The flag is seldom your target – unless you are a tour player. Knocking down flags is not your game.
However, even those guys will always target the “safe” side of a flag with their approach shots.
In a typical golf course setup, only a few holes are positioned where you can fire right at the flag and have equal opportunity for par or birdie from either side. When you are assessing your approach shots, try looking at it from the perspective of which side of the hole offers you the best chance to avoid bogey, rather than think “birdie.” You’ll see a “wide” side usually, and the side that offers uphill putts or chips.
Particularly when the greens are fast and firm, this is a great strategy for shooting good scores.
Bogey is not a bad score – even for single digit handicap players, there are 3 or 4 holes on every course where bogey is not a bad score.
When you’re playing the longer and tougher holes, make it your game plan to ensure yourself no worse than bogey. Play the hole more conservatively. On the 3 or 4 longest par 4s and 3s, for example, you’re not likely to hit long iron, hybrid or fairway wood to “easy par” range. Find the “safe zone,” which is generally short and wide of the flag, and play to it.
Make bogey the worse you can make and give yourself a chance at par if you make a good chip or lag putt. When possible play with a great golfer and watch how they “think” their way around the golf course. You might not hit it as far, but you will gain a new respect on how to get around the golf course in the least amount of strokes.
Steve Wozeniak is PGA Director of Instruction Bellevue/Lake Spanaway Golf Courses.