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How to Play Golf - The Importance of Your Go-To Shot

The go-to shot is one of the most important shots a golfer can use in a round of golf.  When things are going perfectly and there is no pressure the need for a go-to shot might not seem so important.  When the pressure is on the go-to shot is very important and can be used as a golfers safest way to success.  Tiger Woods famous "stinger" is an example of a go-to shot.  This article explores the value of go-to shots.

What Is A Go-To Shot?

Your go-to shot, is a shot you have practiced many times, and because it is repeatable has the greatest probability of success under the circumstances. You've seen Tiger hit his "stinger" many times under the stress of tournament conditions. You have seen many examples of the go-to shot when watching a PGA Tour telecast.

Tour players are willing to sacrifice significant distances to increase the odds of hitting the fairway. These players understand that the probability of hitting the green from 200 yards away in the fairway is much greater than hitting the green from 150 yards away in the deep rough, a deep fairway bunker, or behind the trees. They are willing to choose a club, even an iron, that increases the probability of hitting the fairway.

Finding Your Go-To Shot

Finding your go-to shot happens during a practice session on the range. This practice session needs to have your full attention and should not be part of your normal range practice.

Start by analyzing the range for structures that can be used as imaginary boundaries. Two greens or flag positions would be an example. The structures need to be the approximate width of a typical fairway on your course. One flag will mark the left rough, the left most position you can hit the ball without going into the rough. The right flag defines the right most fairway position. Your goal is to imagine a golf hole on the range that can be used to evaluate the success of several shots.

The next step is to select the longest club you think will be used on the greatest number of tee shots during a typical round of golf. Most golfers start with the driver. If you are a beginner golfer you can save yourself some time by starting with a three or five wood. Most golfers do not have the fundamentals to use the driver as their go-to shot. Even Tiger Woods has a go-to shot other than a driver. For 99% of us, the driver serves as a starting point that will not end up as our go-to shot.

Hit ten balls at your imaginary hole. Measure the results of the ten shots. How many shots stayed on the fairway and did not roll into the rough? If you hit more than 7 drives that stayed in the fairway you can congratulate yourself and then re-evaluate your imaginary hole to make sure that it is not too wide. You want this test to be difficult enough to really help you find a shot that you can rely on when the pressure is on. Your go-to shot should have a success percentage of at least 70 percent. Chances are that your success percentage with the driver was less than 70 percent, so go to the next club in your test, the three wood. Hit ten more balls using the three wood and measure the results.

Continue this process until you find a club that you can use that will get the ball into the fairway at least 70 percent of the time. You may find that you can only keep short irons in the fairway because your shot dispersion is to wide.

Identifying Your Ball Flight Tendency

The first time you try this test you may find that your shot dispersion is all over the range, some right and some left. The success of your go-to shot will be higher if you can identify your most natural ball flight tendency.

For Kenny Perry, his natural ball flight tendency is a right to left draw. The process of finding his go-to shot would be to aim down the right side of the hole and rely on his natural shot shape to curve the ball to the left and into the middle of the fairway. For a left to right player that hits a fade, the process would be the opposite.

In both of these cases the player is maximizing the space the ball can curve in the air, roll after landing, while staying in the fairway. All great players learn how to eliminate one half of the course or the other. It might seem that aiming down the middle of the fairway is your best option, however, that only gives you half of the golf hole to work with. Ben Hogan learned how to eliminate the left side of the hole which gave him the entire width of the fairway to work with. Jack Nicklaus also hit most of his shots with a left to right ball flight.

It will be much easier for you to find and practice a go-to shot if you can find your natural shot shape. If you hit a slice because you have an over the top club path, play your slice until you can straighten your shots.

Practicing Your Go-To Shot

For beginner golfers it is important to work with your PGA Professional to find your most natural ball flight pattern. Your goal should be to find a simple golf swing that repeats itself with reasonable certainty. If you want to change your pattern over time, work on that change during your practice sessions. Learn how to play golf by maximizing your opportunities for success. Learn how to play golf with your most natural ball flight tendency; right to left, or left to right.

For more accomplished players find the shot that has the highest probability for success. Your go-to shot will save you many dollars if you gamble or will help you win more competitions as a tournament golfer. Your biggest challenge will be learning a second go-to shot; the shot you can rely on if your primary go-to shot is not an option. What are you going to do if your primary right to left shot is blocked by a very large tree guarding the right side of the hole? Have you found a go-to left to right shot that can be played under these circumstances? If you can't hit a left to right shot with any level of reasonable accuracy, what are your options for shooting the lowest number on the hole?

Regardless of your skill level, you need to practice your go-to shots during every practice session. You don't have to hit a lot of go-to practice balls but you need to hit enough that keeps your confidence as high as possible so when it comes time to use the shot your ready.

You will also want to keep searching for the longest possible shot that you can rely on from the tee box. You may start out with a 2 iron as your go-to shot from the tee and then club up to a three wood with practice.

Go-to shots should not be limited to tee shots. You need to have a go-to fairway approach shot. and you need to have a go-to short game shot. Your golf scores will be lower, if during a round of golfPsychology Articles, you only play golf shots that have been practiced on the range. Play golf like a pro. Find and practice your go-to shot.

Article Tags: Most Natural Ball, Natural Ball Flight, Play Golf, Go-to Shot, Practice Session, Three Wood, Ball Flight, Most Natural, Natural Ball

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Stephen Simmons is the author and publisher of the Strategic Golfer Instruction Series. Steve is a single digit golfer living in San Antonio, Texas.  Find more golf tips for beginners, proper golf swing, and how to play golf lessons located at Please feel free to leave your comments or inquiries on our Contact Us page at

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