Golf Digest Logo Golf IQ

Golf strategy 'genius' reveals some of the worst mistakes he sees amateur golfers make

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2022/Molinari Data Thumb.jpg

This article originally appeared in the Golf IQ newsletter, which is available exclusively for Golf Digest+ members. You can sign up for Golf Digest+ right here.

Eduardo Molinari and Arccos announced last week that they were joining forces. It’s the kind of news that may glide under the radar, but is actually pretty exciting for golf nerds, because it pairs one of the smartest data minds in golf—the man behind the European team’s ingenious Ryder Cup course setups—with one of the largest data sets in golf.

Long story short: Smart people pairing up to give good advice for the rest of us.

I called up Edoardo last week to get a taste of that advice, and it was one of those classic the-smartest-people-make-things-the-simplest moments.

“Amateurs have a lot of belief that certain areas of the game will keep their score down, but it actually doesn’t affect your score much,” Molinari says.

But then there are others where golfers of all levels can glean some big gains. Often, some of those are the simplest to accomplish.

Smart and Simple Rule #1: Driver in play, rough is ok

Hitting fairways is important, sort of. But you know what’s really important? Getting your ball in play. And by that we mean, not in a hazard, out of bounds, or in a position where you need to pitch out.

Fairways are nice, but dry land is the goal.

“The biggest mistake amateurs make most often is not respecting the hazards, the OB, the trees, bunkers, enough. Because if you hit it there, you’ve automatically lost an entire shot at least, ” Molinari says. “Weekend golfers most times just aim straight down the middle. Often I’ll say to golfers I play Pro Ams with: ‘yes, you can hit driver, but forget about the fairway. Aim into the rough away from the hazard.”

That idea is part of a strategy pros use centered around a concept called “miss cones”. You can learn more about how to use that in our video below:

Smart and Simple Rule #2: No short-side misses (EVER!)

The short side, in a nutshell, when you miss the green on the same side that the pin is on.

Long-side misses are the opposite. It’s when you miss the green on the side furthest away from the pin.

In this example, The red lines represent the short-side miss, and the green lines the long-side miss.

Short-side misses are bad because statistically, they’re by far the most difficult place to get up-and-down from (you can learn more about that here). Long-side misses can often be easier because they give you more green to work with, and therefore more margin for error.

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2022/unnamed (1).png

And that’s what Molinari says more weekend golfers should prioritize. Aim away from the pin, towards the middle and far away from the pin, towards the long-side. He points to the success of one of his clients, Viktor Hovland.

“I told [Viktor]: Do me a favor. Try and be extremely conservative. Play as boring as you can. Your only goal is to not short-side once in 18 holes,” he said. “After his round he said, ‘that was a nice, boring round of golf’ and he was completely sold. If it works for him, it’s definitely going to shave a lot more shots for a 10 handicap.”

Smart and Simple Rule #3: Hit the green with your chips

Have you spotted the trend in Eduardo’s advice yet? It’s to avoid disaster above all else. That’s true off the tee, that’s true into the greens, and that’s true around the greens.

So you’ve hit your drive in play into the rough (good job!), pushed it somewhere near the green away from the short side (good job again!), and now, you’ve got a chip. What should your goal be?

“Priority number one, for every golfer, is that when you’re in a bunker, just hit the green. If you leave it in a bunker, that’s a stroke lost right away. The same is true chipping around the greens. I see this in pro-ams every week. They’re three yards short of the first green, and they pull out a lob wedge and they’re thinking, ‘hit it close’ when they really should be thinking: ‘hit the green’”

If that seems alarmingly simple, again, that’s the point. Good golf is boring golf. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re probably doing something right.

Questions? Hit me at luke.kerr-dineen@wbd.com.

And you can follow me on Instagram here, or Twitter here.

And remember, join your fellow golf nerds in the Golf Digest+ community right here!