score on a hole. Otherwise, I am hard-pressed to find a general group of golfers for whom this advice does not hurt far more than it helps.

    Rich, in the future when you publish your views on golf strategy that people may read and take to heart, you please provide some numbers?

  15. 8thehardway

    Aug 4, 2015 at 1:24 am

    What if you play Pinnacles?

    Without trajectory it’s like trying to land a 747 on a helicopter pad. Spin and distance control probably factor in as well. Throw in accuracy and I’m down to wedges and a 9 iron; anything more and I’m happy to be in the same quadrant as a difficult pin position. In short, my game is more suited to St. Andrews than Augusta.

  16. mitch

    Aug 4, 2015 at 1:10 am

    the article says you should fire at more flags not shoot at every flag lol. and no GIR does not rule golf. par 5 scoring and playing par 4s half decent is how you can make up strokes against the field. there are of course exceptions to the rules such as David Toms getting an ace and ends up winning the PGA. consistent distance and flag hunting at the appropriate times will yield more chances to allow the player to get his putter going. the fields are so deep now, that if yo udon’t fire at flags someone else is going to and if they get an exceptional round, the passive smarter player will be packing their bags for the weekend. professional golfers tend to please the public by saying things like keeping it smooth and steady. play to the middle of the green. every pro, when presented with a chance to score is going to take it, partly because they have amazing short games, especially the ones who contend on the weekend, the plus side of being aggressive far out weighs missing an occasional green.

  17. Nathan

    Aug 3, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    First off, tour pros are not firing at flags all the time. They may fire at more flags with a 5, 6, or 7 iron in their hand than an amateur should, especially when conditions are soft, but with longer shots it is much more strategic than just “where is the flag.” Are there bunkers nearby, water, am I going to be short sided, how does the green break and where do I want to leave this putt. Second off, the article is premised on a huge, wrong assumption: that the average player has the short game to recover when they do miss the greens. Most amateurs, even very low handicaps, are hitting up to 9 greens per round, meaning they have to get up and down at least half the time. Tour pros scramble at a rate over 60%. That same statistic is less than 20% for non tour players. You might make one extra birdie firing at flags, but miss three more greens. Well your score is going to be higher than not making that birdie and hitting more greens. Even a terrible average putter will only three-putt 33% of the time, and yet a great weekend golf stands little chance of scrambling at 33%. If I knew I was going to get up and down 100% of the time, then of course we fire at every single flag. But the “will I birdie if I pull this off” to “will I bogey if I don’t” ratio really does not add up. Finally, the example in the article supports the opposite of the article’s presumption. The center of 16 is a huge target that funnels directly to the hole. If you pull it slightly, you are right at the hole and the green slopes back toward the flag from a lip coming off the bunker. If you push it, you are probably either catching the ridge and funneling down anyway, or up on the top right of the green. It is the classic example of not firing at a flag because you have many other options to make a good score on the hole. A better question would be should the average player fire at the flag on that hole when it is far right behind the bunker on the right. If they do, and leave themselves short-sided or in the bunker, the average player will put it past the hole, and down the ridge, leaving a very difficult two putt and more likely three putt. You are better off here forgetting the flag, aiming at the center of the green, and knowing that you are going to have that tough two putt back up to the flag, but have taken double off the scorecard and given yourself a good chance at par.

  18. Joe S

    Aug 3, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Rich,

    I have to disagree here. I am a current 1.5 and seem to always play my best rounds when I’m playing for the middle of the green except with wedges. 10 handicaps and above need to aim for the middle all of the time. Here’s why: 6 pins are usually in the middle of the green, 6 short, 6 deep. At worst, the average guy is going to have no more than a 25 foot putt if he can successfully hit the middle. Going at flags means he will short side himself…and sometimes go over the green. Most high handicappers can putt tons better than they chip. Tons. Pelz has tons of research to back this up. Golf is hard.

    • Doc Todd

      Aug 4, 2015 at 8:06 am

      I was thinking the same as you Joe. I seem to have read (here on WRX, IIRC) an article stating that going for center of the green is going to help the amateur golfer more than going “for the pin.” Anecdotally, I tend to find myself short and left as my usual miss. This would tend to point me to hitting a little more club and aiming right side of the green, rather than the center, to go for center of green.

  19. Anthony

    Aug 3, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I think a more appropriate name for the article would have involved something about being confident in your target. I’d rather be putting to a sucker pin then taking a penalty drop. I believe the old adage about your worst putt is better than your worst chip also holds true. (Unless of course data is present that shows amateurs are better off with a chip from thick rough rather than having a 35ft birdie putt.)

    Hitting greens is a huge confidence booster. Plus hitting greens eliminates the big number the majority of the time.

    Confidence in hitting the target is #1. I believe the point of this article is for amateurs to choose a more specific target (aka the pin, or a tree branch) instead of the target being a large green. Smaller target = smaller miss. Which leads to more GIRs which leads to more confidence, which leads to more agressive target picking (the pin) which leads to birdies.
    Just my 2¢

  20. gib15

    Aug 3, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    the irony of the article, to me at least, is that it’s title tells us to aim at the pin more, then we are given an example (the 16th at augusta) in which you do not fire at the pin, but yet have to fire at the middle of the green to get it close.
    I think that each situation is different, if you are playing an easier course with flatter greens, then sure you fire right at the pin, but sometimes on tougher courses with sloped greens, you need to fire away at the pin and feed it down.

    I agree totally that one should be target focused, but sometimes that target is not the flag. Jack Nicklaus was famous for choosing to start the ball off toward the fat part of the green and try to work the ball in from there, figuring that a missed shot would be safely on the putting green.

    for me, I really cannot hit a fade, so when a pin is tucked back right, it is useless for me to fire at that pin unless I have a 9 iron or wedge in, but on longer clubs I need to just play my draw and take a 20 footer to the left. not all of us have all the shots in the bag to just fire at every pin.

  21. Hellstorm

    Aug 3, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I agree with Matt. That one or two degrees of error on a good amateurs shot while aiming at a pin could blow up a hole way more often than it will result in a short putt for birdie. Aiming at every pin puts the cart before the horse for almost all amateurs. On a good round for me, I might hit 10 gir or near gir and I’m making par or bogey most of the time and I aim at the center unless I’m inside 60 yards.

    Telling amateurs to aim at the pin more is just bad advice. If anybody is reading this, it’s probably a bad idea. Using tour player’s stats to validate an advice column for amateurs is kinda like using a cake recipe to bake cookies. Sure a lot of things are the same but they will come out terrible in the end.

  22. Matt

    Aug 3, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    “Tour players are essentially firing at flags all the time. When they don’t, it’s most likely because they have a funky lie and aren’t sure how the ball will react.”

    Tell that to Spieth who said the difference between going for the flag and not was because he had to hit a 5 iron over a 6 iron. He had a club, where ANY shot with that club or a longer club was basically a bail out shot to the center of the green.

    Plenty of other PGA Tour players have said many times they don’t aim at flags. Ben Hogan said if the ball ends up near the hole on #11 at Augusta National is because he pulled it left. One of the greatest ball strikers of all time has thrown your comment out the window.

    Even Ricky Fowler has been quoted in stating that the goal is to hit every green in regulation, that is the best way to lower the score.

    As for the rest of your article. Do you have actual polling data to prove that all amateurs aim at the center of the green? From my experience amateurs are too flag oriented. You make it seem like this magical reasoning of why PGA Tour players go for flags, which isn’t true, is the reason why Amateurs suck.

    Amateurs suck because they are magnitudes more inaccurate with the degree in which they miss shots and how often they do. Aiming at the flag does not cure a bad swing. In some instances aiming at the flag will just compound a bag swing by putting them in a position they shouldn’t be aiming at the flag to being with.

    Lets say a golfer, who has a slice, tries to go at the flag of a pin on the left side of the green that is guarded by water on the front left of the green and the left side. What service are you doing by telling that golfer to go at the flag?

    The golfer would have to end up aiming over the water and pray it curves enough. They would also have to hope they get one of their good contacts or they might end up short.

    Lets say the golfer aims at the center of the green. He might pull it a tad, which goes longer, so he might end up near the pin. He might end up on the green. He might end up right side of the green or off the right side of the green. In most instances he is not getting an additional penalty shot by stupidly aiming over the water.

    Puts some numbers to it.
    You aim at the flag. 50% of the the player hits it in the water. 25% he’s near the pin. 25% of the time he’s on the green but further away. Are you willing to take a 50% shot of having a giant blow up score just so you can have a 25% of being near the pin?

    Greens in Regulation rule the game of golf. Amateurs are not good enough to consistently hit it close. Might as well take the short game out and hazards out of play. If all amateurs could minimize the number of times they end up in bunkers, water hazards, or awkward short game shots as well as get on the green more often they would substantially lower their scores.

    • Robert

      Aug 3, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      I agree whole heartedly with your response Matt but for a second, I believed this article, haha. I know for a fact your rebuttal makes sense because I played a round on Saturday and shot an 83 (13.9 index) with 3 birdies, 4 pars, 9 bogies, a triple and a double along with 5 GIRs. If I even better my GIRs by two greens, depending on what hole it happens on that could potentially save me up to 7 shots. 76 over the course of a few rounds as opposed to 83, drops my index a hell of a lot more than my 3 birdies I had along with my lack of GIRs.

    • Wes

      Aug 3, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Ben Hogan said that about 1 hole. There is an equally famous story where Ben was struggling with putting and his wife said “why don’t you hit it closer to the hole”. He played more aggressive from then on out.

      Fowler plays extremely aggressive. 17th at Sawgrass should be enough proof of that. It is Mickelson-Esque the way he played that risk reward course.

      Spieth aiming at every flag with 6 iron on down is still aggressive in my opinion. Aiming away from flags towards the fat of the green almost guarantees no birdies on Par 4’s and 3’s. I don’t think this article is meant to help the 15 handicap shoot 82. Low rounds are far more likely to come from great ballstriking rounds than great putting rounds.

      • Matt

        Aug 4, 2015 at 9:41 am

        Every play Sawgrass? Some of those greens have no bail out. #17 at sawgrass is 145 yards to a pretty large green. Ricky was playing to win and clearly on his game. This article doesn’t go into the fact that PGA Tour players could one day be on fire, or another day just wanting to just find the green.

        The article makes a blanketing statement which isn’t even good advice.

      • Hellstorm

        Aug 4, 2015 at 12:26 pm

        Wes, unless you are a tour pro or a scratch or better ball striker, I would bet that you make more birdies aiming for the center of the green outside of 70 yards than you would aiming for the pin on most holes. Most courses we scrubs play are not tucking pins and if they do, its not every hole. If you are aiming for the center, you are inevitably going to miss some and hit the ball towards the flag by accident. The whole point is, you might make one or two more birdies if you can strike the ball but its not going to help your score as a whole because if you are on this website, you dont have the short game to be saving par 70% of the time like the pros.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

An open letter to golf

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Dear golf,

I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.

It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.

On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.

This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.

As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.

I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.

When you are able to return in full, I will be here.

Sincerely,

Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)

 

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The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact

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One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.

As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.

I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.

So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.

So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.

I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.

I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.

If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.

[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]

It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.

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