Mid-high handicaps


Do you have any wisdom for the poor saps who have to play you in match play? What strategies would be different in your mind for alternate formats? Ir stableford, match play etc

I am particularly interested in net match play. Very exciting US Am finish and i love match play in general. I frequently receive strokes and am curious how i might optimize strategy. If on a par five that i cannot reach in 2, and i get a stroke, and i watch opponent pump one out of bounds, does that affect whether i reach for driver in your mind? Lets say landing area is generous but ob on one side and fairway bunker in landing area. Or since we know we are not more accurate with 3 wood and we have a handicap stroke and now opponent hitting four from fairway, its even more of a green light driver situation?

I realize this is a bit much to add to this specific post, but for people who aspire to shoot 80, does strategy differ? Essentially half the holes can be bogey and outcome is achievable. Realistically higher handicaps are going to pump tee shots ob, after which double would be a great outcome for them. In the spirit of double avoidance should higher handicappers weight width of the fairway differently and fairway bunkers differently when considering strategy? For purpose of this discussion, lets assume driver is not the limiting factor in golf skill.

Apologies if this has been addressed elsewhere
Looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts.


As a 16 'cap paired with a 24 in league for years now I tend to always play much better golfers in match play. I don’t really think you should deviate much on the tee shot plan unless driver has a good chance of bringing trouble into play because most mid-high cappers don’t hit other long clubs much straighter. There are some holes on my course that I might go against that but it’s because the driver can be risky with doglegs and OB more easily brought into play with that club.

Our #14 hole is a good example. There is OB left and right the whole way, it turns a bit right to left and the trees left (and OB) kind of crowd you in on the tee shot. It’s not hard to pipe a shot to the right that goes OB. I might hit a 5w or hybrid there if my opponent hit one OB and I was getting a shot. I probably can’t reach the green in 2 hitting those clubs, but I can’t reach OB either…well at least not on the right side. Now if I was more likely to pull hook one of those clubs then I might just stick with driver especially if I’ve hit it decently on 11-13.

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Win the first hole in match play, especially if you are getting strokes. Once you get 1-up, you’re in good shape. If you get 2-up, pop the champagne. Your stroke giving opponent then needs to up his game while you just have to play your game. In club matches, it’s always better to be the ‘chasee’ than the ‘chaser’.


Yes i think the question was if switching driver to 3 wood reduced chances of ob and fairway bunker, given the opportunity to score six and win 99 plus percent of time, would that be worth taking the two largest areas of score reduction and reducing likelihood of penalty (made up numbers here from five percent to two percent) be worth the distance reduction? Or should the situation not really dictate strategy?

Follow up would be how aggressive to be on second shot. I rarely go for it in two anyways, so for me it just means (big assumption of unobstructed shot) 9i and 9i, rather than wedge wedge.

Thanks for walking it through with me.

I am a very strong match player, compared to medal. This past weekend I played my opponent, we are both in senior division now. I had to give him 2 a side. I had 6 doubles and finished with an gross 84. Not my best, we played in the club championship medal play and we both finished middle of the pack, but we also had to knock out our quarter final match so we did both simultaneously, only difference was no giving of putts. I won the match 4 up. Pretty handily. My game in general is fairly steady, I don’t get wild swings up and down, I play to strengths, I rarely try hero shots, if you stay away from blow up holes, really stay away from triples or worse, only fire at pins when I have to you will do well. I fire at center of greens, I take an extra club and don’t worry about playing long. Why? Because I can’t tell you how many times I short side myself. Golf is a game of misses, not a game of makes especially for us folks that miss alot now. It’s called managing YOUR game. You need to realize your opponent is going to miss too. The hardest thing for a match play opponent to do is manage their game if you are managing your misses. If you can just manage to eliminate 6 misses in a round you will inherently find you will win your match.


On your course would you consider being long of green worse than short siding or roughly equivalent?

Realize its very situational, but on my course i would MUCH rather be short sided than long 8/10 times, even after excluding excluding being short and in fairway.

Do you have a predominant swing shape? Are you following the decade guidance to help minimize risk of bunkers and short siding, even if it means giving up the aim point at the center of green?


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The question is one of confidence and honesty with yourself. How often do you short side yourself as opposed to hit past the target? Are you consistently 10 yds short of target with a club choice or are you pin high? Taking one more club with a more controlled swing will do what? I would bet you’re not going over the green. Putting a ball on the green or pin high left or right of intended target tends to lend itself to a better miss. Like I said I had 6 Dbls, lost 5 and halved 1. I also won 9 holes and halved 3 others. Going into match play I know what holes I tend to play better and those I try to play more aggressive on because if I can execute that one tee shot out of the 4 holes I struggle with 1 less miss. Taking 1 more club going into a green is actually not being aggressive, it’s being conservatively aggressive. Last week I had a shot of 101 in a normal circumstance perfection I could have hit my 54, but I hit my 50 instead to 14inches for a birdie, here’s the thing I missed it, it should have been 115, I caught it slightly high on the club face, if I did the same thing with the 54 I’m either bunkered or left with that crappy 15 yd chip…I’m just trying to impress on you thinking a little deeper than you may normally. A good miss is better than a bad miss…if that makes sense.

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To answer your question regarding decade and shot shape. My metals I tend to hit a push/ draw, my long and mid irons I fade, usually 10-15 yard fade. My scoring clubs that’s my 42, 46, 50, 54 and 60. I hit pretty dead straight and I can control flight, my issue is distance, if I catch the ball on the bottom grooves I’m spot on, I’ve been catching a little ground first lately which is higher on the club face tending to be short lately, so I’m working very hard to remedy that. Decade some people swear by it, I employ my own notes especially on the range, Decade works for alot of people, I personally don’t see it for me especially since I don’t agree with all of his principles, I’m always trying to play to a comfortable distance for my approach, not bash a ball as far as I can. I’d rather hit a 3w 225-235 and leave myself 120 in from a fw than hit a driver further down but in a less advantageous position out of the rough where I can’t control the club face as well. Anyone that tells you different is lying to you, depending on the height and type of rough it will twist your club face, not so much in short grass. Like I said I’m trying for a better miss…

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I think that the current state of affairs very much determines strategy. Remember, you don’t need a low score, you only have to beat your opponent on a hole by hole basis.


Thanks for your thoughts! Trust me in more than 2 decades of golf there is no one who left a round believing i need to think deeper. Usually they say im way better than my score and my head is in the way. :rofl:

I strategically avoid going long and there are couple holes i dont have a club im on talking terms with for the distance so i miss short purposefully.

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Interesting stat there. 36% GIR…19% short… Where do u think you’d be with adding another 8% to that GIR going down 1 more club? Normal circumstances…your scoring as is puts you in mid to low 80s. Going up to around 44% puts you mid to high 70s low 80s. Just something to chew on.


Sure but target already is middle of green on every hole. It’s an execution problem, not a strategic problem. Will look at holes to see if it makes sense to try back of green on any specific holes. Thanks!

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In general, and this is just me talking, I think it’s worth the shot. Good Luck on any event!

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It seems Jon has already answered this question.

My instinct is to disagree with his conclusion that strategy should not be situational, but i hope to understand more about why I’m wrong. I think this focuses more on gross play.

I’m more focused on net play with a skill gradient between two opponents.
From the higher handicap side, on non stroke holes you are at a statistical disadvantage. The higher handicapper needs to win the stroke holes to have a chance to win. Obviously bad play from either side can doom any effort. But as above, if a situation arises where you get a stroke and the lower handicap opponent hits it OB, it’s like poker and being big stacked. You can afford a conservative shot and give up a small amount of strokes (distance) gained to see how the hole plays out (imo). To borrow and merge several phrases, each match is an individual decision, but the strokes within each hole are more linked than the strokes on two different holes. Since score variance is likely bigger for the higher handicap, you have to get points when you can. Perhaps aggressive swings to even more conservative targets may bear out in specific instances. I can see where this many never be an issue between evenly matched opponents with no strokes being given.

I think. :slight_smile:
Could be wrong.

These are the distances i play for hybrid and nine iron on the course. Im not shorter than i think on the gc quad, but somehow on course i hit short of green more often than jon/adam advise, and as you previously noted.

Should i change to longer club or should i just keep using the club the distance i know i can hit it and trust that eventually it will not be short?

Thanks for your thoughts.

This is just me. I know what my stock distances are, (a stock PW-46* will go 18-20ish)…no wind, good lie, no humidity and 70 or above. Hopefully executing a nice relaxed swing producing fairly stock ball flights. I can push a wedge to 35…depending on the wind and lie, but if wind kicks up, or temp drops, or lie is mushy…those variables can produce, for me, a higher ball flight and I actually lose distance. So all things being equal, I drop to a 9i and flight it down. On course variables are not found on the range…we usually either blasting off on a mat, or take a perfect lie on the range box…all fairly flat, perfect lies right? Just chart what you are doing, in my book all you are looking to do is pick up 2 GIR above what you are currently giving yourself.


Off of what surface are you getting those numbers with the GC? If it’s off of grass, then I’m perplexed, though course lies are usually going to be more uneven (feet higher/lower than ball, tilted left or right, or much tighter) than good range turf. If they’re more uneven, your contact will likely be poorer, and either Adam Young or Jon have pointed out here that even missing your ideal low point by an inch or two can really mess with your strike efficiency. The ball still gets up and flies; it just doesn’t fly quite as far.

If it’s off a mat, well…welcome to my world. The mat hides a lot of impact flaws, IME.

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