There are times when you have to take on a hole, and times when you need to ease off. Knowing which holes are which will save you strokes.
1. Example 1 is a 359-yard par 4 that goes downhill off the tee to the halfway point, then uphill after a right turn to a shallow green. This green is thus meant to be approached with a short iron, but the tee shot is intimidating and makes a driver look like a risky choice, because: a fairway bunker will trap a ball that goes off the tee too far and straight. The proper tee shot is a fade, but if the ball bends too much, trees in the corner of the dogleg will surround the ball leaving no shot but a chip back out to the fairway. And, the gap between the bunker and the trees is none to wide.
I had always laid up off the tee to be safe, but had a mid-iron into the green not designed to hold one. I seldom got a par. Two days ago, I hit my driver anyway just to see what would happen. The ball went into the trees, I chipped out sideways, but the tee shot with my driver had gone far enough that I had an 8-iron to the green. I hit on, and two putts later had an easy bogey.
So I learned that on this hole, a bad tee shot would cost me one stroke, and a good one meant an easy par, whereas hitting short meant bogey, and a double if something went wrong.
2. Four holes later we’re on the tee of a 427-yard par 4, with water on the right, a slight dogleg right, with water in front of the green to its left, beside a generous lay-up area. Unless your drive is pretty long, you will have to hit off a rolling fairway (an uneven lie is a certainty) and over the water to get to the green.
I hit my drive straight, but not as long as it could have been, and I was faced with a shot of about 175 yards over the water on the right, off a downhill lie, to get safely to the bail-out area. The green was out of the question. One of my primary playing rules is: never hit over water if you don’t have to. Since it was going to take two shots to get on the green anyway, I chipped 50 yards down the fairway so I could have a short iron over dry land into the green.
I got on, took two putts for a bogey, and avoided a double or even a triple had I tried to cross the water with my second. Had my drive gone about twenty yards farther, I could have safely taken on the green. But sometimes, you have to do that discretion and valor thing.