Know Where To Miss

March 21, 2013

Knowing where it's OK to miss a shot can save you strokes. We all miss our share. We might not know when they're coming, but we can play the risk-reward percentages.

Here I'm facing a short-right hole location on a raised green. It's a sucker pin. If I go for it and come up short, my ball's going to roll into that collection area, which is a tough up-and-down. If I go long on that line, I'll have a slick, downhill chip--that's no bargain, either.

To the left of the pin, I can see there's a lot of green. So I'll play to that side, over the bunker, and be sure to take enough club. If I go long, at worst I'll have a chip with the whole green to work with. It's a much easier spot to recover from.

Many times in competition I've intentionally missed a green to leave myself an easy chip rather than a trouble shot or really difficult putt. Sometimes the potential reward isn't worth the risk.


Discipline yourself to avoid risk. Play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses. If you don't think you could pull off a shot eight times in 10, you should probably play it safe.

TOM WATSON, on Twitter @TomWatsonPGAPro, is a Golf Digest Playing Editor and the captain of the 2014 United States Ryder Cup team.