The risk-reward scenario is the essence of golf strategy. Learn to analyze these situations and you’ll shave strokes from your scores without making a single swing change.
The risk usually involves hazards (water, sand) or other potential punishment (trees, a tough up-and-down). The reward for taking on the risk is a chance for the golfer to make a better score than he would by playing safely, either short of or around the trouble.
Since each golfer has a different level of risk aversion, there’s no right or wrong answer for any given occasion. Here’s a checklist for weighing risk-reward situations.
• What is the cost of going for it and failing? Will you pay a severe penalty, or still have a chance to salvage par?
• What is the benefit of succeeding? Do your chances of making par of birdie increase substantially, or just a little?
• How am I swinging today? Is your swing on, or all over the place?
• Do I thrive when being aggressive, or cautious? Not everyone plays safe shots safely.
• What are my chances of success? Is this a shot I’ve pulled off before, or is it beyond my abilities?
• What’s the status of my round? If it’s early, there’s time to recover from a mistake. If it’s late and your score is solid, a conservative play won’t cause regret.