We have all experienced a time when we thought we had found our inner Seve, only to be quickly brought back to reality by the result of hitting the ball further into trouble. There is something very satisfying about pulling off a miracle recovery shot, but how often do we actually pull them off? It is important to have a realistic awareness of our skill level. Are we able to execute a number of shots with competent strikes, or are we unsure of the outcome? I see golfers of lower skill levels taking on shots that are against their odds, which is where errors can start to compound.
It is key to remember that there are situations where we should look to take risks. For example, coming up to the last hole needing to win in a match play situation may be a good time to try an aggressive line when out of position. Understanding our shot pattern is also crucial in knowing when to take risks. Does the shot suit our curvature? Is there plenty of space out there if it does not curve back? Trying to take on a shot that requires a shape we struggle to execute regularly is where we can start to compound errors.
Playing it safe for the majority of the time is always going to be the most sensible option, not only for the hole we are playing, but for the rest of the round. Getting the ball back into play may lead to a bogey, but it is much easier to make up throughout the round. Compounding errors will only lead to struggling to make a double. Making a big score on a hole can also further compound errors for the next few holes, as it can send us into a mindset of catch up. Suddenly, we take driver off a hole we don't need to and start firing at a few flags, missing it short-sided. Not only does it affect the score on that hole, but it also affects our mentality and scoring in the following holes.
A great way to think this through can be to put a traffic light rating on your recovery shots. If its Red, chances of pulling this off 1 to 2 times in 10? Then just get it back in play. If it's Amber 4-7 out of ten times, then you really need to weigh up the risk and reward and the point in the round but lean toward the safe shot. I would recommend finding where your Green light shots are, where you can execute these 9 to 10 times, and you know you have the skillset required to execute this shot under any circumstance.
So, to summarise, yes, it’s great to sit and tell that story in the bar of the wonderful shot you hit through that gap that nobody else could see. But if you really want to shoot good scores, stop chasing birdies and think more about removing double bogeys.
I offer on course coaching where we assess this very scenario. Get in touch to book an on course session if you need any help.