Playing Golf Without Flagsticks

Rob Rashell
Director of Instruction
TPC Scottsdale
Scottsdale, AZ

More Information

Thinking your way around the golf course is one of the most difficult things to do well as a player. The amount of energy and discipline you need to execute your game plan, if you have a game plan, is far more than what you would expect. Most of us just enjoy hitting a few warm ups on the range, if any, then straight to the first tee with a half sandwich and a beverage.

If you’re looking to get a little more out of your day, you’ll have to give some thought about how you plan to play each individual hole. I always wanted to know what my target was off the tee, always very specific, like the right edge of a bunker, etc. I had a game plan off the tee for all 18 holes, the one thing that for the most part was going to be very similar day in and day out.

Approach shots are a different thing altogether. As we all know, the hole locations change on a daily basis and based on that location, strategy will continually change. Bunkers, water, O.B. all weigh in making a final choice in where to hit your approach. This is where I like to use a little mental trick to help me navigate my way around the golf course.

From 150-175 yards, a 5 handicap golfer hits the green roughly HALF the time; a 20 handicap, one quarter of the time. I pass this on because hitting greens is much more difficult than some people think. Firing at a much more conservative target will help immensely, and with that in mind, I love pretending that there is no flagstick on the green, where you wouldn’t know where the hole is located.

The idea behind this is intuitive, if you have a fixed target dead center of the green, you’re maximizing the size of the miss and still hitting the green. This is very easy to talk about and very difficult to do. I’m no different than anyone else standing over an approach shot. I may aim to the middle of the green but if that pin catches my eye left or right I’ll try to pull or push the shot based on where the flag is located. If you can ignore that flag, comit to the middle of the green and hit your shot, you’ll have a better chance to hit more greens.

I do a much better job of this in practice rounds, and would encourage you to give it a shot. Start with one approach on one hole and if you can do that, you’re off to a great start!