By Paul Myers
The title of this article might sound like a stupid question, but there is actually more to this discussion meets the eye. Obviously, you would rather have your ball finish in the golf fairway than in the rough, but at what cost? Should you always place a premium on getting on the short grass, or are there some situations where the rough would be okay as long as you get plenty of distance? The more you start the think about this topic, the more interesting it becomes.
There are generally two schools of thought on this question – those who think that the golf fairway should always be the goal, and those who think distance can trump accuracy. Let’s take a closer look at each of those two arguments.
The Argument for Accuracy
Golf shots are generally easier to control when they are hit from the golf fairway – that much we know, and can probably agree on. When the club is able to strike the ball cleanly with no long rough between the ball and the face of the club, the golfer has maximum control over the ball flight that results. Bad shots under these conditions can’t be blamed on the grass getting in the way – it is all on the golfer (unless you may have been in a divot or something like that). Therefore, putting the ball into the golf fairway is the ultimate goal for each and every tee shot.
This argument will hold the perspective that the extra yards gained by being more aggressive off the tee aren’t a benefit when the next shot has to be hit from the rough. For instance, a shot played from 150 yards to the green from the golf fairway just might be easier to deal with than a shot from 125 yards out of the rough. If the golfer is able to get closer from 150 in the fairway on a consistent basis, then it would seem they are better off playing for position.
The Argument for Distance
Closer is always better is the argument that this group will hold. It is much easier to get close to the hole when you are closer to the green, even if the shot has to be played from the rough. The equipment golfers use today allows for shots from the rough to be spun enough to hold most greens, so the golf fairway advantage may not as significant as it used to be. As long as the drive leaves the player with a clear shot at the green, it doesn’t really matter what kind of lie the player has.
As with most arguments, the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes in this debate, provided you aren’t giving up more than 25 yards or so of distance by being in the fairway (beyond that point, it’s normally better on average to be farther down the hole). The right choice for any individual hole, and player, depends on a number of factors. If a course has deep rough, then playing for the golf fairway might be the best choice. On a long course with light rough lining the fairways in which the style of rough could “tee” the ball up and not really have a bad lie, the aggressive club selection off the tee could be justified and work out best in the long run. You will need to assess your own game and course and decide what kind of strategy you are most comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to adjust that strategy as you go to suit the conditions that you are playing in, and the course you are playing on. Over time, you will get more comfortable with your decision making and the choices you make on the tee will become second nature.
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