Par 5s: How to decide whether to go for it or lay up

Make the right decision after a good drive on a par 5 by asking yourself these five questions before pulling the trigger

Fault: Finding trouble on a par 5 through loose thinking

Fix: Build a plan with five key questions

So you’ve hit a good drive on a par 5, and are assessing your second shot. At this stage, the club golfer’s strategy often amounts to little more than whacking it up there as close to the green as possible; but if you are to capitalise on your good start to the hole, it’s vital you have a clear and precise plan for the shot. Make sure you address these five questions before pulling the trigger. 

‘Where do I want to hit my third from?’

Ask this first, because the answer informs all other questions. Make a clear call on if you are going for the green or not. Base that decision on the distance you need to cover, and the penalties for failing. If you elect to lay up or you can’t reach, check the pin’s location and work out which side and distance you want to leave yourself for a pitch.

‘Can I pull this off today?’

After choosing your spot for the third shot, check to see if your plan can pass a little honesty test. Every golfer’s form fluctuates from round to round, so even an in-range green should be left alone if you’ve been throwing in the odd snap hook. On the positive side, if your striking is on song you can give an ambitious shot selection the green light.

‘How level is my stance?’

From the fairway, it’s rare to find a perfectly level stance. When the ball is above your feet, you will tend to draw or hook the ball; ball below feet encourages a fade or cut. Take this into account when picking your starting line and setting your alignment. An upslope, promoting a higher flight, is of course a benefit downwind; downslopes will mean a lower, running shot.

‘Where am I aiming?’

With usually a wide expanse to hit at, we can often get sloppy with alignment in this situation. But even small errors in aim can cause big curves in ball flight. So instead, employ the same mentality and precision you’d take to a green approach. Pick points along your chosen target line. Set the clubface to aim up that line, and then address the ball around the club

‘Have I committed to my rhythm?’

It might sound odd, but you should hit a lay-up as hard as a blow for the green. The rhythm of your swing should not change, based on the target you have set yourself. Your rhythm sets up your swing’s sequencing and the correct delivery of the club, so trying to hit harder or softer can both get you into trouble. Maintain your regular swing pace and let club selection do the work.


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