‘Cautiously Aggressive’: Why you should aim for the middle of the green

Three-time PGA TOUR Winner (and noteworthy orator) Boo Weekley once made a statement that immediately settled with me, and remains etched in my memory.  In fact, when giving playing lessons, I typically use it as course-management and decision-making advice, no matter the skill of the player.

Boo’s statement was: “The middle of the green never moves.”

At first glance his observation may appear simplistic, but if you delve into it you can mine a few course-management nuggets that are sure to remove big numbers from your scorecard.

In a recent “On the Mark” podcast I asked him about his remark and he doubled down on his belief.  He added to it with the observation that a ball that is right in the middle of the green will usually leave a putt of nothing longer that 30 feet or so.  

Essentially, if Weekley hit the ball into the middle of every green in a round of golf he would have 18 birdie attempts from inside 30 feet.  In short, the probability of him shooting under par is heightened significantly as bogeys and others are avoided. 

Boo “walks his talk” as well.  He is perennially in the upper reaches of the PGA TOUR Greens in Regulation statistic.  (At the time of writing he was ranked second on the PGA TOUR hitting 75% of his targets in regulation.) 

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - MAY 23: Boo Weekley of the United States plays a shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club on May 23, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Boo Weekley

From my experiences as a PGA TOUR on-course announcer I can assure you that it is not only Boo who adopts this approach.  

A memory that springs to mind is when I covered Dustin Johnson for the first two rounds of the 2017 Genesis Open at Riviera.  He shot the two most stress-free 66’s I think I have ever seen.  It appeared to me that he never “short-sided” himself and as a result never really put any pressure on his short-game.

Scott Fawcett of DECADE confirmed my suspicions.

Scott’s research showed that DJ hit his approach shot toward the “safe side” of the flag 78 percent of the time — this includes greens missed in regulation.  In fact, he only hit 15 shots on the short-side of the flag, and four of those were from outside 240 yards. 

Consider that for a moment…

If you still don’t believe me (because TV shows the best golfers in the world hitting the ball close to the target so often) I want to challenge you to count how many times you hear any  caddy issue the following marching order (or some variation thereof): 

Dustin Johnson is a green-hitting machine.

“At the TV Tower.”

In case you miss the deeper meaning in this, all TV Towers are typically situated right behind the middle of the green.  

Fundamentally, any player in contention is aiming the ball at the center of the green and working it toward the flag.  I call this course management approach Cautiously Aggressive. If you take on the middle of the green the worst you will get is a putt, a routine chip or a basic bunker shot.  Birdie becomes a heightened possibility; Par is largely a guarantee, and Bogey or worse is mitigated.

All you have to do is sharpen up your lag putting and this approach is all but guaranteed to litter your scorecards with 3’s and 4’s.

Go ahead, try it. Aim at the center of every green the next time you play. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

Onwards and upwards.

Golf.com Contributor

On-course announcer and analyst Mark Immelman is passionate about the game of golf. As a decorated instructor, award-winning NCAA college golf coach, and an accomplished golfer, Mark brings a robust knowledge and vast experience to his role as a television broadcaster and golf instructor. He is currently a Golf Analyst for CBS Sports HQ, and an Analyst and On-course Announcer for CBS Sports and Golf on CBS. He currently also serves as a Studio Analyst and an On-course Announcer for PGA TOUR Live  for PGA TOUR Live.

The older brother to 2008 Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman, Mark grew up in Somerset West, South Africa. After a successful amateur career in South Africa he was offered a golf scholarship to Columbus State University (Columbus , GA). He enjoyed a prolific collegiate tenure highlighted by his four-time All-America selections, two-time Academic All-America awards, and two NCAA Div. II National Championship victories. After graduation, Mark had a short season as a playing professional, but quickly turned his attention to his true passion – golf teaching.

As a golf instructor, Mark believes in cultivating ability and talent by providing comprehensive, holistic golf instruction that is easily understandable and of the highest quality to golfers of all abilities and skill levels. His passionate approach and keen knowledge of the game have led to him being a sought-after mind by leading Professional and Amateur golfers alike. Through his career he has taught and/or consulted to PGA TOUR and European Tour professionals and tournament winners such as: Larry Mize, Loren Roberts, Trevor Immelman, Scott Brown, Patton Kizzire, Louis Oosthuizen and Will Wilcox. He has been recognized as one of “Golf Digest’s Top 20 Instructors Under 40”, Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in the State of Georgia” and Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 – Georgia’s Best and Brightest”.

As a NCAA College Coach at Columbus State University (since 2001) Mark continues to coach the Columbus State Men’s Golf Team and his program is a perennial contender for Conference and National Titles. He is a two-time NCAA Div. II Atlantic/Southeast Region Coach of the Year, two-time Peachbelt Conference Coach of the Year, and the 2009 NCAA Div. II National Coach of the Year.

In 2019 Mark was selected as Captain and Coach of the (Arnold) Palmer Cup International Team. His team triumphed over the United States Team in the Palmer Cup Matches held at The Alotian Club outside of Little Rock, AR.

Mark’s additional broadcast duties include being a guest analyst on the CBS Sports “First Cut Podcast”. CBS Sports also uses Mark’s unique voice for audio and promotional PGA TOUR advertisements and promotional reads.

He has also served a 6-year tenure as a Play-by-Play Announcer for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio.

Additionally, Mark hosts “On the Mark”, a PGA TOUR Podcast, which to date has been downloaded more than 3 million times in more than 125 countries.

He has also written golf instructional columns and articles for Golf Digest SA, Golf Digest USA and is currently penning instructional pieces for Golf Magazine. As an author, Mark has published two e-Books on golf instruction: “Scandalously SImple – The Easy Way to Accurate Golf Shots” and “Golf is a Game of Recovery”.

You can learn more about at MarkImmelman.com