Here’s the deal, golf lessons can be great. If you take them from a reputable club pro, you may learn a lot about swing mechanics, the plane of your swing, tempo, swing speed and even impact position. However, lessons don’t tell you how to look at a golf hole and assess the risk vs. reward. Simply put, lessons do not get into hole strategy.
So, when you are standing on the tee box on hole 16, a 487-yard par 5 with a 245-yard forced carry AND you are playing the round of your life…what do you do? Your golf buddies are saying things like “You didn’t come this far to lay up“ or “Don’t over think it, just rip driver”. They may be right, but without a plan you are basically throwing darts blind. Nothing hurts more than carding a snowman on a birdie hole and nothing will jack up your score as well as your mental game faster than indecision.
We all hate the dreaded “Big Number” and that’s why we are here for you. So, the next time you are in that spot, remember these 5 tips:
Five keys to owning par 5s:
– Don’t just automatically grab driver – Choose the right club off the tee
– Look at your lie – Assess what shot best suits your approach
– Take an extra club on your approach – 70% of approach shots come up short
– Know where to miss – Do not always go flag hunting
– Have a number in mind to lay up to in case you can’t go after it in two
Many weekend golfers hate par 5s because they are long and can seem daunting. The task: you are basically trying to get a 1 ½ inch ball into a 4-inch hole from 5 football fields away! But they also provide great opportunity if played properly. They are a golden goose for birdies and can turn an 81 into a 79 like that.
1. Select the Right Club on a Par 5
I know you heard me before, but this is a huge mistake I see all the time. You don’t always have to hit driver off the tee. You can hit a fairway wood or a hybrid. Shoot If I know I can not get home in two, I hit my 3 iron all day off the box and more times than not am sitting pretty for my approach while my buddies are ball hunting in the woods. Let’s be honest, it’s probably going to take three shots to reach the green any way unless you can bomb it 300+. So, use the club that gives you the best chance of finding the fairway.
2. Look at Your Lie and Assess The Shot
This is the golden ticket to scoring on Par 5’s. Little known fact: The second shot is often the key to beating par 5s. You need to play a smart shot that puts you in the best position to card a 4. Start by looking at your lie; is it in the fairway or first cut, is it a flier lie or sitting down a little bit, is it side hill above or below your feet? All of these will 100% determine what club you can and should hit. Hitting a 3-wood off a downhill side hill lie in the intermediate rough is hard to do. I suggest you take your medicine and lay up to a good number, so you hit the GIR and have a look at bird.
3. Take an Extra Club
This one is huge. Most approach shots come up short. The average handicap for men is about a 15. The average swing speed is 93 mph and produces a 220 yard drive. Ask around, everyone thinks they hit the ball farther than they actually do. Here are some trackman averages for reference. Take an extra wrench and thank me later. You will hit more greens, score better and find yourself shooting lower scores.
4. Know Where to Miss
Now you hit your drive, you looked at your lie, you have the right club for your approach, time to go flag hunting, right? WRONG. You want to look at the green complex and pin placement. You want to see where the greenside bunkers are. Does the green slope down and away or is there a false front? Start taking note of the danger areas and take them out of play. These determinations will help you pick out a landing area for this shot. For the love of the game, do yourself a favor and stay away from trouble at all costs. Play smart and aim center green. Nobody hit it dead straight every time, well maybe the guys on tour, but even they miss a handful of times per round. This strategy of knowing where not to be, allows you to better understand where to be! It gives you the greatest chance of hitting the green even on a slight miss.
5. Know Your Ideal Lay Up Number
There is no shame in laying up on a par 5. More times than not, smart money says it’s the right move. That’s especially true if the flag is protected by water or a massive pot bunker. Sometimes golfers try to pull off a miracle shot on their second from 237 out in the rough under a tree. They end up in the drink and dropping hitting 4 and will likely post a double bogie when its all said and done. Had they just taken the 5 iron out and laid back to 120 in they would have stuck a 9 iron to 15 feet and a look at 4!
Now I am no PGA tour pro golfer. I am a 5.5 handicap and like the Alice in Wonderland quote “I give myself very good advice, but very seldom follow it” I will tell you, however, that on occasion I stumble onto a pearl and feel the need to pass it on. Use this simple five-step approach above when playing par 5s. It’s a practical golf lesson that can help you own par 5s no matter their length or difficulty. That, in turn, will cut strokes from your scores, lower your handicap and have you collecting the $$$ at the end of the round.
BONUS SCORING DRILL:
Here is Today’s Tip… Your Wedges.
Very few weekend warriors practice hitting wedges at less than full distances. Ironically, however, we face these shots all the time on the course. I know I do. The closer your approach shots the better your chance of draining putts. It’s funny, I always told myself that I was not a great putter. I started doing this drill below and low and behold my distance to the pin was tighter and I started making more putts. Turns out, I was not a bad putter at all, I just was hitting my approach shots to 40 feet. Here’s how I fixed it:
Pick three awkward distances — say 25, 50 and 75 yards… then hit five balls at each target. Now, don’t just grab the 60 for all these shots, actually select the club you would use in a round. Give yourself a point for each ball that lands within what you consider an acceptable distance — I use a 15-foot circle. Max score for this drill is 15 points. Whatever you score, try to beat that number the next day, with the perfect score of 15.
I guarantee if you do this a couple of days in a row, or even for just 15 minutes before your round, you will be stunned at the results on the course. Once you score 15, tighten up that proximity the next time. Pretty soon you will be sending those pitch shots inside a 5-foot circle and have you golf buddies jealous as your ex at your wedding.