Danielle Kang’s brilliant reason for aiming away from the pin
Welcome to Play Smart, a regular GOLF.com game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Sometimes the best strategies in golf are counterintuitive.
We’ve all heard the advice that going bombs away off the tee and getting it as close to the green as possible is statistically advantageous. Advanced analytics back up the claim, and distance has become king in the sport.
But as you get closer to the hole, getting as close as possible to the pin isn’t always sound strategy. Being on the green at 45 feet is better than being 20 feet away in the rough. For that reason, sometimes you need to aim away from the flagstick.
Take Danielle Kang’s second round at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, for example. On the 18th hole, with the pin tucked on the back of the green, she opted to play to the spot that gave her the most margin for error — the middle.
“So there are two types of golf shots,” Kang said. “Either you pick 7-iron, punch draw, and get it as close possible; or you hit the 8 and give yourself a putt, and that’s what I did.”
The strategy worked to perfection. Kang hit her 8-iron to the center of the green, giving herself a birdie look, and poured in the putt to cap a three-under 69. If she’d played the aggressive shot — the one that got her closer to the hole — she would’ve brought much more trouble into play, and her margin for error would’ve been slimmer.
“Sometimes you just got to go with the flow,” Kang said. “I’m not getting my 8-iron to that pin at all, but I know I can get it to the middle. But if I tried to run it there is an opportunity to get it close, so I’m not trying to hit it far, but I’m favoring the fatter part of the green more so than trying to knock it stiff.”
It might not be the “sexy” play, but it’s the one that gives the best chance at eliminating the big number. And in golf, that’s never a bad thing.