I hate laying up. It isn’t fun, and it usually means that I hit a poor golf shot. None the less, the layup is one of the most important shots a golfer makes on a golf course. Executing good layup shots will allow you to shave shots off of your score by limiting your big numbers and making more birdies on par 5s. There are two places that I encounter the layup shot. The first is on second shots on par 5s. The second is on par 4s where a wayward drive has left me with limited options. I am going to walk you through my thought process when I am faced with a layup. Hopefully, you can pull a few things from my strategy that helps your own.
Get back into play
There are a lot of things that go into the layup shot. My first objective is to always get the ball back in play to a place where I will have a clear shot to the hole. When I am in a lot of trouble, especially under pressure, I tend to lean on playing safer because I want to avoid big numbers that torpedo scores. A wise man once told me, “never follow a bad shot with a worse shot.” This is something I say to myself almost every round.
Behind getting the ball back in play, my biggest goal on layup shots is to put forth the same focus and attention to detail that I would on any other shot. At times over the years, I’ve noticed that I have less focus when playing layup shots. My loss of focus can be from the shot that put me in the bad position or a feeling that the shot isn’t as challenging or as important as a tee shot, for example. To help keep sharp focus, I envision the spot I want the ball to end up as a par 3 shot. Then, I try to hit the shot as close as I can to the imaginary pin. This makes me focus in on a small target and it has led to much better results.
The final thing I like to think about when laying up is strategy. This is a fundamental part of how I am able to save shots. Laying up sucks, but great players hit great layup shots because it allows them to attack on their next shots. The two biggest factors that dictate my strategy are yardage and pin positions.
I like to hit my layups to yardage that I am very comfortable with for my approach shots. My favorite yardages for wedge shots are 135, 110, 100, 80, and anything under 60 yards. Knowing this, I try to layup to one of those yardages, with the deciding factor often being which yardage has the most forgiving landing area.
Understanding pin positions and the ideal angle of attack to specific pins is how great players shave shots. Here are a couple of rules general rules that I employ for pins and the location I am laying up to.
For a pin on the right side of the green, I try and get my layup to the left side of the fairway.
For a pin on the left side of the green, I try to have my layup end up on the right side of the fairway.
For front pins, I like to lay back to a longer yardage to avoid awkward pitch shots that have little green to work with.
For back pins, I am a little bit more aggressive to get shorter pitch shots since there is ample green to work with.
I hope that this helps your game. While laying up is never fun, well played layups will lead to more up-and-downs and lower scores!