Golf School: Make the Percentage Play When Approaching the Green

In Sunday’s win, Patton Kizzire had a once shot lead over Fowler and an awkward stance hitting his approach shot. He could have chased the pin trying to secure the win with a birdie but he decided to just hit the green and play for the par. The percentage-play earned him his first PGA Tour win.

Most amateurs try working on lengthening out drives and draining more putts but the biggest determinant for a player’s score is the approach shot. Understanding that you need to drain a putt once you’re on the green, you still have to be consistent, flexible and smart with your irons in order to get to that position.

Much of this has to do with the percentage-play which professionals do very well. They know when to go-for-it and when to play for par.

In a Golf Channel article, SwingFix Instructor, Ed Oldham, discusses a stoplight approach to making those high percentage plays. When thinking about going for the pin on your approach. Green means go, yellow means caution and red means stop!

• Green Light – Pitching wedge or sand wedge: Green means go. If you are within wedge distance and feeling confident about your game, go ahead and aim at the pin. But, be aware of your tendencies. If your tendency is to miss right and the pin is on the right, aim more toward the center. If your misses usually go left and the pin is left, aim away from the pin. Also, consider your shot shape. If your typical shot shape is left-to-right and the pin is on the left side of the green, aim away from the pin.

• Yellow Light – 7-iron, 8-iron or 9-iron: A yellow light means caution. If the pin is close to the edge of the green, the play here is to aim away from it, toward the center of the green. Aim 10, 20, even 30 feet away from the pin in this instance. Keep in mind your tendencies and locate the trouble. Before hitting each shot, it’s always a good idea to analyze the situation. Take a look at where you want to hit it and where you would and wouldn’t want to miss. Golf is all about score. You are better off putting from 30 feet than chipping from off the green, playing from a bunker, or worse, dropping after finding a water hazard.

• Red Light – Woods, 3-iron through 6-iron: Stop! Do not aim at the pin. Take a look at the green and aim at the safest part of the green. Play away from bunkers, water and other trouble. Even if no hazards are present, missing the green on the “short side,” the side where the pin is, leaves little green to work with, making your up-and-down opportunity difficult.

Keep in mind that the best players in the world don’t aim at the pin all the time and neither should you.

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