Bobby Jones said that he never did any amount of winning until he learned to play more conservatively. He was once told by an older, wiser player that "the best shot possible was not always the best shot to play." And Bobby took that advice to heart.
In his book on The Elements of Scoring, Raymond Floyd wrote about the way a good player approaches every shot. He said that they first identify the places they absolutely don't want to hit the ball. They want to know, on every shot, on every hole, where not to miss it. Once they've identified the danger areas, good players then pick a shot that provides them with the widest possible margin for error. Good players know how to play the odds.
It may not be very exciting, or sexy, but if it's your score you're interested in, you would be wise to play conservatively most of the time--to make committed swings to conservative targets. Tonight, in the Men's League was a perfect example. We were playing Randy Coates' team and had come back from two down to be all square playing our last hole, which was number one. We were playing a scramble format with four-man teams, where everyone tees off and you select the best of the four tee shots and everyone plays from there, and so on.
Both of our teams hit a good drive. Randy's team had about 95 yards left to a back left pin. The perfect shot from their angle had them coming in over the pond on the front left of the green and landing it short of the pin with spin. There wasn't much green to work with and long was no good because the green slopes steeply from back to front. All four guys went for the pin and not one of them hit the green. They were forced to choose a third shot from the back of the green in fairly thick rough.
We had 75 yards. Johnny Carson hit first and went right at the pin. He hit a goid shot, but it went long and into the rough over the green. George also went at the pin and again went over the green to the back fringe. I decided to play a conservative shot to the middle of the green and my ball settled about twenty feet from the pin. Levi then went for the pin and again bounced into the rough at the back of the green.
Randy's team chipped four shots from the back of the green down the slope to the pin. The closest chip finished about eight feet from the hole. I got to see Johnny and George putt our twenty-footer and stepped up and managed to hole my putt for the win. Now, it was a good putt to make. But the putt was set up by a conservative shot to the middle of the green when everyone else had tried to get close to a "red light" pin.
I had a good yardage, and I might have got my approach within ten or fifteen feet of the pin or better perhaps fifty percent of the time. But I knew that long was no good and there was very little green short of the pin. So, I played it safe. And, as it turned out, a good putt took care of the rest.
If you want to score, you need to make committed swings to the right targets; just like Jordan Spieth. And, the right target is not always going to be the pin. You should only shoot at "green light" pins where the penalty for missing is not going to be too great. When you start "missing it" in the right places, you will start to see your scores improve.