The Art of Good Misses – From The Tee Box EditionOn January 8, 2022 by Greg Kennedy Standard
When you speak to plus-par golfers or anyone on a professional circuit about what separates them from amateur players, you always seem to hear a common thread; “Our misses are better.” This response may seem egotistical to some, but it turns out they are not wrong, and it makes sense. We will take a few holes from a local course that I play regularly to showcase how a well-thought-out strategy can lead to quality shots and quality misses.
From The Tee Box
Let’s start the conversation where every hole begins; the tee box. We will look at three different holes when the vantage point of the tee box: A par 3, par 4, and par 5.
Hole #2 | Par 3 | Chesapeake Bay Golf Club, Rising Sun, MD
When looking at this hole, it is easy to say, let’s go for the middle of the green, pick that club and walk up and hit. The problem that you run into with the minimalist approach is that it’s not the mindset of someone looking to lower their score. A few additional thought tracks must go through your mind when breaking down your approach to a par three that is above and beyond club distance.
For example, on this particular hole, a club that allows you to reach the middle of the green offers a small margin of error left or right, as two bunkers on either side guard the green. Understanding the hazards placement will allow you to make better decisions on the course.
The “good misses” for this hole will be short or long. I generally advise people to take an extra club as 40% of golfers tend to fall short of their target. If you want to hit the front of the green, break the green into thirds. Visualize lines that dived the portions and then use the lines are your target. Take a club to get you to the front line and commit to the swing. If you are aiming for the back of the green, take a club to get you to the back fringe and use the same approach.
The strategy’s objective is to take a club that puts you in a position in front or beyond the bunkers. With the length of this green, you will have many areas to land a chip or pitch if you are long or short, just not left or right. Long and left or short and right are also safe plays, even from the rough you give yourself to get the second shot up and down.
Hole #17 | Par 4 | Chesapeake Bay Golf Club, Rising Sun, MD
Just as you took the box before you begin your assessment of the hole by determining reachable hazards, this particular hole is pretty heavily guarded on the right side by trees, fairway bunkers, and a bottleneck toward the center of the fairway path.
For this hole, two areas are ideal landing areas; the front of the fairway roughly 200 yards from the tee box and the furthest point of the fairway around 300 yards from the tee box. Your physical ability will help you determine which of the two areas you would like to attack. Be mindful that I am using the word attack because even if you are looking at a shorter distance, you should be fully committed. Conservative with your approach and aggressive with your execution.
Once you have determined your desired landing area, take a minute to understand what course offers for a “good miss.”
The front of the fairway, before the fairway bunkers, offers you plenty of room to miss. If you give yourself a target of the portion of the fairway with the most width, you have space to miss long while still falling short of the bunkers and leaving plenty of fairway to work with if you come short of the target. As far as left and right go, both offer a little wiggle room, but if you miss left, you will likely have to clear the water or lay up on your next swing. Both outcomes lend themselves to adding strokes to your round, so play your natural shot shape best of your ability with the thought of keeping the ball to the right side of play.
You have a similar approach if you are a striker of the long ball and have set your sights on the 300-yard target range. If you go long, you will have plenty of area, but you must clear the bunkers. If you miss too short of your target and find yourself in a fairway bunker, you will effectively add another obstacle to your round. Not only will you be faced with a long sand shot, but you will also have to be very accurate, as a miss left could lead to water, and a miss right could land you in a greenside bunker. Just like the short approach, keeping the ball on the right side will eliminate any water hazard and still give you a shot looking at the green.
Hole #18 | Par 5 | Chesapeake Bay Golf Club, Rising Sun, MD
This par 5 is simple but deceiving. The cart path is a cool 350 yards from the tee box, and bootleg right in the fairway is protected by a row of trees and a steep incline.
The most prominent hazard you will find is the large pond to the right of the fairway. Avoiding this hazard is a priority. There is an area before the cart path that offers a little more width the fairway and an ideal target. With a par 5, for most golfers, it will require two swings before your approach shot: your swing from the tee box and another to put you in position to attack the green. While some hitters can push for the green in two, we will focus on most of the playing community in this breakdown.
Missing your target a little long or short on a par 5 is not the end of the world; however, missing left or right can lead to a much more significant impact on the scorecard. As stated above, a par 5 will likely require a setup shot for your approach, so when you are looking for your “good miss” areas, take heavily into account where you will need your next strike to land. On the hole above, you are not only looking to keep the ball dry and out of the water, but if you can land the ball on the left side of the fairway, you will have a better angle to the next fairway. While this mentality will add a little extra distance to the hole, it will also give you a better line of sight for the following two swings.
Create a conservative plan with your shot and commit to it fully. Be aggressive with your swing during the execution of your plan, but make sure your plans leave you in a good spot when things don’t go perfect. Practicing this philosophy with each shot will not lower your scores, but it will make your round much more enjoyable overall as you will find yourself in better positions more often.