Thursday, May 18, 2017

Do You Play #Golf to Win?

Scenario: You're behind by two strokes, nearing the end a very important golf tournament, and your ball is not sitting in the best position to go for the green. Your nearest competitor has not bogeyed all day long and appears to be in good shape. What is your next move?

golf ball question markDo you:

a) play it safe
b) play to win

This was the dilemma for Ian Poulter as he debated his next move while 21-year-old Si Woo Kim stood ready on the fairway to increase his lead on a par-5 at the 2017 Players Championship.

Poulter decided to play it safe, protecting 2nd place money and his world ranking. After the tournament and his decision had been made, Poulter received criticism from a Golf Channel commentator, calling the move "the worst shot of the day."

Was it though? 

Chamblee, the commentator in question, clarified his statement to include that it was, indeed, a "fine shot" and, although it "didn't cost himself any money, didn't cost him any world ranking points", Poulter "clearly did not play to win".

According to, the hardest shot to hit under pressure is...the layup. "It won't get any votes for Shot of the Year" but it could make the difference in the shots that follow. A study in favor of opposing side, that is, playing aggressively in a tight squeeze, was published by Edmund M. Balsdon in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. He argues that "pros should start playing more aggressive under pressure because tournament purses are heavily skewed in favor of the winner."
Tweet: Play Golf to Win Each Week with Golf For Beginners Blog:
Of course, we don't play at that level but most of us do like to compete and beat our friends.

So, do you play safe and wait for your competitor to make an error (which happens a lot at our level of play) or go for the low percentage shot and, possibly, the win if you make a great shot?

I guess it depends on how well you are hitting the ball that day. Two thoughts to consider before making that decision during play:

- If you've been making most of your shots and your confidence is high, then go for it!

- If you have been scrambling all day, on the other hand, then you should play it safe.

Good luck out there!

Have you played it safe when your mind said, "Go for it?" Let us know your story below in the comments section of this Golf for Beginners blog and on Twitter @Golf4Beginners.


Richard Barras said...

It not easy to be the first one in the race all the time. I do believe there is something called consistency as well. Id he chose to play it safe, im sure he assessed the situation and took the decision. I think it makes sense to respect that fact.


Aaron M. Givens said...

I'd chose play to win.
Poulter decided to play it safe, I can guess why he did it.

Stacy Solomon said...

I agree with both of you - in this instance, Poulter's choice to play it safe was his decision at the time. No one can be in your shoes.

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