When a forced carry be­comes a lay-up

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Play Your Best - By ron kaspriske

You just hit the drive of the day, and it couldn’t have come on a bet­ter hole. Your ball caught the hill and rolled all the way down to a flat spot in the fair­way.You’re now within strik­ing dis­tance of the front of the green on this short par 5, so it’s go-time, right? Well, maybe not. Just as you reach for a fair­way wood, a gust of wind hits your face.You look up and no­tice the rip­ples on the wa­ter haz­ard that guards the front of the green.Then you look down at your ball and no­tice it’s got a dab of mud on it. Mean­while, your part­ner just put one in that pond, and your op­po­nents, who are 2 down, are goad­ing you to go for it.Taking ev­ery­thing into con­sid­er­a­tion, do you still go for the green in two or do you lay up?

“You would think it would be as sim­ple as, well, I know I can hit the ball far enough to get it there,” says PGATour proTony Finau.“But if you play golf, you know that’s not how it works.”

It’s true that dis­tance of­ten is the most im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nant in taking on a forced carry. (Finau says his max carry is 305 yards. Wow.) But there are plenty of other el­e­ments to con­sider – phys­i­cal and men­tal.

Things such as the lie, the weather, what’s to gain or lose if it’s a suc­cess or fail­ure – they all mat­ter. But the first thing to think about, says tour pro Luke Don­ald, is, Do I feel com­fort­able pulling off the shot?

“What goes into mak­ing me feel more com­fort­able?” Don­ald says.“How I feel I’m swing­ing that day. Do I have a good yardage? Which direc­tion is the wind? Is this a strength of my game, or am I more suited to lay­ing up and hav­ing con­fi­dence in my short game? That’s what goes through my head.”

Though you don’t want the sit­u­a­tion to feel more mo­men­tous than it is – go­ing for it in a Satur­day morn­ing four­ball is a lot dif­fer­ent than trying it on the back nine with a lead on a PGA Tour Sun­day – sports psy­chol­o­gist Dr Bob Rotella cau­tions not to be im­petu­ous in your de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

One way of as­sess­ing the risk, he says, is con­sid­er­ing how many times you would be suc­cess­ful in 10 at­tempts on an empty golf course.Also, con­sider how many shots it would set you back if your ball didn’t clear the haz­ard.

An­other thing to think about, Finau says, is that get­ting over a forced carry doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally mean a birdie or bet­ter.

“Are you just look­ing at the green or look­ing at ev­ery­thing that’s on the other side?” Finau says.“It’s re­ally frus­trat­ing if you clear the haz­ard but end up in a sit­u­a­tion where you’re strug­gling just to make par.”

So let’s say you’ve as­sessed ev­ery­thing from your swing, feel­ing as if it’s on au­topi­lot (thank you, Mr Trans­fu­sion), to that lit­tle tuft of grass prac­ti­cally teeing your ball up.There’s no chang­ing your mind; you’re go­ing for it. So what’s the plan?

If you’ve got more than one club ca­pa­ble of reach­ing the other side, opt for the longer one so you have a lit­tle more mar­gin of er­ror on a mis-hit.And don’t go pin hunt­ing un­less you’ve got plenty of green to work with, Don­ald says.

Adds Mike Ben­der, one of Golf Di­gest’s 50 Best Teach­ers: “Un­for­tu­nately most golfers fo­cus on where they don’t want the ball to go, and that cre­ates pres­sure. Pres­sure in golf causes play­ers’ mus­cles to tighten, which re­stricts move­ment and changes tempo.”

In­stead, Ben­der says fo­cus on a good swing thought like, Pound the ground.

“Swing­ing ag­gres­sively down helps a player stay in pos­ture and ac­cel­er­ate into the ball,” he says. “Nor­mally, play­ers are anx­ious to see the shot and rise up.That causes mis-hits.”

See­ing the shot in your mind and com­mit­ting to it is key, Rotella says.“And you need to know that it’s not go­ing to ruin your day if you don’t pull it off. Be pre­pared to live with the con­se­quences.”

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