Most golfers tend to take their driver out of their bag for every tee shot on a par 4 or par 5. They don’t think about variables that come into play, such as the hazards on the hole, where the best place to approach the green with their second shot would be or the width of the fairways. They simply focus on driving the ball as far as they can so they have as short of a shot to the green as possible with their next stroke.
This is not something you see the top tour professionals do. They tend to pick and choose for each hole which club is best to hit off the tee. For example, in the 2006 British Open played at Hoylake, Tiger Woods famously used his driver only once in the four days of the event — and he went on to win. While Woods still had massive distance using all of his clubs, he wanted to play strategically and get the ball into the right positions on the course.
Here are three reasons why you don’t always have to hit your driver off the tee.
1. The fairway is bordered by hazards
If you are facing a hole that is flanked by danger on one or two sides, you need to think very carefully about your strategy off the tee. A good way of knowing when to not hit your driver is identifying what side of the fairway your errant shots go off the tee.
Most players will have some commonality to the flight of the ball when they hit their driver, whether it is a slice or a fade, a hook or a draw. For example, if you know that 80 percent of your errant drives go to the right of the fairway and there is water all down the right-hand side of the hole you are about to play, you are best off leaving the driver in the bag and going for a more conservative club.
Whether it is a 3 wood, 5 wood, hybrid or long iron, if you are flanked by danger off the tee, choose the club that can get the ball in play rather than hitting it out of bounds, into a hazard or a desperately tricky position where you are going to leak many strokes.
2. You need to think more about your position following your tee shot
While it is important to stay in the moment when playing golf and not get too far ahead of yourself, you also need to plan your strategy for each hole.
If you are playing a long par 5, for example, it is very likely that you will struggle to get near the green in two shots. Even if you do get near the green, you will very likely be left with an awkward pitch shot.
It is much easier to gauge distance when hitting a full swing. Therefore, you can hit a shorter club off the tee. Hit a mid-iron for your next shot to leave you with a full pitching wedge approach into the green.
This sort of smart planning is how you get an edge over your playing partners. When you have committed to your strategy, you can focus on taking one shot at a time.
3. You hit more greens from the fairway
It is common sense, but you are going to hit more greens in regulation when you are hitting your approach shots from the fairway than from the rough. This is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to record the stats from your round if you are serious about improving your game.
Note key stats like club used off the tee, whether you hit the fairway or not, which side of the fairway did you miss, whether you hit the green in regulation or how many putts you took. You can then analyze this data to see what your scoring average was like when hitting shots from the fairway and what it was like when hitting them from the rough.
Precision usually beats power, especially for amateur players. Take a look at the scoring averages you achieve for the different clubs you hit off the tee and you may very well be surprised at what the data shows you.
— Andrew O’Malley