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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Gerina Piller VS Hank Haney on Layup Shots

A few weeks back I did a post where I mentioned 4 shots Hank Haney says are no longer good choices. One of those shots was laying up to a favorite distance. Here's what Haney said in his Golf Digest article:
Laying up to a favorite distance is a myth that has probably come from selectively watching professional golf on television. You might see a tour player lay up on a par 5 to a preferred wedge distance, but 99 percent of the time if the pros have the opportunity to get near the green safely, they'll bomb it down there. Plus, stats don't lie. At every distance the PGA Tour measures, players hit it closer to the hole on average when they're closer to the target. I don't care how much you love having 7-iron into the green: Over the long term, you're going to shoot better scores if you try to cover as much distance as possible. It's always better to have a wedge in your hand than a longer iron. The only exceptions? When the longer shot puts you at risk of going into a hazard or deep grass, or leaves you with an awkward sidehill or downhill lie.
Personally I agree with Haney. I like to get the ball as close as possible to the green because I prefer chips and pitches to full shots when I want accuracy. But I also I have a problem with his statement that "stats don't lie." People love to say that numbers don't lie (and stats are numbers, after all) and I guess that's true enough... but numbers don't mean anything until they're interpreted, and interpretations lie all the time! I'm always cautious when I hear numbers treated like they're irrefutable.

In my post I said there are always exceptions to the rule. Today I thought I'd give you the other side of that argument, courtesy of Gerina Piller who certainly knows a thing or two about hitting it close to the green.

At first it may sound as if Gerina is agreeing with Haney. After all, he says "When the longer shot puts you at risk of going into a hazard or deep grass, or leaves you with an awkward sidehill or downhill lie" are the only exceptions.

But Gerina isn't saying that this shot will put her in an awkward lie. Rather, she's ALREADY in an awkward lie! It doesn't fit the shot shape she needs to play, and it's a downhill lie which makes hitting the longer club awkward. She's laying up with her second shot on a par5, not with her drive. It's her drive that's forcing her to lay up. If she tries to hit the long club here, she says the outcome will probably be bad. So she's laying up to a specific distance instead of just trying to get as close to the green as she can.

I'd go even a little further. There are good reasons for laying up off the tee. Perhaps you need to take a shorter club to avoid trouble that's in play with the longer club. Perhaps you need to put the ball in a specific part of the fairway and you're not that accurate with a longer club. Perhaps you're just having trouble with your driver today -- even the pros have that problem from time to time, and they hit a shorter club.

But you should also consider this: I've often seen long hitters like Dustin Johnson hit over a 600-yard par5 in two, then walk off with a par or even bogey while the short knockers wedge it on in three and walk off with birdie. Some guys are brilliant with their wedges while others are better with short irons or mid-irons, and sometimes the shorter shot is just a harder shot. (You'll sometimes hear analysts say that a player has hit the ball too close to the green to get the spin they need, for example.) You have to play to your strengths, whether the numbers agree with you or not.

Most of the great players in the game have had swings that don't fit the mold of "correct" swings. That's because everybody's different and numbers don't take that into account. So let me repeat this again: If you want to play your best, you have to play to your strengths, whether the numbers agree with you or not.

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