Monday morning swing coach: How to decide when to go for it, and when to lay up

May 8, 2017

Every Monday, we tap GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers in America for their insights on what went down between the ropes over the weekend on the major tours, and more importantly, how you can use this information to improve your own game. Call it trickle-down tips—learn from the best to play your best.

1. Brian Harman birdied the last two holes at Eagle Point for his second career win. He elected to go for the green on the par-5 18th hole, but needed a clutch up-and-down after going long into a corporate tent. It worked out, but when you know you need a birdie on a par-5, how do you decide whether to go for it, or lay up? 

Carol Preisinger, Director of Instruction, Kiawah Island Club, @Carolpresinger: Brian is playing great, his adrenaline is pumping, he’s confident going for it. For me, going for it on a par 5 depends on my tee shot, and if it puts me in position (with respect to my lie, yardage and angle) to hit the green. The hole layout, carries required (I take note of hazards and bunker locations around the green) and pin placement will help me make up my mind. I love my wedges, so I’d most likely elect to lay up and hit a wedge in close to make birdie. 

Jason Carbone, Director of Instruction, Baltusrol Golf Club, @JasonCarbone: Two simple questions will answer whether to go for the green or not: Are there penalty shots lurking (like OB and/or water)? And, can I hit a shot that will avoid the penalty nine out of 10 times? If there are no penalties lurking, or I know I can avoid the penalties, then go for the green. If not, lay up. 

2. Rain and wind made conditions tough early in the week. What’s your best advice for surviving a round in adverse conditions?

Carbone: My best advice to play well in adverse conditions is to hit as many three-quarter shots as possible. Shortening your swing will allow you to hit the center of the face more often, reduce spin, and control trajectory, all of which are critical in adverse conditions.​

Preisinger: Be prepared for bad conditions with a rain suit, towels, gloves, layers, extra socks—pack smart!—and practice playing in the rain when you can (but avoid lightning, of course). When your shoes are wet and your hands are cold, stay mentally positive and stay in your own personal rhythm. Most players don’t like to play in adverse conditions, but if you have a great attitude about it, you have the upper hand on the field before you tee off. 

3. Bad weather usually results in delays, which we saw during the second round, and many players had to finish on Saturday. How do you stay loose when you’re facing an extended delay on on the course?

Preisinger: During a weather delay, I would play cards, look at clothes in the golf shop or watch TV, and every 10 minutes I would stand, walk around and stretch. Don’t sit for more than 10 minutes during the delay. Stay in the moment, and don’t think about what happened earlier in the round, or expect anything before going back out.

Carbone: My go-to dynamic warm up when I’m delayed in a round is this one from Jason Glass (@jasonglasslab). It’s quick, easy, and effective.