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# Stop Aiming at the Flag!!! - Page 5

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdl

I'll respond to this just because I'm a numbers geek.  The point of this argument is answering the question of what minimizes your overall score in the long run, playing the same hole over and over again.  What variables do we need to consider?  Your GIR % when aiming at the pin and the center of the green, your up and down percentage from near the green, and your percentage of birdies and 3-putts resulting from your approach when you hit the green with those two aim points.  We'll ignore chip-ins and 3-putts when you miss the green, though I'd bet ignoring both of those biases the results below in favor of aiming at the pin.

The 100th best U/D % on tour last year when scrambling not from the sand in 10-20 yards was 60% (Davis Love III).  The 100th best % from the fringe was 87.5%.  I'll be very generous and give the player graphed below 65% U/D when missing the green on the sort of non-dangerous hole with an easy green you describe.  As a 4.6, I assume you 3-putt rarely.  Below I've assumed that you 3-putt 2% of the time when you hit the green when aiming for the pin and 4% of the time when aiming at the center of the green.  The increase in that case is due to the fact that you'll hit the green but be very far from the hole more often.

The key variables are the difference in GIR % and the difference in birdie % for the two strategies.  Below are 4 graphs that give results for when your GIR % decreases by 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20% when aiming at the pin versus aiming at the green center.  I've graphed your expected score over a range of GIR %s.  I've given the player aiming for the center of the green a birdie only 5% of the time he hits the green (so if he hits the green 50% of the time, he's getting a birdie 2.5% of the time, which I think is quite low for a good player with a PW approach to an easy green).  Then I've graphed the expected score for a player going at the pin when he expects to get a birdie 10% and 20% of the time he hits the green, taking into account the decreased GIR %.

Think about what these mean.  When the red line is below the black line(s), the expected score aiming at the center of the green is better.  These are assuming an unrealistically good 65% U/D, better than Davis Love III from right next to the green but off the fringe.  It also assumes you never flub a chip and don't get on the green or thin one way long and then 3-putt.  Consider the top right graph.  This tells you that even with this unrealistically optimistic percentage for U/D and failing to get home in 2 or 3 strokes 0% of the time, you need to believe that you expect to hit the green at least 60% of the time aiming for the center, you're only decreasing your GIR % by 10% going at a tucked pin, and that you get double the birdies by going for the pin.

If you accept that you'll decrease your GIR by 15%, then you need to think you're quadrupling the number of birdies you hit by going for the pin to ever go for the pin, no matter how high a percentage of the time you think you could hit the green aiming for the center.

The point of all this is that unless you think you have tour level precision with your scoring irons, it's almost inarguable that you're giving away strokes going for the pin.  I fall victim to the psychology of it being more fun to attack pins on easy greens cause it's really fun to hit one just like you want and get an easy birdie putt, and you like to think to yourself that it's not that penal and you're not giving away much if you miss a tad.  But if you look at these numbers and think about what's probably closer to the truth with a 9i, or 8i, or how often you underestimate the penalty you'll pay on any given hole because it's more fun to attack the pin and in general you play better when you're confident, you're probably giving away at least a stroke or two on average per round by attacking pins with our amateur skills.

I'm interested to see the actual results over a range of handicaps!

More important is how long it took you to write that all while thinking about it and then put the numbers in the graph formulas and format the graphs.. Also was it during work hours!! :)

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abu3baid

Also was it during work hours!! :)
Must have been. Where else would one find the time to put together such a detailed post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abu3baid

More important is how long it took you to write that all while thinking about it and then put the numbers in the graph formulas and format the graphs.. Also was it during work hours!! :)

Well I do this kind of thing for a living.  Took me an hour or so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by billchao

Must have been. Where else would one find the time to put together such a detailed post

Indeed.  Had some analyses running in the background and didn't feel like switching and doing totally different work waiting for it to finish.  And this was more fun than whatever else I might've been doing for work!

I've always said "some day" I'm going to play a round and play all my approach shots to the center of the green, regardless of where the pin is.

Needless to say its still a goal....

@mdl Great analysis; however, my point still stands. Yes, I realize that if you aim for the center of the green every shot you will save strokes when compared to aiming at the pin every shot. That's clear. However, using a combination of the two can be even more advantageous if all or most the variables I stated earlier are favorable. Here's a stat that wasn't mentioned for 2013: The average distance of birdie putts made. The highest average distance was 12 feet 1 inch. Most players are under 10 feet. These pros are aiming at the pins when given the opportunity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmac20

@mdl Great analysis; however, my point still stands. Yes, I realize that if you aim for the center of the green every shot you will save strokes when compared to aiming at the pin every shot. That's clear. However, using a combination of the two can be even more advantageous if all or most the variables I stated earlier are favorable. Here's a stat that wasn't mentioned for 2013: The average distance of birdie putts made. The highest average distance was 12 feet 1 inch. Most players are under 10 feet. These pros are aiming at the pins when given the opportunity.

If you think your point stands you're not understanding the analysis or you're vastly overestimating your own skill.  This analysis was set up to be super favorable to the aiming at the pin strategy, exactly to refute the thinking that this kind of analysis doesn't apply when the layout looks easy and you're holding a scoring iron and you're a mid-single digit player.  Do you think you make 65% U/D from near the green (remember those will be short sided and that's better than Davis Love III's overall number from off the fringe but inside 20 yards)?  Do you think your PW miss distribution is so tight that you'll only have a 5% difference in GIR % between aiming at a tucked pin and aiming at the center of the green?  Do you think you're so excellent putting from inside 20 feet that, given the somewhat higher number of <20 foot putts you'll have aiming at a tucked pin that you can better than double your birdie percentage when you do hit the green?  Remember that on a right pin all your misses to the right when aiming at the center are still gonna be close to the pin, so the increased number of <20 foot putts you'll get from aiming at the pin isn't as high as you'd like to think.  Do you think your chip-ins make up for all the times you flub or thin a chip and end up taking 4 strokes to get home?

If the answer to any of those is no (and I can almost guarantee the answer is no to most of those for a non-+ player), then the graphs above show you're giving away strokes on average by ever choosing to go at tucked pins, no matter how easy the green or layout.  I'm not trying to be pissy here.  I'm very guilty of going at pins way too often too. I'm just having to admit to myself that I'm costing myself a good number of strokes.  And I'm not sure you understand how pro-like you have to think your skills with the scoring irons and short game and putter are for this analysis not to apply to you on every hole.

I guess the point is that if you think it's simply more fun to aggressively go at pins when it doesn't look obviously dumb so that you can get some very satisfying birdies when your iron shot goes just like you planned and you sink the putt, then have at it.  But if you think you're shooting your lowest possible total scores with that strategy I think you're deceiving yourself.  I say this not from a high horse.  I admitted earlier in the thread I'm very guilty of going at pins with scoring irons unless I'm playing terribly, sometimes even with a 6i or 7i if I think I'm playing well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmac20

@mdl Great analysis; however, my point still stands. Yes, I realize that if you aim for the center of the green every shot you will save strokes when compared to aiming at the pin every shot. That's clear. However, using a combination of the two can be even more advantageous if all or most the variables I stated earlier are favorable. Here's a stat that wasn't mentioned for 2013: The average distance of birdie putts made. The highest average distance was 12 feet 1 inch. Most players are under 10 feet. These pros are aiming at the pins when given the opportunity.

We can both agree that many of those birdies are from within 125 yards or so. This is well within a tour player's scoring range, but it's also worth noting that they average somewhere around 18 feet from the hole from both 50-125 and 0-100, (there's less than a 2 FOOT difference in the 2 ranges) which isn't all that close as to suggest they're firing straight at it. This is from the fairway by the way, and they're using top of the line equipment and have premier course conditions. From the rough or worse they seldom put it this close.

Obviously the professionals will try to make more birdies on the 400 yard par 4s but the original advice still suggests going for it when reasonable up to 100 or more yards away. I guarantee most of your 12 foot putts will come from approaches in that range no matter your skill level.

I can say that I have followed this advice about 25% of the time overall, and I usually aim somewhat at the pin from 7i down but sometimes with my longer clubs. That's DOUBLE what the advice suggests for my handicap range, since I can hit my 7 iron from 170-190. This could explain why I have so many bad short game shots per round, and I often make matters worse with poor putting. I hit anywhere from 6-10 GIR per round, and it seems the ones I most often hit have one thing in common; they are usually the biggest greens on the course, or at least present the biggest targets from my usual angles. The ones I miss are usually the ones with a bailout that I don't use.

Another thing I noticed; I can hit the greens extremely often on the driving range with the various clubs, and I can usually get it close to the flag with the right club. This goes for the 60 yard pitch, 120ish yard wedge, 170ish yard mid iron, 220ish yard long iron/hybrid, and to some extent the 260 yard fairway wood though that's a tough one to hit. Yet so often on the course I can hit a solid shot within my cone and it's still a crap shoot as to where it will end up.

I know why that is; on the range they all have flags in the center of the green! I keep thinking should be knocking it pin high and within 20-30 feet so often like I can do on the range, but in reality I'm aiming at a great big target compared to the ones I pick on the course. Same reason I can hit a ton of fairways but still end up having to pitch over bunkers and stuff a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mdl

If you think your point stands you're not understanding the analysis or you're vastly overestimating your own skill.  This analysis was set up to be super favorable to the aiming at the pin strategy, exactly to refute the thinking that this kind of analysis doesn't apply when the layout looks easy and you're holding a scoring iron and you're a mid-single digit player.  Do you think you make 65% U/D from near the green (remember those will be short sided and that's better than Davis Love III's overall number from off the fringe but inside 20 yards)?  Do you think your PW miss distribution is so tight that you'll only have a 5% difference in GIR % between aiming at a tucked pin and aiming at the center of the green?  Do you think you're so excellent putting from inside 20 feet that, given the somewhat higher number of <20 foot putts you'll have aiming at a tucked pin that you can better than double your birdie percentage when you do hit the green?  Remember that on a right pin all your misses to the right when aiming at the center are still gonna be close to the pin, so the increased number of <20 foot putts you'll get from aiming at the pin isn't as high as you'd like to think.  Do you think your chip-ins make up for all the times you flub or thin a chip and end up taking 4 strokes to get home?

If the answer to any of those is no (and I can almost guarantee the answer is no to most of those for a non-+ player), then the graphs above show you're giving away strokes on average by ever choosing to go at tucked pins, no matter how easy the green or layout.  I'm not trying to be pissy here.  I'm very guilty of going at pins way too often too. I'm just having to admit to myself that I'm costing myself a good number of strokes.  And I'm not sure you understand how pro-like you have to think your skills with the scoring irons and short game and putter are for this analysis not to apply to you on every hole.

I guess the point is that if you think it's simply more fun to aggressively go at pins when it doesn't look obviously dumb so that you can get some very satisfying birdies when your iron shot goes just like you planned and you sink the putt, then have at it.  But if you think you're shooting your lowest possible total scores with that strategy I think you're deceiving yourself.  I say this not from a high horse.  I admitted earlier in the thread I'm very guilty of going at pins with scoring irons unless I'm playing terribly, sometimes even with a 6i or 7i if I think I'm playing well.

You should read reread my post stating the variables. I don't think you understand what my point was.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmac20

You should read reread my post stating the variables. I don't think you understand what my point was.

No I understand exactly what your point was.  My point is that no matter how much those factors play to your advantage I don't think you can answer yes to all of my questions in the first paragraph of post #78 even when every single factor you listed is favorable.  If you think that's wrong then you're saying that from a favorable setup you can do better than the average pro from an average setup from 100-125 yards in the fairway and be better than the average pro when short sided. That seems obviously a fantasy.

Quote:

What if you can say yes to all of these questions:

• Is the pin is a reasonable location on the green?
• Is the green soft?
• Is it a full-swing yardage?
• Do you have a flat stance?
• Do you have a good lie?
And no to these questions:
• Is there water close to the green?
• Is there a trap close to the pin?
• Is there a particular area close to pin that will be difficult to get up and down from?
• Is the hole located on a severe slope?
• Is the rough very thick around the greens?

I don't think you can just say "aim at the middle of the green every shot". There are variables like these that dictate whether you should aim for the pin or not.

Quote:

Originally Posted by tmac20

You should read reread my post stating the variables. I don't think you understand what my point was.

You're still not understanding the analysis ... unless your definition of a "reasonable location" is the middle of the green.

That said, I will say that I that people do probably need to use their heads when applying this info, and not just blindly go for the middle.

For example, if there is a false edge on the green, then your estimation of "the middle" should probably be measured from the portion of the green where a ball will actually rest.  If there is a hazard towards one side, then "middle" should probably cheat a few feet or yards the other way.

But, the analysis already accounts for all of your variables.  Basically, no matter how "cushy" the situation ... if you go for the center of the green all of the time, you will shoot lower scores.  If that's not a goal, then don't worry about it.  And I say that with no sarcasm either.  Some people want to play their way - like Phil Mickelson - because that is what's fun.  By all means do that.  But know that lower scores are out there if you do it differently.

Quote:

You're still not understanding the analysis ... unless your definition of a "reasonable location" is the middle of the green.

Yeah, this for sure.  I'm not talking about a pin in the middle front to back and 4 paces right of center on a huge green.  If that's the extent of "reasonable location", then sure, for many sets of abilities and shot dispersion distributions and whatnot aiming directly at that pin will be net positive.

No matter how much you guys try to convince me, you're not going to. Maybe I'm just ignorant. But I can guarantee you that if you ask 100 PGA tour players whether they would attack the pin from 125 yards when it's not tucked, there is no trap, no water, the rough is not thick, the green is soft, they have a good lie and good stance, 100 of them would say "yes".

Also, nobody has mentioned the mental aspect. If you aim for the center of the green every time, your mentality is to just make a par. Your chances of making the birdie putt goes down. In other words, you're playing "not to lose" instead of playing to win. All of the top players in the world don't have a "play not to lose" mentality - they play to win.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmac20

No matter how much you guys try to convince me, you're not going to. Maybe I'm just ignorant. But I can guarantee you that if you ask 100 PGA tour players whether they would attack the pin from 125 yards when it's not tucked, there is no trap, no water, the rough is not thick, the green is soft, they have a good lie and good stance, 100 of them would say "yes".

Also, nobody has mentioned the mental aspect. If you aim for the center of the green every time, your mentality is to just make a par. Your chances of making the birdie putt goes down. In other words, you're playing "not to lose" instead of playing to win. All of the top players in the world don't have a "play not to lose" mentality - they play to win.

If the pin isn't tucked then it's close to the center of the green, and you're aiming at the center of the green more or less by aiming at it. 125 yards is within the range for pros to use their discretion, whereas the original advice suggested 60 yards for most golfers, 80 for hc 11-20, and 100 for single digits, which you seem to ignore. It's only outside those ranges that you should ignore the flag's location.

Also, playing not to lose and doing it successfully will result in not losing. I'd love to be the best in the world at not losing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmac20

No matter how much you guys try to convince me, you're not going to. Maybe I'm just ignorant. But I can guarantee you that if you ask 100 PGA tour players whether they would attack the pin from 125 yards when it's not tucked, there is no trap, no water, the rough is not thick, the green is soft, they have a good lie and good stance, 100 of them would say "yes".

Yes and the part to highlight is if you asked a PGA TOUR PLAYER.  Tour players are guys that own their start lines, hit it solid and can control their trajectory and how far they hit it. The average player, heck even a single digit just doesn't have that precision.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmac20

Also, nobody has mentioned the mental aspect. If you aim for the center of the green every time, your mentality is to just make a par. Your chances of making the birdie putt goes down. In other words, you're playing "not to lose" instead of playing to win. All of the top players in the world don't have a "play not to lose" mentality - they play to win.

Disagree with that, of course you can still make birdies by hitting it towards the center of the green. As was posted earlier, 1/3 pins are already in the middle of the greens and even though your target is the middle of the green it doesn't mean the ball is actually going to end up there. Getting on the green will lower players scores, trying to hit a shot at a tucked pin and missing the green, will not.

But,   but,   but,

it's such a great feeling, when you aim at the stick, and it goes in the hole !!!

That's why I play the game.....

So sad it only happens on rare occasions.

In reality, shot thoughts very under various circumstances.

When in a Skins game, go for broke....

A two shot lead in the final round of club championship, "fairways and greens"

Practicing on the course, play a variety of shots.

Golfing with my "Buddy's'" and flag it!   "PRICELESS"

Aiming for the best target area on every shot is a skilled golfer. Center of the green is a great place to be !!!

Club Rat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Club Rat

But,   but,   but,

it's such a great feeling, when you aim at the stick, and it goes in the hole !!!

That's why I play the game.....

So sad it only happens on rare occasions.

In reality, shot thoughts very under various circumstances.

When in a Skins game, go for broke....

A two shot lead in the final round of club championship, "fairways and greens"

Practicing on the course, play a variety of shots.

Golfing with my "Buddy's'" and flag it!   "PRICELESS"

Aiming for the best target area on every shot is a skilled golfer. Center of the green is a great place to be !!!

Club Rat

I do agree, when there is no league match and we play skins adjusted by handicap, I go flag hunting.

I should go for more center of the greens. Just smart, but that Flag is just so taunting

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvmac

Yes and the part to highlight is if you asked a PGA TOUR PLAYER.  Tour players are guys that own their start lines, hit it solid and can control their trajectory and how far they hit it. The average player, heck even a single digit just doesn't have that precision.

Exactly. So if PGA tour players do it, shouldn't you do it? It's the only way to get from a single digit cap to a scratch. By aiming at the flag you learn how to control your trajectory, distance, and precision.

Quote:

Originally Posted by mvmac

Disagree with that, of course you can still make birdies by hitting it towards the center of the green. As was posted earlier, 1/3 pins are already in the middle of the greens and even though your target is the middle of the green it doesn't mean the ball is actually going to end up there. Getting on the green will lower players scores, trying to hit a shot at a tucked pin and missing the green, will not.

And as I said earlier, this does not apply to tucked pins.

You can learn to control your distance, accuracy and precision by aiming at the center of the green. Or any target for that matter. It's your ability to hit the target that actually makes you into a PGA tour player. You could be a tour player and still shoot 80+ if you don't play in a sensible manner.

In the end, you shouldn't do what the PGA tour players do. You should do what results in the lowest overall score only, unless you don't care about your score. Missing greens will not make you better just because you were trying to make a birdie.
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