Are you a Chump or a Champ ?

Here’s a situation that I have seen a million times over the years that can save or ruin a round.

A player has short–sided himself as shown by the yellow X in the lower left. The pin is tucked on the left side of the green with just a few paces from the left edge of the green. In this situation a golfer needs to decide, am I going to be a Chump or a Champ?

I have found most amateur golfers fall into the trap that they need to fit the ball in the very small area between the edge of the green and the hole. He wants to like the Pros. The player then of course tries to get too cute or doesn’t commit to the shot or swing hard enough or the club gets caught up in the rough. He more or less duffs it and ends up hitting again from the same situation or even worse. He’s what I call a CHUMP and his day is about to take an ugly turn.

The second attempt ends up where the first should have, and instead of making a bogie at worst, he ends up with a double or higher. Which most times leads to another mistake being made on one of the very next holes. The round is beginning to unravel.

When you are short sided, there is almost always a mile of green on the other side of the pin! Hence the term, “short-sided.” The only way you can look or feel stupid is by coming up short of the green. Yet most do. I don’t get it! You’d have about a 400% better chance of success if you go past the pin. And you’ll take the big mistake, and number, out of the equation.

The more experienced players on my team always make the smart play. They make sure that the shot gets past the pin. They understand that this is not a time to play aggressively and to take their medicine and if they do lose a shot they’ll have a chance later in the round to make up for it. Over the long run they know it will save them a ton of strokes.

One of the benefits of getting the ball past the pin is that if you miss-hit the shot or decelerate through it, that the shot will still end up on the green.

I always like to think that Johnny Miller is doing play-by-play on me when I’m in those situations. If I hit it past the pin he’d say on air, “that’s really all he had.” If I left it short, Johnny would lay into me saying something like, “Wow, that was really dumb. What was he thinking? Now he’s left with nothing and probably lost the tournament.”

I never want Johnny Miller laying into me.


  • Dear Fred… Nice Article Sir! You have brought out the difference between the playing styles of a Pro and an Amateur very well. Pro’s play with passion, mind & Patience. And the steps you have indicated need patience and definitely it is smart in the long run of the game..Whereas the Amateurs play only with passion and not mostly with their minds and end up in the wrong spot.

    Cheers to your website and Wishing you a Great day,
    -Navjot @nb36o from twitter.

  • This lesson is very true, and can save players heaps of shots if they think carefully about what needs to be done to protect there score going high. There is no reason why you should choose to hit the low percentage golf shot in comparison to hitting the high percentage golf shot which is the rest of the green behind the short sided pin. I would much rather be putting for par then adding more pressure onto my game after chumping it and then having to hit the same shot AGAIN for par.

  • Great article Coach.This article is a good reminded not to follow a bad shot with a stupid shot. Trying to get fancy with it will usually add strokes not save them.

  • Like most of your tips, this is another easy, simple thing to do while you’re out on the course that so many fail to do while they are playing. It’s all about staying out of trouble when you can and hitting the ball in the right places based on the set up of a hole. Great advice!

  • You have been preaching this all year. It really is the easiest way to stay out of trouble and save some strokes. No matter how aggressive you want to be with a pitch shot, you have to remember, 2 putting for a bogey is 10 times easier than having to hit another chip (or hit a shot from the bunker) after being too cute. What would you rather have, a 20 footer to save par, or another chip? “Bogeys are a college golfers best friend.”

  • While it may seem rewarding at the time to choose the shot that the pros might play it never seems to be the percentage play when hitting to a short sided pin. You can not be a hero out on the golf course and if you always play the percentage shots that the real satisfaction will come at the end of the round when you are adding up your scorecard.

    • Coach,
      I always think about this but it seems like a still find ways to come up short on chips. I have worked on this continuously since I have been at school and I think it has steeply decreased my strokes greater than bogey. Over my four years, I will be able should be able to fall into the category of champ.

  • It is always hard not to be a hero especially in the heat of the moment. Its hard to step back and tell yourself the smart play will turn out better in the end. If I was to take the time to think about the smart play I would probably drop a few strokes.

  • Coach this is something that I have struggled with over the years, I get way too cute when I am short sided and end up making some big numbers. I need to work on being okay with a 10 foot par putt that is the past the hole, than trying to take on much more risk just to be a few feet closer.

  • Mitchell Campbell

    This is a big ego issue with me. I am getting better at this concept but there are still times when I really believe I can pull the impossible shot off. When you bring up the Johnny Miller example I really have to stop and think about how much that would bother me. I feel like there are still some shots to be saved here. Thanks for the advice Coach!

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