Whatever level of golf you are playing, the information I'm about to give you is crucial, and it can save you multiple shots per round.
I want to talk about one of the most critical and overlooked strategic situations - the recovery shot. If you have read my book or taken my video course, this will be an incredibly important reminder. Heck, I even need to be reminded of this concept!
It is never fun to hit your tee shot into the trees, deep rough, or a fairway bunker. However, you can save strokes easily if you have the right mindset.
The challenge will be sticking with it.
Defining A Recovery Situation
It all starts with an errant tee shot. For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to describe a recovery situation as:
- Not having a clear path to the green (in the trees).
- Having a lie that prevents you from realistically reaching the green (fairway bunker or deep rough).
If you miss the fairway, still have a clear path to the green, and your lie in the rough is manageable - that situation does not apply to this discussion.
Dealing with a recovery situation is usually like fighting against the inner gambler inside of all of us. Often, when golfers hit a poor tee shot, our instinct is to play more aggressively to make up for our initial mistake.
It's very similar to poker players when they go "on tilt." If you've played any other kind of casino game like blackjack, you likely know the feeling. You'll start to bet more aggressively to make up for your losses and lose even more money. It's not a pleasant feeling!
In recovery situations on the golf course, we get upset and frustrated with our initial mistake and start to think about what we can do to make up for it.
Suddenly, that small opening in the trees starts looking bigger and bigger.
Golfers assume that their only way to keep their round going is to "go for it" and make the aggressive play.
Unfortunately, your mother was right - two wrongs don't make a right. It is tough to calm your emotions and think clearly when you make a mistake off the tee. I'll show you why getting your ball back to safety will save you strokes in the long run.
One statistic that stands out from the book Every Shot Counts is how PGA Tour players perform in recovery situations.
If a PGA Tour player hits their tee shot in the trees, they make bogey about 80% of the time.
On TV, we see heroic shots that result in birdies and pars, but on the whole, the best golfers on the planet can't do that on average. Usually, this statistic surprises most golfers (it shocked me the first time I read it). It highlights how challenging it is to make par in a recovery situation.
The Correct Decision
If you can shift your thinking from "what can I do to make par here" to "what can I do to make a bogey," - I can guarantee you that you will lower your scores on average.
Every round of golf you play is likely going to have recovery situations. No matter how skilled you are or how well you are playing, a tee shot will eventually miss your target by a large margin.
So how do you solve the recovery situation?
The answer is straightforward. You need to select the shot that gives you the highest probability of getting the ball back to safety. Your secondary goal is advancing the ball as far as possible. That could be 20 yards, or it could be 80 yards depending on the situation. Do not take on excessive risk!
I would define safety as having a clear shot to the green in the fairway (or even light rough).
Your goal is to get the ball on the green with the next shot and two-putt for a bogey.
If you make a bogey, you are keeping pace with PGA Tour players.
Remember this the next time you hit your tee shot into the trees. Keep saying to yourself, "Bogey is my friend."
P.S. This is WAY easier said than done. Don't expect to be perfect. Start making the right choice more often, and watch your scores drop.