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I just saw an article that talked about myth busting on laying up verses going for it.  The article seemed to make the point you should always try to get as close as possible to the green vs laying up to a comfortable distance - but ignored hazards as part of their analysis.  Hmmmm - that only seems like the biggest reason anyone would ever lay up.

Every par 5 I have ever laid up on has a penalty area or narrowing of trees that is effectively as hazard. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of the time you need to be successful in challenging a hazard before it pays off. For instance, a drive on a par 5 over a ditch that has to carry 230 and OB right. Reward – 2nd shot in the 250yd range at a green protected by sand. Verses a hybrid lay-upi n the 300 yard range – fairway wood for second shot to the 100 yard range. How many extra birdies does the drive to 250 get you verses the extra OB/water penalty.
Or for a par 5 with a 2nd shot though a narrow gap of trees from 125-75 yards of the green. Is it better to lay up with a safer iron at the 125, or pull fairway wood which is typically more errant and get stuck in the trees and have to chip out.
That would be a cool analysis.

Is there such an analysis?  I know the application would depend greatly on the individual golfer and his success rate carrying 230/hitting fairway through a small gap of trees etc, but I wonder if there are rules of thumb for certain success rates?

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13 minutes ago, Brian Parkinson said:

I just saw an article that talked about myth busting on laying up verses going for it.  The article seemed to make the point you should always try to get as close as possible to the green vs laying up to a comfortable distance - but ignored hazards as part of their analysis.  Hmmmm - that only seems like the biggest reason anyone would ever lay up.

Every par 5 I have ever laid up on has a penalty area or narrowing of trees that is effectively as hazard. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of the time you need to be successful in challenging a hazard before it pays off. For instance, a drive on a par 5 over a ditch that has to carry 230 and OB right. Reward – 2nd shot in the 250yd range at a green protected by sand. Verses a hybrid lay-upi n the 300 yard range – fairway wood for second shot to the 100 yard range. How many extra birdies does the drive to 250 get you verses the extra OB/water penalty.
Or for a par 5 with a 2nd shot though a narrow gap of trees from 125-75 yards of the green. Is it better to lay up with a safer iron at the 125, or pull fairway wood which is typically more errant and get stuck in the trees and have to chip out.
That would be a cool analysis.

Is there such an analysis?  I know the application would depend greatly on the individual golfer and his success rate carrying 230/hitting fairway through a small gap of trees etc, but I wonder if there are rules of thumb for certain success rates?

I assume you are referring to the plugged in golf article.  Those stats are based on arccos data.  Course strategy has been evolving since the creation of strokes gained numbers and tools like shotlink and arccos.  
The general strategy should be to advance the ball as far as possible every time.  Of course you need to factor penalty hazards and how well you hit the ball.  When looking at statistics like this you can’t look at an individual shot or individual round:  these are long term evaluations. You will hit shots into the rough, into penalty areas, behind trees, and even poorly struck.  Those individual instances can’t influence long term strategy.  
long way to say look at stroke gained and arccos type data and make shot selection based on you ability to hit a particular shot 8/9 times out of 10. DECADE or lowest score wins would also be a good strategy programs to review. 

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To get a little more depth of analysis, you should get deeper into the subject.  This is all based on the Strokes Gained analysis method, so reading Every Shot Counts is a great first step.  Lowest Score Wins describes some more detailed analysis methods based largely on Strokes Gained.  The Decade system is another way of evaluating decision making, again informed by Strokes Gained.  I've read LSW, its just $30, and I've found it to be well written and logical.

The general rule isn't intended to ignore "problems".  I've learned to get as close as possible while minimizing "excess risk".  Risk factors could include slopes, narrowing fairways, penalty areas, OB, lots of problem areas.  Old "lay up" advice ignored those, they just said lay up to your comfortable yardage, even if there was little or no danger in getting closer.  

37 minutes ago, Brian Parkinson said:

Or for a par 5 with a 2nd shot though a narrow gap of trees from 125-75 yards of the green. Is it better to lay up with a safer iron at the 125, or pull fairway wood which is typically more errant and get stuck in the trees and have to chip out.

This is the type of "binary thinking" that statistics should help you to overcome.  For most players, a fairway wood is a little less accurate than a mid to long iron, so hitting the wood might result in a few more balls into trouble.  But giving up 20 or 30 yards puts you into position where you'll miss more greens, be in more bunkers, have longer first putts than if you hit a similarly accurate longer second.  You don't eliminate bad shots by laying up, and you don't guarantee a ball into trouble by hitting the longest club in your bag.

Edited by DaveP043

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Zach Johnson won a green jacket laying up.

Ive seen meandmygolf interview when DJ who avoids shots inside 95 yards. 
 

All depends on on you look a things. I could hit a second shot on a part 5 to put my arm 115 yards or I could get greedy and get closer but what if close isn’t better from a risk standpoint. 
 

I prefer to analyze the shot in front of me and decide what’s the best shot to get me in the hole with the least strokes

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29 minutes ago, RickyBobby_PR said:

I could hit a second shot on a part 5 to put my arm 115 yards or I could get greedy and get closer but what if close isn’t better from a risk standpoint. 

This is where knowing your game comes in.  For almost every player, they'll take fewer shots to get in the hole from 70 yards than they will from 100, etc.  Of course that discounts lots of factors, but its a general guideline.  So there's a little increase risk of a bad result if you hit a longer second shot, but better scoring potential.  You really need to compare something like:

115 yards out, 20% in rough, 5% in real trouble, 75% in fairway

against

75 yards out, 35% in rough, 8% in trouble, 57% in fairway

I made all of those percentages up, but that's the kind of analysis that the statistics can allow.  And maybe if the fairway pinches in at that point, your "close" percentages become, with the same dispersion pattern:

75 yards, 40% in rough, 20% in trouble, 40% fairway

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Thanks Dave - 100% the point I was making.  

Maybe I give golfers too much cerebral credit, but the whole would I rather be 30yrds out vs 100yrds dilemma, I wouldn't have seen a a dilemma at all.  But when you factor in the am I what % more likely to find rough, tree, hazard, etc. then it becomes more of an analysis.  It definitely seemed like an incomplete at best to just plain bad article without trying to factor in the rest of the story.

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Taylor Made 770 irons

Sub70 54 and 58* wedges

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So many external factors go into this, but I will say that usually I feel like I am rewarded more for going for it.  Even on tight par 5's with trouble, when I really think back over my rounds, I typically feel like I should go for it more often.  

That is a lot easier to say sitting here typing.  I would say for me, it's probably more dependent on my drive and if I am even able to go for it.   If I have an opening - up to around 260 yards, I'm usually going to go for it, unless I have a situation with a forced 240 carry or something.  Not much of a thought there, but will be thinking about it more.  I pulled a 3 wood out of the bag this year and maybe I consider putting it back in?  

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Love watching people go for it, get it, then lag 4 putt for bogey. Especially when there is a senior golfer in the group that went D,FW,Hyb,7i to get on and one putts for par.

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 I like to go for it but it depends on the risk reward factor and what length shot I will have. If for example I know if I hit the good shot I will be on the green or just short, then I will go for it. However if going for it means I am left with a 50-70m shot or worse in the rough should I not hit it well I would rather lay up at full wedge distance. Much easier to hit a full shot than try to hit a 1/3 - 2/3 swing wedge.

Edited by Firebird

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I think this is a really challenging discussion to have without debating a specific example. I think being closer to the hole is better for most people, including myself. So going for it maybe is the right call depending on your confidence that day and what hazards are in the landing area. If you're playing a wide open course with all the holes generally next to one another, who cares if you're a fairway over. If you on a links course where a lost ball is likely 10 yards off a narrow fairway, the decision is likely different. At the end of the day it really comes down to making the decision based on the shot you have. If you have a way of gaining stats, that's great. I think the other piece of decision making that often gets overlooked regarding the lay up decision is your overall mental game and carelessness.

How many times have you hit a shot and asked what were your thinking? Did you hit a good drive directly into a bunker because you didn't look at how far out the bunker was? Have you hit 3 wood on a par 5 with hazards or OB nearby and thought why did I even try after hitting the shot? 

So much decision making on par 5s and drivable par 4s really comes down to how much effort you put into your thoughts and staying level headed. Most golfers mental state fluctuates throughout the round and you have to try to be aware if you're the type who starts playing on tilt after making a few bad shots. It's important to be aware of the influence of your mental state when making decisions and take it into account. If you missed a putt or made a bad shot on the prior hole, is your mind trying get you to "make it up"? Having good stats on your home course can help with the mental side as you will know the correct decisions by the numbers regardless of your mental state. However, if you're on an unfamiliar course, you really have to take your time to look at the yardages and observe the surroundings. It's really easy to lose sight of how narrow or wide some courses really can be if you're unfamiliar with the course. It's easy to forget how narrow a new course is once you've played a few holes then you get to a par 5 that appears to open up but it still may be much narrower or have way less playable area than what you usually play on. One way to mitigate this is trying to imagine your home course hole over the hole your playing at a different course when trying to determine how much room you have to play with. 

Sometimes you can determine whether or not to lay up with one simple question: Is this a dumb shot?

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I used to always go for it, but now I'm starting to consider laying back. It just depends what the trouble is. If I'm looking at bunkers or high grass I pull the trigger, if it's a lake and lost ball gonna hang back.

I actually had this on 2 par 5s in a tournament on Saturday. The first had a creek at 220. I pulled 3w and went for it, made par. The next one had creek at 250, I hit PW-PW. Both holes were par. So I'm not seeing the math yet.

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59 minutes ago, DiscipleofPenick said:

I used to always go for it, but now I'm starting to consider laying back. It just depends what the trouble is. If I'm looking at bunkers or high grass I pull the trigger, if it's a lake and lost ball gonna hang back.

I actually had this on 2 par 5s in a tournament on Saturday. The first had a creek at 220. I pulled 3w and went for it, made par. The next one had creek at 250, I hit PW-PW. Both holes were par. So I'm not seeing the math yet.

You cant judge this by a hole or round;  the number happen over time.  You could make 5 bogeys in a row and it still be the right decision.  The strokes gained math has been done;  closer to the hole results in less shots required.   The exceptions should really only be if you can't pull off the shot say 8 out of 10 times.  

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it's generally a 70/30 split of laying up vs going for it. I recently see data analysis that indicated it is better to get as close to the hole as possible with every shot. I completely understand that, however I struggle with driver (But lessons are helping) so I often times club down to avoid the extra shot penalty. and this repeats along the way. The side note to this is, my short game is pretty good so I don't worry a lot when I do go for it and miss. So there's that, but Id say the lay up is more a result of a poor tee shot most of the time. Also I don't like to hold up play if its crowded behind me waiting for a green to clear just to miss. But that's just me.

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After taking a month off golf and doing a wee bit of self analysis on my game plus some lessons, I'm actually better laying up and giving myself a good number to come into the green with, as my wedges have turned into a real strength. My strokes gained approach compared to a 5 handicap is in the negative (I'm a 10 currently)and often find myself either making a par or a bogey on the par 5's trying to go for it, rather than giving myself a chance to get close and make a birdie or par. 

My home course par 5's have narrow entrances about 30m short of the green, so if it's a misfit it's always finding trouble. Better to be shorter than pushing it unless it's a magnificent drive and a hybrid or less into the green. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

For me, it's going to be determined by 2 factors

1. what part of my game is working/not working that day? 

2. what does around the green look like?

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I think the important thing for golfers is to strategically attempt shots you practice and have confidence in, to leave yourself shots you practice and are confident in.  Unlike pros who's job it is to practice all sorts of situations and lies, amateurs have much more limited time and are not nearly as well rounded.  Each golfer usually had very different skills and comfort levels with certain shots.  Play to your personal strengths and when you do have time, practice what you're weaker at so more options become available to you on the course.  The old saying of golf is don't attempt shots you haven't practiced.

 

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