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  Understand when to go for the pin

By Andy North

There are times when pins are tucked very close to one edge of the green or the back of the green. You have to know when you can attack those pins and when to put the ball 20 feet to the side of the hole.

Let's say the pin is at the back left of the green, with water or a bunker on the left. That's an easy pin for a player like Mark O'Meara, who hits the ball low to medium height and has natural shot is a right-to-left draw. He can start the ball to the middle of the green and play his normal shot. The ball will work its way over toward that pin placement.

But for a player like Bruce Lietzke, whose shot is a left-to-right draw, that shot is almost impossible. He can't start his shot over the water or any other hazard and play his normal cut back into that pin. In that case, he'll probably shoot at the pin and let the ball take its normal course away from the pin 15-20 feet to the right of the hole.

Now, if the pin is moved to the right side of the green with trouble, now Lietzke can hit his shot close and O'Meara can't. When pins are tucked closely, you have to understand what your type of shot is, what you're good at, and then play accordingly.

The players who have done well over the years -- Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, for instance -- have always understood when to be aggressive and shoot at a pin and when to play toward the middle of the green and play a smarter shot. To the average player, that's important. Too often people see the pin and just shoot at it. Sometimes there's no possible way they can get their ball back in the pin area. That leads to a lot of trouble and big scores.

Know your shot. If it's a 4-iron shot as opposed to a wedge shot, obviously you can't be as aggressive with the 4-iron as you can be with a wedge. The shorter the club, the more accurate you should be. It's understanding the situation you're playing under, understanding your shot and then making a smart decision based on those two things.

Nicklaus seemed to never make a mistake. You never saw him miss a green he shouldn't miss. That's the difference between the great players and the good players. Great players understand when they can be aggressive and when they can't. It may also be the difference between a club champion and a 5-handicap at the same club.

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