Ask yourself these questions to help you decide when to take risks and when to lay back

woman golf shot over water

Is the reward worth the risk? Top 100 teacher Kellie Stenzel shares her advice on how to know for sure.

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Golf, like life, often presents decision-making opportunities that can make or break a round. When trying to decide when to be aggressive, ask yourself: Is the reward worth the risk? Here are some example scenarios that you may encounter during your round of golf, and how to properly assess the situation.

1. The long fairway shot: Go for the green, or lay up?

Successful fairway-wood shots are almost always a big part of any woman’s golf game. It is extremely important to make educated decisions when choosing which fairway wood to hit. Selecting your 3-wood for a shot simply because you are far from the green isn’t always a good idea. Not only does a 3-wood require good contact, but you also need enough swing speed to get the ball to launch into the air.

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You want to choose a fairway wood that builds your confidence, and if your 7-wood is much more consistent than your 5 or 3-wood, the sacrifice in distance may be worth it for more solid contact.

So how do you decide what to do? The question you should ask yourself should be, “If I hit my 3-wood, can I get to the green? Or can I gain enough to offset the increased difficulty and risk?”

If there is a significant gain to the gamble, then it is a worthy consideration. Otherwise, I suggest you choose a fairway wood that builds your confidence instead, and take the more lofted option.

2. The bunker between you and the pin: Pitch directly over it to the hole, or chip to a safer spot away from the pin?

Choosing the right short-game shot can be as important as your technique when choosing your level of risk. Given the choice, you should always try to chip versus pitch due to the smaller stroke and fewer moving parts. A chip that isn’t hit perfectly is often playable, whereas a missed pitch tends to end up either short of your target or very long if you don’t hit the ground.

The question to ask yourself in this scenario is, “If I pitch the ball and go up and over the obstacle in the way, am I likely to get the ball close enough to get up and down?”

If the answer to this question is no, it may be smarter to limit your risk by choosing to go around the obstacle with a chip, and aiming a little bit away from the pin. Remember: Smaller strokes or swings will always result in smaller mistakes on mishits.

3. Lay up or go over the water hazard?

There is something so rewarding and even exhilarating about hitting a beautiful shot over the water. The decision to go for it or not is an important one because if you don’t clear the hazard, not only do you have to add a penalty stroke, but you have to try to go over the water again in most cases.

The question to ask yourself in this situation is, “How far do I have to carry the ball (and you need to know your carry distances, not just your total distance) and how consistent am I with this club?”

If carrying the hazard can get you to the green one shot sooner, it may be worth the risk. If laying up and having a shorter approach still gets you to the green in the same number of shots, it may be best to play it safe. Any risk you take should have a significant reward.

4. Chip or putt from off the green?

When you are just a bit off of the green and having to deal with some fairway cut of grass between you and the pin, you will have to decide whether to putt or chip.

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The first question to ask yourself should be, “Am I chipping or putting better today?” The second question should be, “If I miss the chip, does that put me in a bad position, like going into the water or a bunker?” If a missed chip can cause added strokes, it may be better to putt, as the likely worst-case scenario is a three-putt, but often the fewer moving parts of a putting stroke make it a better choice.


Being in charge of your success on the golf course is not only challenging but also part of what makes the game of golf so great.

Besides good technique and enough preparation to feel confident, focus is a huge part of performance. I have used Gee*Bands to remind myself the things I need to think about when playing. Not only are they fun, they are positive reinforcements you can see on your wrist as you prepare to hit every shot. The best part is that you and your friends can design your own and make it as silly or encouraging as you like.



With 20 bungee options and two bead styles, Gee*Bands are customizable in myriad ways. Each band comes with a 12-character maximum so you can spell out whatever you’d like!

Becoming a good decision maker comes with experience and time and maybe even some pain from making mistakes and learning. Always consider the possible reward when assessing the risk. Stay focused and positive, and remember: you have to get better before you get great.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affliliate Golf Logix.

For more golf tips from Kellie Stenzel, click here.

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