Jump to content
LeftyRM7

Approach Strategy

Recommended Posts

After reading countless articles on approach play and strategy in general, I’m interested to hear others thoughts and opinions. I keep reading that it’s better to play to the long side of the green, or club up as they say. Also I keep reading that statistically there is more danger at the front of the green. I find both of these ideas to be false.

 

I’ve always played to the front of the green. For multiple reasons...

 

1. I tend to have a lower ball flight that gets some run.

2. I find way more danger in missing long. Usually heavily wooded areas and steep drop-offs.

3. My miss is usually fat, I find when I try to slow down or hit an “easy” shot, I tend to hit it fat. My contact seems to improve when I feel like I can go after a shot hard.

 

I will admit that I miss significantly more approach shots short, but I’m playing for a short miss and my bad shot is a short/fat. I don’t believe in playing for a miss, I’d rather leave a miss short than pure one over the green. To me the worst is when you hit a great shot and get penalized for it.

 

I’m very confused by the idea that more trouble is short of the green. I’ve only played about 2 dozen courses in my short time as a golfer so maybe I just haven’t gotten out enough.

 

So what is your strategy on approach shots?

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
7 minutes ago, LeftyRM7 said:

So what is your strategy on approach shots?

 

Know my tendencies and dispersion with the club I am hitting

Aim so a shot that goes toward the extremes of that dispersion won't end up in a bad location

Generally desired location is middle of green to minimize 3 putt possibilities.  

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, LeftyRM7 said:

Also I keep reading that statistically there is more danger at the front of the green.

I'd like to see those stats.

Regardless, I'd be interested to know how deep the greens are at the courses you regularly play.  Not knowing much about your game other than your stated handicap, I'd recommend you disregard the pin location and hit the longest club you can hit that will not fly the green when struck solidly.  Unless you play courses with extremely small greens, I would think this strategy would put you somewhere near the middle of the green with a well struck shot, as @cnosil suggests above.  A somewhat iffy shot should still get you on the front of the green.

There are two cases where I play the front-edge yardage:

  1. When the green is really shallow (around 30 feet front-to-back) and the middle of the green yardage is between clubs.
  2. When the green is really narrow side-to-side and there's severe trouble on both sides.  One course I play frequently has two holes like that, and if I have more than an 8 iron in to the green, I'll play for the front edge or a little short, because both greens are open in the front.  On both holes, missing left or right by a couple of feet is certain death.

But whenever you can, take enough club to reach the green with a less-than-perfect strike.  On average, you'll score better leaving yourself 30 foot putts than leaving yourself 30 foot pitches/chips.

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Courses in my area seem to be older and they slope back to front. The front is usually a safe miss. Uphill chips, pitches, and putts right?   As I think over various course Ive played, I feel short is less costly than long by a very high %

 

Center of the green is usually a pretty good bet and thats my general play unless Im 8i or shorter where I feel I can be more aggressive.

I am working on getting after sticks more and dont be afraid to go long at times. See how that goes for me. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

On my home course I like to come up short on every par 3 if I miss the green, because they all play up hill from the tee. Being long (off the back) is always a sketchy, down hill putt. Other than that, I will always take enough club to get to the middle or back of the green.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Regardless, I'd be interested to know how deep the greens are at the courses you regularly play.
 


My home course I play regularly has smaller greens. I used google earth to get a rough estimate of about 3565 sq. ft. I’ve played courses that seem like the greens are double the size of my home courses. Also usually firm and hard to hold. Mostly uphill front to back and lots of drop-offs behind.

There is a course on the other side of town I play sometimes and it’s greens are small as well but usually way softer. I find myself grabbing an extra club into those.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

My home course is old and the greens are smallish and pretty much slope from back to front. Generally. I take a look at 4 numbers on every approach. I use my GPS - F,M,B and then the laser pin shot. Coming up short on these greens is usually not a bad miss. However, I'm rarely long on my approaches. So, all things considered - a middle of the green shot is usually a good strategy most days. Guys that come up short most of the time I simply ask.... "how many times in a round do you airmail the green?" They usually say rarely. Hit one more club if you're finding yourself short of the green a lot. Sometimes the difference in yardage between the front of the green and the back can be perhaps one -  two clubs.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, LeftyRM7 said:

 


My home course I play regularly has smaller greens. I used google earth to get a rough estimate of about 3565 sq. ft. I’ve played courses that seem like the greens are double the size of my home courses. Also usually firm and hard to hold. Mostly uphill front to back and lots of drop-offs behind.

There is a course on the other side of town I play sometimes and it’s greens are small as well but usually way softer. I find myself grabbing an extra club into those.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

With greens that small every shot should be middle of the green. I wouldn’t even look at anything else.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, LeftyRM7 said:

 


My home course I play regularly has smaller greens. I used google earth to get a rough estimate of about 3565 sq. ft. I’ve played courses that seem like the greens are double the size of my home courses. Also usually firm and hard to hold. Mostly uphill front to back and lots of drop-offs behind.

There is a course on the other side of town I play sometimes and it’s greens are small as well but usually way softer. I find myself grabbing an extra club into those.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

So if my math is right, then that should be 60x60=3600 sqft.  Your greens will (hopefully) be all sorts of different shapes, but I'll bet that several of them are going to be 50-60 feet deep.  That's not huge, but you should be able to go 1 club beyond the front-edge yardage at those 50-60 foot deep greens and not airmail the green.  So unless a green has a crazy back-to-front slope, I'd go one club past the front-edge yardage. 

It would be worth your while to pace off the greens front-to-back to have a good idea of the actual depth of each green.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I see a couple of factors.  First, in my experience, there's generally more "trouble" in front of the green than behind it.  There are more bunkers, and more water, in general.  So for that reason, I'd rather be long and in the rough, chipping downhill, as opposed to being short and in a bunker, or even worse, in the water.  But each hole should be analysed for its specific dangers.

Second, most players, particularly higher handicappers, tend to think they hit the ball further than they do.  You may have hit a 7-iron 165 yards once in your life, but your average, even if you only include semi-decent strikes, is probably 145 or 150.  You should be basing your club selection on your average, not on your one-time best stroke.  So what if you hit 5% of your irons over the green, if you hit 30% more onto the green you're way ahead.

Last, for most of us, most of the time, we should be aiming at the center of the green.  That will mean more shots on the green, and fewer short-sided chips or pitches.  I'd rather have a 50-foot putt after a 30-foot pull,  than a 30-foot chip with only 12 feet of green. 

For the OP, I'd recommend a book called Lowest Score Wins for a great description of good decision-making on the course, among a number of other things.  Its written by the owner of another golf website, but its really a pretty solid book.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post

How you play an approach shot depends entirely on the green size and where the trouble is and what your skill level is. If the trouble is in back yet bunkered in front I would rather miss short in the green side bunker. My greens are large, but hard and fast so I usually play to the largest area of the green. I would rather have a long putt than trying to stop a shot from over the green on a hard fast green out of the rough. I really don't think there is a set rule for everyone. It depends on your course setup and your ability to adapt to the conditions. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Flagless Golf is an interesting strategy game/experiment to try.  Go play nine/eighteen holes without any flags on the greens. Target the center of each green for the approach shots---no peeking even on pitches and long chips. See how you score compared to your normal strategy.  

 

Note, it is best to do this literally with no flags on the greens.  If possible. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
7 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

...  most players, particularly higher handicappers, tend to think they hit the ball further than they do.  You may have hit a 7-iron 165 yards once in your life, but your average, even if you only include semi-decent strikes, is probably 145 or 150.  You should be basing your club selection on your average, not on your one-time best stroke.  So what if you hit 5% of your irons over the green, if you hit 30% more onto the green you're way ahead.

 

... Great post! But I have a feeling this numbers would be closer to 1% and 50%. Pro's hit the ball flag high often, but when they miss they miss long 50% and short 50%. Am's miss short 99% of the time for the reason you stated above, they completely over estimate their "average" iron shot. I used to give my students the advice of picking the club you would normally hit for every full shot during a round, then take one more club and hit it like the club you chose. In other words don't worry about hitting long, take one more club and take your full, normal swing. It is very rare, even taking one more club, for mid to high index players to fly the green because they hit a perfect shot. 

... I would add even low index players tend to do the same thing, just to a lesser degree. Instead of missing the green they are 10-15 feet short of the pin more often than not. It takes a lot of confidence and trust to say "170 is my normal 7 iron when struck well, but here is a good chance I miss this just a little and hit it 165. So I will take a 6 iron for this 169yd shot to a  middle pin and choke down 1/2" and trust I have the right club." If they hit it perfectly, they still only have a 10-15 foot putt from past the pin but most likely they will be close to the flag for distance but a mishit will still find the front of the green.  

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post

Thinking about my club, All the danger is in front. Forced carries into every green except 1 hole. Interesting the danger area is off the back. If that’s the case I’d say your playing them correctly then 

Share this post


Link to post

Im not sure I have a generalized approach strategy.  I try to play the percentages and hit the ball where I have the best opportunity for Par.   My desired approach location really depends on the pitch of the green and hazards protecting the green.   For example lets say I am hitting into an elevated green that is pitched from front to back.   I will try to hit the ball short of the green if possible.   I feel a short chip uphill is a better shot for me than a long putt uphill.  Down hill putts are never a good option for me so pin hunting is not a smart play.  Given the same hole but a front pin location hitting into the middle of the green would again give me a downhill putt.    I try to avoid those at all cost (unless the green is soft).  

I guess my point here is your strategy really should change based on the variables surrounding each specific hole with respect to your ball flight/location tendencies.    

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I will average the Front/Mid yardage off the GPS (free phone app) and pick the club that carries at least that far or if the middle is right on my yardage for a club, I start there.  If I can tell the pin is really far back or forward, then I definitely hit it with my rangefinder and adjust if needed.  Many times I use the rangefinder anyway but not 100% of the time.  At this point, I go through the usual checklist: wind, lie, uphill/downhill, where's the trouble/hazard, etc., then change clubs if needed.  My tendency is to miss right/left of the green rather than short/long which is probably how this routine evolved.

I'll also add that courses in my area generally have back to front sloped greens so going long is usually worse.  Past the green, there's usually a downslope and just beyond that is often bushes and/or trees.  If you fly it over the green, you get a big kick forward and end up 30yds over the green chipping back through a shrubbery to a green sloping away from you.  No thanks. 

Edited by TwoCoatsOfWax

Share this post


Link to post

I see lots of advice here, some of it quite good.  Generally speaking I would say always take the club that will hit the ball in the middle of the green - once you are hitting it middle of the green high 75 percent of the time you can start to mess with whether or not you want to go after front or back pins. 

Yes, you've had an unusual start to your golf career, courses are generally (not always) designed with more trouble in front than back although they often have greens that slope front to back so over the green long leaves a trickier pitch/chip.  Having written that a downhill chip with plenty of green might be simpler than an uphill short sided one. 

 

Just remember that 75 percent rule - get to where you can put it the distance of the middle of the green 75 percent of the time before worrying about anything else.

Good luck!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Every golf hole requires it's own unique strategy honestly, and even the same hole can require a totally different strategy, depending on where the pin is located on a daily basis.

I'm sitting here visually going through the holes on my home course, and I would guess that 80% of these holes, the best miss is short and right of the hole.  And I can testify that on several of these holes if you are long or over the green, you are dead.  Just last Saturday I had 190 into a back pin on #16, and I know that long on this hole is dead, so instead of pulling 4 iron, I pulled 5 iron, and just played to the middle of the green.  We had some wind in our face, so I was counting on the wind to kill some of the distance on my shot.  Well, the combination of the wind dying right as I hit the shot, and me absolutely nutting a 5 iron with a perfect draw into the hole saw my ball hit hard on the very back of the green, and go bye bye, into the festival of junk down the hill right behind the green.  In this case I executed an exception approach shot, but miscalculated how far the ball would actually travel under those circumstances.

But I can also point to the next hole on our course, which is a mid length par 3 (165-175'ish) that has a very narrow green and is guarded by traps all across the front of the green.  On this hole your miss is definitely long, because behind the green is just a hill that will actually stop your ball and then you'd have a downhill chip back onto the green.  Unfortunately this hole owns me both mentally and physically, so I continue to play stupid and typically end up in and around these sand traps, instead of pulling an extra club and missing long.

There are also holes, like our 18th hole, where missing left or right of the green is death, and you want to keep it either long or short of the green.

Honestly though, depending on the golf course, architecture, variety and strategy of the designer, 18 holes should all present something different to think about hitting into every green.  6 holes with a short miss, 6 holes with a long miss, and 6 holes with a miss right or left as your best options would be a well designed golf course.  That and having a variety of shot shapes and distances into holes on all 18 holes identifies a good golf design from a boring or bland one.  The last thing I want when paying good money to play golf is to have 6 iron into every par 4, and be hitting the same club into all or most of the par 3s.  Honestly, this is my only complaint with my home course.  The par 3s on the front nine are typically the same club, and the par 3s on the back nine are about the same as well, with some variance depending on the pins and the day.  But I won't return to a golf course where I'm hitting the same club into every single par 4, or most of them anyway.  Variety is not only the spice of life, but an indicator of a great golf course design and layout.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Go 5 yards past the green on my home course's 170yd par 3 18th and you are nestled against a wall, another 2 or 3 yards and you could be in someones pint glass on the patio (no I haven't yet, before you ask), long and a little right puts you in the clubhouse conservatory.  Short is best on that one.

Share this post


Link to post

If your handicap is above 10, most would be well served to take the yardage to the middle of green or flag and add 5-10 yard and select the club for that distance (yardage to back of green being maximum) as a general rule. If you start missing the green long more often than you miss short you can then adjust that number down to 0-5 yards from the middle or pin. You don't need to think about swinging easier, you make a normal full shot and consider all factors as usual - wind, lie, uphill, etc.

One thing I have learned through shot scope and as chisag alluded to above is the tendency to associate your distance with your good/best shots. For example, my 7 iron is my "150 yard club" and my P-Avg in shot scope is 152 yards...

My actual average including fat shots, thin shots, lies in heavy rough... 135 yards. I also average 5-10 yards longer hitting an iron off the tee versus ground. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...