OVERESTIMATE Selecting a longer club over a hazard gives you a margin for error if you don't hit your best.
The average golfer is nervous facing a carry over a hazard. How do you take as much risk and fear out of the shot as possible? You have to give yourself a margin for error—I'd say at least a 10-percent margin. If the shot is 150 yards, think of it as 165, and pick the club you normally would hit for a 165-yard shot.
Maybe your usual 150-yard club is a 6-iron. But does it go 150 on average—or is that your best shot? And does it carry 150 in the air, which is what you really need to know when you judge distance and pick a club? Most of the severe trouble is in front of the green, so all the more reason to take more club. I almost never see amateurs over a green unless they skull the ball or ride a big tailwind.
It's difficult to know how far your mis-hits will go, and you're not necessarily playing for them, but giving yourself a 10-percent margin for error will relax you and improve your odds of success.
THOUGHTS FROM TOM
Drop it on the flag: Two other tips that can help you get your shot to the target: Try to land the ball on top of the flagstick, and try to hit the ball to the back of the green.
Stay flexed during the swing: Strive to keep your knees flexed consistently, from the time you address the ball until you hit it. Sam Snead set a great example of staying flexed. "Cement legs" is a common fault among weekend players.
Golf Digest Playing Editor Tom Watson is the golf professional emeritus at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.