We all want to hit the ball like the guys on TV. Heck, we might even settle for hitting the ball like some of the guys in our regular foursome. Many amateurs make the mistake of trying to play the game like someone else, whether it’s a pro or a friend, and have trouble sticking to the game they have. The results are usually trying to kill the ball every time they take a swing to compensate for their lack of distance.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than on par 5’s. The increased length of the hole makes most golfers feel like it’s time to really put the ball out there. They wind up taking huge swings, miss badly, and put themselves in deep trouble that makes it really tough to save par. By following our simple advice, you’ll be able to take advantage of the par 5’s next time you hit the links.
Know Your Limits
If you hit 5 balls with your driver, what would the average distance be? How about 5 shots with your 3 wood? Use your averages to determine how far you can hit the ball with two solid strokes. So if your average drive is 240 yards, and your average 3 wood is 220 yards, your limit is 460 yards. So any par 5 over 460 yards is automatically a three-shot hole.
Too often amateurs step up to a par 5 with driver and swing for the fences. If they get the ball in play, they’ll grab their 3 wood an repeat. More often than not they don’t reach the green, get themselves in trouble, or leave an awkward partial-wedge distance that they’re uncomfortable with.
Knowing your limit on the tee box lets you know right away if this is a hole you can get aggressive on and go for in two. If it’s too long for you, simply accept it. You’ll be better off controlling your ball and keeping it in play.
Adjust your plan
Ok, you’re playing a hole that’s reachable for you. You decide on the tee box you can get there with two solid shots. But your tee shot comes softly off the toe of the club and travels less than it’s normal distance.
It’s very common to get over the ball on your second shot and think, “Ok, I didn’t hit the first one well so I’ve really got to belt this one to get it there.” STOP! You’re putting yourself in the same situation we’re trying to avoid. Sure, back on the tee box you made the decision to go for it with two solid shots. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen off the tee, so adjust your game plan and lay up. Your odds of making par are much better with a mid iron, wedge, and two putts than with a hero 3 wood that will go who knows where.
Get to your money yardage
If you’ve decided that you’re going to hit your third shot into the green, think about what club you want to hit into it. Are you deadly with your sand wedge? Is a smooth pitching wedge more your style? Can you hit a dime on a green with an 8 iron? Decide what distance/ club combination is your biggest strength, and get the ball in that position.
For me, 90 yards gives me a lot of options so that’s usually where I try to lay up to. From there, I can hit anything from a lob wedge to a 9 iron depending on how I want to flight the ball and how I want it to react when it hits the green. Spend some time on the range dialing in your go-to distance that you’ll feel very comfortable executing out on the course. Whatever that distance is, you have two shots to get there, so think about what two clubs give you the best chance.
If your yardage is 100 yards and we take our 450 yard par 5 example, you’ve got two shots to cover 350 yards. It doesn’t matter what clubs you use here- you could hit two 5 irons, a driver and a pitching wedge, 9 iron and 3 wood, it doesn’t matter. Don’t feel like you have to hit driver from the tee, especially if it isn’t your most confident club. All we want to do is get the ball to that 100 yard point, so controlling the ball and keeping it in play is the number one priority.
From there, you’re basically playing a 100-yard par 3 (or whatever yardage you’re most comfortable with) and you’re probably liking your odds better than hitting your third shot from the trees, the bunker, or worse because you over swung.
Don’t feel like a lack of distance is a hindrance, you’ve just got to use a bit more craft on the long holes. After all, the scorecard doesn’t care how far you hit it anyway.