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Stop Aiming at the Flag!!! #DeadCenter


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I think that is a fair plan. And I think it is fair to say that there are small adjustments to be made with any strategy. The problem is that the potential variables for SMALL adjustments are just too many to list here. That is why broad scope advice is difficult to give. That said, most people, without an in person GamePlan structure (which we will be offering with schools, etc. btw once the book is released) should heed this advice to shoot lower scores.  It is easy enough to pick an exact target in line with your start line in order to finish your ball in the center of the green. The statistics, very much, speak for themselves.

I second this.  Obviously I don't have the experimental evidence you guys are going to report, or even the nice personal long term data @MS256 nicely quotes above.  But just speaking from the analysis I did yesterday, I had to stop and think a decent amount about how to present the data since readable graphs have to be 2D but there are a TON of variables.  This is a many dimensional problem.  Like I said above, I tried to shade all the variables I didn't show varying strongly towards favorable towards aiming at the pin, but there are still a ton of variables.

There are various combinations of GIR %age differential and elements of the green and layout leading to differentials in 3-putt percentages, birdie percentages, and U/D %age, and of player ability and propensities that lead to the optimal aim point being in various places from center of the green to the pin or elsewhere on the green.  The point I think @david_wedzik was trying to make with the OP and that I was supporting with my analysis is that the aim point that minimizes your expected score is almost surely significantly more conservative than we all like to think.  Our unrealistic opinion of our own skill and our selective memory of the gratification of the times we did make the aggressive, non-optimal play and hit perfect shots and got the birdie pull us towards estimating the optimal aim point as way more aggressive than the true optimal aim point.

No one is actually arguing that the literal centroid of the green is always the optimal aim point for all combinations of all the variables.  That's a straw man interpretation of the argument to support ignoring the fact that you're probably playing non-optimal, overly aggressive lines.

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After reading through a lot of the comments I should add this now. This SEEMS as if it is very easy to implement in your game.  It SEEMS that you should just be able to read the advice and start heeding it.  It WON'T be that easy I can assure you. I have struggled at times in my own game to take my own advice.  Challenge yourself to see how good you can be at acting on this.  Make aggressive plays to conservative targets. Again, it WON'T be easy :-P

Any idea why it's so hard? I remember many times in the past saying I'll just aim at the center. Sometimes it makes it as far as hole three or four before I start missing long or short and realizing that I based the computation on going for the pin... or at least going up or down based on pin location. I believe I'm a reasonably smart guy but on the golf course, I can't even stick to a simple plan. Oh well. Two chances to make another attempt at "aim at the center 18 times" coming up...

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For me, it is hardest to think middle of the green when the flag is in the front, which is a mistake I guess.  My brain says short is better because it is an uphill putt if you are short on most greens.  But short of the green makes it a lot harder.  I will endeavor to revise this thought process when I get to play again.

When the flag is back or to the sides, it is easier for me to think "aim for the middle.

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For me, it is hardest to think middle of the green when the flag is in the front, which is a mistake I guess.  My brain says short is better because it is an uphill putt if you are short on most greens.  But short [U]of the green[/U] makes it a lot harder.  I will endeavor to revise this thought process when I get to play again. When the flag is back or to the sides, it is easier for me to think "aim for the middle.

Actually that does bring up another issue, for me. I only have a range finder and sometimes it's hard to tell if a pin is in the front, so how do I judge my yardage? Or should I just err on the long side on my shots anyway?

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Actually that does bring up another issue, for me. I only have a range finder and sometimes it's hard to tell if a pin is in the front, so how do I judge my yardage? Or should I just err on the long side on my shots anyway?

@billchao , I got a really inexpensive app for my iPhone, Sky Droid, that only gave center of green yardage.  I used it when my rangefinder went in for service.  It was pretty accurate too.

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@billchao , I got a really inexpensive app for my iPhone, Sky Droid, that only gave center of green yardage.  I used it when my rangefinder went in for service.  It was pretty accurate too.

Thanks, I'll have to check it out.

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Actually that does bring up another issue, for me. I only have a range finder and sometimes it's hard to tell if a pin is in the front, so how do I judge my yardage? Or should I just err on the long side on my shots anyway?

Aren't most flags color coded these days? Add or subtract 5 yards or so depending on the size of your greens.

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Aren't most flags color coded these days? Add or subtract 5 yards or so depending on the size of your greens.

A couple of courses I play use those tiny flags below the large flag, but I find that a lot of the time, the people setting the pins don't set them right. I don't recall them using different colored flags, but I know what you're talking about because I have seen it before.

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Actually that does bring up another issue, for me. I only have a range finder and sometimes it's hard to tell if a pin is in the front, so how do I judge my yardage? Or should I just err on the long side on my shots anyway?

Distances on sprinklers and for yardage markers themselves are to the center of the green.

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A couple of courses I play use those tiny flags below the large flag, but I find that a lot of the time, the people setting the pins don't set them right. I don't recall them using different colored flags, but I know what you're talking about because I have seen it before.


Most of the courses around here that have fairly good sized greens have three colors of flags for front, middle, and back.

I saw one course that had the distance from the center of the green to the flag on the score card. That was about the best and most accurate way of doing it that I've seen.

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Any idea why it's so hard?

It's the difference between Tiger Woods in 1997 & Tiger in 2000. 97tw was crazy aggressive firing at every pin. He destroyed the masters after shooting a 40 on his first 9 holes. 97tw had no shot of winning the US open. He would land the ball a foot from the hole and end up nowhere near it. 00tw had the best year in modern golf winning 3 majors playing a totally different game. 00tw was dialed back. He wasn't firing at every pin he was going for the best leave. This could be aiming 40 feet left to leave a 15 foot up hill putt instead of going at the hole and having a 15 foot hard breaking downhill putt. 97tw was playing checkers and 00tw was playing chess.

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For me, it is hardest to think middle of the green when the flag is in the front, which is a mistake I guess.  My brain says short is better because it is an uphill putt if you are short on most greens.  But short of the green makes it a lot harder.  I will endeavor to revise this thought process when I get to play again.

When the flag is back or to the sides, it is easier for me to think "aim for the middle.

Try thinking about it this way. If you play for the distance to the front pin and hit it perfectly you are next to the pin. If you are anything other than perfect you are short of the green. If you add 5 yards to the distance of a front pin and hit it perfectly you are looking at a 15 feet left with  a putter in hand. Anything other than a perfect shot is going to have you on the flag.

Unless there is severe slope I think people seriously over estimate the added difficulty of putting downhill vs uphill. I think it was Johnny Miller who said at the US open he actually wanted a downhill first putt so if he didn't make it his come back putt would be straight up the fall line.

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It's the difference between Tiger Woods in 1997 & Tiger in 2000. 97tw was crazy aggressive firing at every pin. He destroyed the masters after shooting a 40 on his first 9 holes. 97tw had no shot of winning the US open. He would land the ball a foot from the hole and end up nowhere near it. 00tw had the best year in modern golf winning 3 majors playing a totally different game. 00tw was dialed back. He wasn't firing at every pin he was going for the best leave. This could be aiming 40 feet left to leave a 15 foot up hill putt instead of going at the hole and having a 15 foot hard breaking downhill putt. 97tw was playing checkers and 00tw was playing chess.

I agree with what you said, but I'm not sure what lesson to take from it -- it doesn't tell me why committing to "aim for the middle" is so hard.

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Oh yeah the point that I forgot to get back around to...

Everyone knows the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. In golf the lowest score isn't always going to be found from the straightest path. TW a guy who was clearly better than everyone else on the golf course took 2 years to rebuild his swing and change his mentality from attack, attack, attack to setting the best opportunity to score well.

The hole is the final destination and not hitting directly at it is not what our brain wants to do. I speculate that it is part of our hard wiring from when we people had to hunt for their food. If we were hunting and aimed 40 feet to the left of a stationary target we would starve to death. In golf aiming 40 feet left might be the best way to setup a 2 putt for par.

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  • iacas changed the title to Stop Aiming at the Flag!!! #DeadCenter

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