How to Choose the Right Shot to Play on the Course
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Will Zalatoris of the United States talks with his caddie on the third playoff hole on the 11th green after his ball went in the water during the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on August 14, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The simplest decisions are sometimes the hardest ones.
Will Zalatoris finally secured his first PGA Tour victory this past week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. The 25-year-old Wake Forest University alum was tied with Sepp Straka after 72-holes, and the duo put on a playoff display that we won’t soon forget. As the sudden death playoff hit its third hole, Zalatoris had to make a difficult decision.
Both players' tee shots hit the rock wall surrounding the green on the Par-3 11th at TPC Southwind, with Sepp’s ball going into the water and Will’s bouncing into an awkward area between the grass and the rock wall. Straka then played from the designated Drop Area while Zalatoris faced a choice as he walked up to the water’s edge to inspect his lie.
After looking at the shot, inspecting the lie, testing the lie with a club behind the ball, and speaking with his caddie, Zalatoris decided to take relief and went to the Drop Area. This type of decision comes up in almost every round and what we saw can teach us how to handle our own complicated lies and situations.
If you are caught determining what shot to hit or what penalty to take, ask yourself these 3 thoughtful questions:
Have I ever hit a shot like this before? If the answer is no, then choose another option. Golf is a hard enough game to repeat let alone try something for the first time in the middle of your round.
What’s the success rate? What is the likelihood you can hit the shot successfully? If you don’t know at all, re-read question #1 again. If you can determine the probability, it needs to be better than 50%. If you can’t pull off the shot more than 50% of the time it is too risky, and you should choose another play.
Am I playing to my strengths? We all have shots we are more comfortable with on the course. When deciding, always play to your strengths. If we all just stick to our best skills the resulting scores we write down will always be lower.
Zalatoris didn’t know exactly how to execute the shot near the green, so he headed to the drop area and used his world-class wedge game to secure the win. Use these strategies the next time you’re faced with a difficult decision on the golf course and come out ahead.