When to go for it -- and when not to -- on a short par 4

Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
Just because you can reach a par-4 from the tee, doesn't always mean you should go for it. Weigh the risk vs. the reward.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Problem Area: Off The Tee
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, December 03, 2017 | 4:11 p.m.

Every golf course has its share of risk-reward holes.

Some of the best risk-reward holes are short par 4s that are reachable from the tee. Those holes -- which typically run just over 300 yards -- can be reachable by a lot of players under the right set of conditions and if the lay of the land, downhill, is in your favor.

When that happens there's some decision making that has to go on.

We saw it over the weekend at Albany in the Bahamas during the Hero World Challenge, which had two par-4 holes that were reachable from the tee.

RELATED: Hero World Challenge scores | Comparing swings -- Tiger vs. JT

Here's Tiger Woods going for it at the 14th hole in Saturday's third round:

Sure, it came up short, but he left himself in positon to get up and down for birdie and that's precisely what he did.

Obviously, going for the green on a short par-4, even if you think you can easily reach it, isn't always the prudent play.

Lou Guzzi, 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year, says there are a number of questions you have to ask yourself before pulling the trigger.

"First of all, how are you driving the ball that day," Guzzi said. "Driving it well? Great. Is it worth going for it? What's around the green if you miss? Is there a greenside bunker that's perhaps a good spot to miss? What's the difficulty of your second shot going to be like if you miss? Is it a tight hole where you could make a big number if you miss? KNow how you're feeling about your driver. That's what's most important."

Another factor to consider, Guzzi said, is where you stand in the tournament you're playing in, the match you're in, or the kind of casual round you're having.

"If you're in a great position to shoot a great round, do you really want to take a risk?" Guzzi said. "How important is that score to you? If it's a match-play event you're in, you might not have a choice but to be aggressive and that makes the decision easy. The bottom line is this: Is the risk worth it?"

Guzzi recalled a time years back when he was playing well in the Philadelphia Public Links as an amateur.

"I was playing the 16th hole with good chance to win in the fourth round," he said. "It was a short par 4 and I knew I could drive it. If I did drive it, wonderful. But if I missed it, there was too much trouble near the green and it could have led to a big number. I chose to lay up and hit a 100-yard shot into the green. That opened up the hole and there was no way to bring double or triple into play. I didn't need it. So, I didn't go for it."

Here are the three things to remember when you are deciding whether or not to reach a par 4 from the tee:

1. Ask yourself, "How am I driving the ball today?"

2. Weigh the risk of the shot vs. the reward. Is there potential for a big number if you miss the green?

3. If you're going for it, commit 100 percent to the shot.

Golf is all about putting yourself in position for that next shot. Just because a par 4 is reachable doesn't mean you have to go for it.
 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.


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