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JonMA1

When Do You Lay Up?

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The three things I can think of that determine when I lay up and when I go for a green are 1) distance, 2) lie, and 3) how protected the green is. (There are other factors such as the weather or how I'm playing on a particular day, but I thought it would be better to keep it simple.)

I'll start off by saying that I can't remember ever laying up on a par 3. I don't play long courses or from the back tees much, so a par 3 beyond 200 yards is rare. Most of those longer par 3's generally have more room for less than perfect shots. So I'm mostly asking about approach shots from the fairway or rough.

Distance 

This is probably the biggest determining factor for me. My longest club for approach shots is my 5w (I recently gave my 3w away). While GG shows I average 192 yards with that club, 180 yards from off the deck is a decent shot. I rarely try approach shots with this club, but will occasionally. The other factors - the target and the lie - play a bigger role with this club than with my long irons. I've learned not to hit out of the rough with this club unless the ball is sitting up, and anything with much of a slope almost guarantees a wayward shot or poor contact. It's something I have to work on but for now, better to lay up than to hit out of a bad lie to a tight green with this club.

As far as irons, I try not to lay up when shorter than 150 yards (6 iron) regardless of how tight the green is - as long as the lie isn't horrible. I will try for the green with my 5 or 4i as long as there's room somewhere for a miss.

Lie

I'd define a decent lie as being on the fairway or in normal rough and sitting up. The ground doesn't have to be perfectly flat, but downhill lies are tougher for me than uphill ones. As the slope increases, so does the difficulty.

Fairway bunkers can be tough. I've hit greens from them, but it's tough for me to pick the ball out of a bunker with any kind of consistency. When hit cleanly, I get close to my standard distances... maybe a bit less.

The thick rough is difficult for me. I have to remember to grab more club and I rarely get good contact and a high ball flight. If I have a water hazard in front of a green, I would have to think hard about trying for the green from 150 yards with a ball in this thick stuff.

As for trouble shots, I'll try to get close to the green with them, but I don't really consider that going for it. If it happens great, but that result is generally more of a happy accident.

Greens

While I don't hit well from green side bunkers, they aren't as bad as water, and water isn't as bad as thick woods or brush (as in always a lost ball or unplayable lie). Any green that is free of this on three sides is an easier green. I don't mean easy to hit, just easier to go for - even with a fairway wood.

Water or brush tight on two sides is an average hole. I'd likely lay up if left with more that 180 yds, but with an ok lie, I'm probably going for it from 170 (4i). These are the kinds of holes where shot zones really help. As a high capper, I obviously can't hit small greens very often with long irons. But I'd like to think I can shift the center of my shot zone over to miss the trouble areas. If I have two sides of a green that are open, I like my chances of leaving myself a short chip at worse.

There are a couple holes I play that have trouble tight on all 4 sides. These are the holes I'll go for with mid irons and think twice about with anything longer. Not to say I never hit long irons into them, but I'd need a good lie, a good angle and a bit of confidence on that day. 


So with my giant shot zones and wimpy distances, I'll rarely go for the green from 190 (off the deck), but will rarely lay up from 150 and in.

How about anyone else? When do you decide to play it safe and why?

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Usually… when my Decision Map says to.

It's that simple.

What's involved in that? How I'm playing that day. The distance. The weather and conditions. My opponent if that's relevant. My Shot Zones. The shades of grey and their proximity to other areas.

Pretty simple.

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27 minutes ago, iacas said:

Pretty simple.

You know I've read LSW and I have some understanding of shot zones and decision maps. I didn't mean to suggest my decisions were terribly complicated or much different than your book. in fact, when I'm on the course, it becomes a bit more simplified. 

Doesn't your lie change your shot zones?

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The only problem with "smart golf" is that you have to be fairly intelligent.  It took me a long time to figure that out.

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5 minutes ago, JonMA1 said:

Doesn't your lie change your shot zones?

Yes.

38 minutes ago, iacas said:

and conditions

See?

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19 minutes ago, Piz said:

The only problem with "smart golf" is that you have to be fairly intelligent.

In that case, I don't have a prayer. :-)

No, my post was intended only for conversation, not anything terribly deep. I was mostly curious about how others with various handicaps/distances draw the line and decide to lay up. I've seen a lot of higher cappers pull a club - which they haven't hit well all day - and try to carry a wide gully to a tight green and wonder what their thought process is. 

When playing a course I don't play often, I don't go around measuring greens and comparing those to my shot zones. It's mostly a feel with a few factors and a lot of latitude.

Edited by JonMA1
typo

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1 minute ago, JonMA1 said:

In that case, I don't have a prayer. :-)

No, my post was intended only for conversation, not anything terribly deep. I was mostly curious about others with various handicaps/distances draw the line and decide to lay up. I've seen a lot of higher cappers pull a club - which they haven't hit well all day - and try to carry a wide gully to a tight green and wonder what there thought process is. 

When playing a course I don't play often, I don't go around measuring greens and comparing those to my shot zones. It's mostly a feel with a few factors and a lot of latitude.

In that case...I lay up when I don't care to contemplate what may occur.  If I am one down with one to go I'll steel my nerves and give it a rip.  Otherwise I play a shot that will, at worst, give me an opportunity to make good on the next one.  If that doesn't work...so be it.  What I try to avoid is needless risk.  A four is a four and a five is a five.  If I am not confident in a particular shot...I play something else.  And a lot of that depends, not on the shot or distance, but on how I am feeling at the time.  It's a manic/depressive approach to the game that, depending on what day it is, works very well or not at all.

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4 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

I'll start off by saying that I can't remember ever laying up on a par 3. I don't play long courses or from the back tees much, so a par 3 beyond 200 yards is rare.

Two par 3s I have played in the past rated a lay-up of sorts. Both played about 190 yards and had tight bunkering and other problems around the green.

For the hole down in Oklahoma, I would hit a punch and run with a 3i. The ball would hit a patch of hard clay 40 yds in front of the green, and skip up onto the fringe. About half the time I would chip up and tap in for par.

The other one was local, an irregular shaped green with pot bunkers. I would hit a 4i which would land just short of the green, and then I would chip for up and down. Again, 50-50 chance of up and down.

4 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

The thick rough is difficult for me. I have to remember to grab more club and I rarely get good contact and a high ball flight.

A couple of things on thick rough. If the ball in suspended at all in the grass, you need to choke down on the club. While the ball is a half inch above the ground, your feet will sink to the bottom, lowering the leading edge of the sole. Without choke down, you risk a high-face hit that goes 30 yards. The choke down will bring the leading edge up to bottom of ball at address.

For longer shots, a hinge-and-hold may work. With a hinged backswing and a controlled follow-through, you can get good contact and run the all up toward the green. Get inside 50 yards, and  you have a good chance for up-and-down. At the very least, you dodge a potential double bogie.

Also, there's the sad fact that I'm a cautious golfer, not a nerves-of-steel golfer like some of the single digit-cappers on here. If I can't commit to a challenging shot, it's best if I just lay up.

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I will lay up when not doing so brings in too much chance of hitting out of play or brings really bad things into play.

Some nicer courses I play are very clear about how the par fives are handled.  For me they are three shooters because getting aggressive on the second brings a lot of hurt into play and he holes have obvious wide layup areas.

I layup when there’s no other option basically.  

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Generally, I'm laying up if there's a reason I shouldn't be going for it.  Using my home course par 5's as examples...

#3 is too long for me to get at in 2 strokes... but there's no real trouble to prevent me from hitting my 3 wood and getting as close to the green as possible, so I almost always go driver - 3 wood at this point.  

#7 is very reachable... but if my drive is struck abnormally well, it may run into the cross-bunkers which will prevent me from going for it.  Typically, this hole is driver - 4 iron for me and I'm either on or around the green in 2 strokes.  

#13 is the longest of the par 5 holes at my course and also plays slightly uphill.  I've been within 3 yards of the front of the green once.  Similar to #3... there's no real trouble.  The only major problem would be if my drive is up the left side and then I'm blocked out by the tree over there.  That requires a big, quick hook... or a low punch, so... I'll play 4 iron at that point.  Otherwise... driver - 3 wood.  

#15 is short and I can get there providing my drive is up the right side.  If I'm in the proper position... it's going to be driver - hybrid or driver - 4 iron in most cases.  The only trouble is if you're way offline, so... low risk.  

When I'm at another course and there's a forced carry over water or some other hazard to get to the green... I won't attempt it unless the carry is 205 or less.  I don't hit my 3 wood very high... so carrying it over 205 yards is difficult.  No need to bring that trouble into play.  I'll lay up to a safe spot and then go in from there.  

As far as bunkers and stuff around the greens... often times, I'll actually aim for a bunker.  I don't mind being in bunkers most of the time.  

Lie is a definite factor.  Out of the rough... I won't attempt it with my 3 wood unless it's propped up.  If the ball is on a downhill slope... same thing, I'm almost guaranteed to hit it low on the face or top it.  

I guess just about anything can be a factor.  How do I feel that day?  Weather conditions.  How I'm scoring at that point in my round... do I need to be aggressive to get strokes back or should I be conservative to not kill momentum?  

I'm a headcase.

CY

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I also consider how far I actually fly a ball, 75% of the time. not how far others do or how far I think I do.

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I know my shot zone. I can adjust pretty easily depending on wind, lie, etc.. This also includes how well I am hitting the ball. From there, I figure out were I want the ball to end up.

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My lie is usually the biggest factor whether or i lay up short of a green. Its all relative of course - but i rarely have more than a 5 or 6 iron into a par 4 unless i really skunk one off the tee, so distance usually isnt a factor. Even with a mediocre lie and a forced carry i feel like i can advance the ball green side most times from 170-190. Ill take my chances from there. It'd have to be really buried in spinach or in a fairway bunker for me to lay up short.  On a par 5, I've usually made that decision before i tee off. On those holes, its distance and wind direction that dertimeine my play. 

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When it's appropriate.

Sorry it's probably not the answer you're looking for, but there's no hard rule for me. There are so many variables that factor that it would take a long post to list them all.

I have laid up and gone for it from the same spot on different days. Or I'll go for it from a tough lie or something knowing that my miss will essentially be my lay up. Sometimes I go for it and I miss, doesn't mean going for it was the wrong decision, either (I've duffed lay up shots before, too). It all depends.

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I usually go for it with 3 wood or 19° hybrid. thats arround 220-240 yards. If I have a 60 yards shot zone without OB or water in it i will go for it. If not, lay up with an easy PW to the 70-110 yards range in order to avoid penaltys.
I can mesure the 60 yards wide shot zone with google maps the nigth before.     

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Unless there is an area in front of a green that is a problem (hazard, etc) I do not lay up. LSW calls them grey-black areas.

Lie only comes into play if it is so bad that I cannot get the appropriate club on the ball, for example if I am in high rough and I don't think I can get a wood on the ball. I then hit the longest club I can get on the ball. 

Laying up to a good number (whatever a good number is) is a complete fallacy, I want to get as close as I can get to the green on every shot, as long as I can do it reasonably safely. I know the closer I am the better chance I have of making a good number, 20 yards from the rough is better than 40 yards from the fairway a large majority of the time.

 

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16 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

No, my post was intended only for conversation, not anything terribly deep. I was mostly curious about how others with various handicaps/distances draw the line and decide to lay up. I've seen a lot of higher cappers pull a club - which they haven't hit well all day - and try to carry a wide gully to a tight green and wonder what their thought process is. 

When playing a course I don't play often, I don't go around measuring greens and comparing those to my shot zones. It's mostly a feel with a few factors and a lot of latitude.

If I see an obvious dogleg into trees on a 380 yard hole or about that length with 220 yards into the woods off the tee, I'll layup. Otherwise, it's pretty rare for me to attempt a layup. My short game is not any better than my approach game, so expecting an up and down is going to give me a worse score than just trying for the green. I've never actually seen a green that's 40 feet around surrounded by trouble front middle and back that requires a layup, but if I did, I'd layup there too and play for bogey.

If I get a stroke on another player on a hole and am on a bad lie, there is a definite temptation to layup close and hope for an up and down while expecting a bogey. That takes some pressure off that bad lie.

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