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One of the greatest joys of golf is placing friendly bets against your friends in match play format. Whether for pride or a Nassau with a lot of clutter, it's a great way to keep the competitive juices flowing. And don't worry, you can keep your amateur status as long as you're not & # 39; exaggerated & # 39; gambles.
A frequently asked question readers ask me is whether a player should adjust his strategy during match play or other forms of competition. There are plenty of ways to answer this question, and I'll explain the practical wave, which I think will increase the odds in your favor in the long run.
Many people tell me that they love to play as aggressively as possible in a match, because your total score for the round doesn't really matter. If that's your version of fun, go for it! But if you want to win some money in the long run, read on.
Reacting to other golfers is not a good idea
Changing your decisions based on what another golfer does during his round is rarely a good idea. There are many reasons why I believe this, and it mainly has to do with taking out your routine and giving up healthy wave judgment.
Preparation is one of the keys to becoming a better golfer. Before starting a tee, it is better to let most of your strategic decisions be made. For example, on almost every course I play, I know which club and goals I will select from the tee. I rarely change that plan unless something changes dramatically with wind or peat conditions.
In addition, I have a framework for how I will make choices about which clubs and goals to select on approach shots. Here is a simple method that I recommend for most of you.
I will rarely if ever deviate from these decisions based on what my playing partners do (teammates or opponents) in a match or stroke play. I admit it's almost impossible to keep the blinkers on all the way, but you don't want to react to every shot that hits others in your group. In my opinion, you are pushed to make sub-optimal decisions that are too aggressive or conservative for the situation.
Let's explore a few hypothetical situations to illustrate my point.
Playing too safe
Suppose your opponent makes a mistake with his tee shot. Maybe they hit it in the trees or landed in a fairway bunker. Statistically, they have already lost the blows to the hole. But as you know, golf has a strange way of playing. You cannot accurately predict what their final score will be based on that tee shot alone.
Your original decision was to hit the driver on that hole, but now you're thinking about lying down with iron for safety. Well, it turns out that you already lose blows because you are further away from the hole. Nor is it a guarantee that you will enter the fairway (read this article to find out why).
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that extreme security gives you a better chance of winning. It is often a false sense of security.
The Flip Side
Where most golfers get into trouble is when they feel they need to be aggressive because of another golfer's excellent shot, or if they are a few holes earlier in the game.
The same rules apply. Just because your opponent has made a great tee shot or approach shot, there is still no guarantee that they will make a birdie. They can always make a mistake, but if you respond with a mistake of your own, you have never given yourself a chance to place a lower score.
Aggressiveness usually occurs when golfers begin to lose a few holes and feel the momentum slip away. They can start by choosing targets that are too greasy, start chasing pins or trying to punch putts in the hole. As I wrote earlier, you cannot force birdies; they are the by-product of smart decision making and shot execution.
Chances are your opponent will eventually cool down. You must remain patient for your chance. It may never come some days, but you want to keep giving yourself those opportunities instead of shooting yourself in the foot.
Living with the results
A few weeks ago I played in a team match-play event on my golf course. It was a great game and no team came up more than one hole. Luckily my putter got hot towards the end and we won two holes in a row to approach the 18th. When we got to the last green it seemed very unlikely that the other team would win the hole, but low and see, one of our competitors made incredible sand savings for a net bird and sent us to extra holes.
My playing partner and one of the opponents made some big mistakes from the tee and their approaches that effectively took them out of the hole. I watched my other opponent land his ball on the green about 25 feet from the pin before it was my turn.
The pin was on the left side of the hole and in my head I knew it was likely that my opponent would make two putts for a net bird. I was tempted to adjust my goal because it was a playoff hole, but I chose the smart shot towards the center of the green. I hit a draw that landed about 8 feet from the hole.
But sad news, my opponent had two putts and I missed my birdie putt by about an inch, sealing the loss.
Although I was disappointed, I knew I was making the right decisions. If I had tried to hunt and my flight had been exactly the same, my shot would have landed in the bunker on the greenside.
Anyway, I had given myself the opportunity to bind or defeat my opponent with the original decision. The overly aggressive play would probably have narrowed those odds. It just didn't work on that hole – that's golf!
It's hard, but sticking to your game gives you the best chance
While there are endless variations on what can happen in these types of competitive situations, my general recommendation is to do your best to make smarter decisions. It's very tempting to change your approach based on what others in your group are doing, and I admit I'm not perfect for sticking to the script every time.
Generally I don't think 'situational golf' in the long run wins. If you're a smart course manager and resist the temptation to make sub-optimal decisions based on hole-to-hole fluctuations, I can assure you that the money will pile up in your pocket in the long run. The golfers who constantly change their decisions moment by moment as the match unfolds will have a much harder time staying focused and performing.