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Handicap Index

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  1. Good golfers don't always hit good shots. But good golfers often have a knack for getting out of trouble. The other day I faced a shot that could have resulted in bogey or worse for many players, yet I was able to save a relatively easy par. I didn't do this by pulling off some impossible shot, but I did have the knowledge, ability, and foresight to pull off a shot that many would tell you "pitch out to the fairway and wedge on to try to save your par." Here's the shot on GAME GOLF: http://www.gamegolf.com/player/iacas/round/1883025?shot_id=114887180&hole_id=35139599. As you can see, I came to the ninth at one under par, and pulled my tee shot just a hair, where it caught a slope and rolled to the bottom. It looks like this: What did it look like from where I was standing? The yellow line marks the approximate location of the flag (which was pretty far back-right on the green), and the red - the center of the biggest window - is marked on the overhead map. It's near the parking lot (which is OB), the cart path, a bunker, a big slope to the right of the green… just bad stuff in general. I had roughly 120 yards to the flag, or 114 to the center of the green. The tree on the right edge of the photo is the first tree in that direction. Many "game planners" would tell you to hit a shot in that direction, leaving a 120-yard wedge or something to a green for a potential par putt. After all, the window is too small, and you can't guarantee you'll pull it off, right? Bah. What did I do? I hooded a 9I. aiming it at the left-center of the opening (clubface is the majority of the ball's start line, but it isn't 100%), with my feet out to the right. I played the ball back in my stance, took a 2/3-ish swing, and played a fairly big draw for a 115-yard shot that landed on the front of the green and bounced and rolled up to the middle of the green, from where I had a relatively straightforward two-putt. It was the best option available to me. I figured, best case, I do what I did: hit the green and have a putt. I actually clipped a low leaf on the tree in pulling off my shot, but even if I had clipped a little more, I'd have been fine. Worst case, my ball gets to the top of the hill. Average case: I'm in an nGIR situation, pitching or chipping for birdie. I'd never practiced this particular shot before. I'm sure I've goofed around on the range hitting big hooks, or hitting low shots, or some combination, but I've never set up this scenario specifically and tried to do it. I just figured that getting near or on the green was WAY better than pitching back to the fairway, and that I had the skills to pull it off. What about you? What would you do? Let's say you're not comfortable hitting a 30-yard draw with a 2/3 9I from a not great lie. Maybe you think you should just wedge out to the right? You should almost never wedge out to the right. There are other options, still utilizing that window. Could you grip well down on a 5-iron and punch something up the hill? So long as you get past the trees 15-20 yards in front of you, and stop short of the bunker, the resulting shot is going to be easier than wedging out to the right. No hook required - just punch something through the window. If you can turn it over a little, great. Do that. But don't just wedge back to the fairway. Don't give up the 50-100 yard advantage. Even advancing the ball 30 yards makes your next shot easier. The lesson here? Trouble shots are an SV② skill mainly because they're rare. They have a high "S-Value," for LSW owners, but a low "O-Value." The high "S-Value" means that when you're in a trouble shot situation, you can save a stroke or two, right then and there. Now, I'm not going to give you some formula to figure out what shot you should attempt. I can't generalize that, and I understand that there are sometimes shots you try in a fun round that you wouldn't try in a tournament (FWIW, this is one I'd absolutely have tried in a tournament). It's on you to weight the risks (minimal, IMO for me, here) versus the rewards (quite big here). If the risks outweigh the rewards, and you've weighted both properly, go for it. Otherwise, evaluate the next most risky shot (maybe that punched 5I back to the fairway but though the same window). And, now and then, with your last five balls on the range, hit some trouble shots. Punch a hybrid and see what it does. Hook an 8I. Chip a 5I 80 yards just to see if you can do it. SV② doesn't mean never practice it… it just means don't spend much time on it.
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