Let’s take a look at a 165 shot to a left pin. This could be any approach shot into the green but for this example it is a par 3. What would you hit and where would you aim?
Now let’s take a look at a Scratch Golfer 7iron and 15 HDCP 8iron dispersion patterns. They were asked to hit 20 balls towards a target and we used TrackMan recored the landing spots for all. The Scratch Golfer’s circle was 18 yards deep by 26 yards wide while the 15 HDCP circle was 43 yards wide by 46 yards deep. Also if you take a look the center of the balls is not exactly on the 0 line so I added a red dot for the middle of the dispersion pattern. Golfers are firing shotguns not sniper rifles. The better the ball striker and shorter the club the tighter the circle. Higher the HDCP and longer the clubs get the bigger the circles get.
Now that you are armed with this info would you still aim where you picked at the beginning? A lot of golfers see the flag and think that is the target. Let’s look at what would happen if these golfers were to aim for the pin and say their yardages were exactly the yardage as the shots above. You can see the scratch golfer has 1/3 or more of their circle off the green and the 15 HDCP golfer has 1/2 or more of their circle off the green. That is a lot of the circle in tough positions to chip from for an up and down attempt.
That might be interesting to see for the first time. Only issue with that example is a lot of golfers that visit with me do not know their average carry number. They like to use the solid struck shots and think that that is the number to use (represented below with the green dot). Below I moved the dispersion pattern down to where golfers think their ball will carry all the time. They do not take into account a miss hit which results in shorter shots. Most golfers will not hit it much further than their normal clean strike unless they catch a flyer (usually form the rough or landing the club slightly behind and getting a little debris between ball and club) but they will miss hit their clubs resulting in shorter carries. With this now more of the circle is off the green for both golfers.
Now let’s take a look at a good aim spot for these same dispersion patterns. Below I moved the Scratch Golfers aim spot to the center of the green and 5 yards deeper where the 15 HDCP pattern was moved more dead center of the green or slightly away from the trouble. Now if you look at the circles and not just the dots there is going to be the same amount covering the green around the pin but now 85% of the circle is on the green. With this concept when the scratch golfer misses the green now they have an easier chip to save their par vs the short sided bunker shot probability. The 15 HDCP golfer might flush it to the back of the green or miss hit it to the middle but the dreaded ones they don’t think about will be ok.
This takes patience and discipline to play golf like this and waiting out the odds for the ball to land where a flag happens to be close by. The higher the handicapper the more variance they have. Best bet for them is to hit the middle of the green yardage if they know their average carry or even back edge club if they play for their best balls in order for their scatter pattern lands over the green. Then putt to wherever the pin happens to be.
As the ball striking improves the back to front distance dispersion shrinks dramatically but the side to side reduces at a different rate. For that player they could have more options of pulling a club that would land in the first 1/3, middle 1/3, or back 1/3 of the green depending on if the flag is front, middle, or back. The back one they do need to be careful of not hitting it over the green and having a tough shot.
In summary if there is a hazard aim away form it by either shifting your target left/right or distance short/long to avoid it. You are waiting out the variances for that ball that happens to land where a pin happens to be. Take a look at the image below where your ball could be any one of those dots inside your dispersion pattern and putting to any one of those pins depending where it was at. This is how you lower your HDCP over time.
With a larger pattern (longer the club) imagine that the pin is not there and get your ball on the green. It is easier to putt than chip and easier to chip than pitch. Who knows maybe where one of the dots lands there happens to be a hole close by.
With a tighter pattern you have options but remember the flag is not your target. Here is the same pattern for the front, middle, and back and you will notice the black aim line moves around on this green for the most green coverage and trouble avoidance.
IF YOU WATCH GOLF REMEMBER THAT IS USUALLY THE HIGHLIGHT REALS OF GOOD SHOTS OUT OF THE FIELD OR SOMEONE THAT IS FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS FOR A SHORT TIME AND THEIR DISPERSION PATTERNS HAVE GOTTEN SMALLER. Also remember these players are the best in the world! This might happen for a few holes, day, or more but if you pay attention closely their scores have swings in them as well. For more of an in-depth look at this there is a great system created by Scott Fawcett called Decade. It covers expectations, approach shots, trouble shots, and driving decisions.