The 80% Rule

2010 Masters

The Hero Shot

For some, it’s the reason they play golf.  For most, it’s the reason they can’t break 100.

Whether it’s a massive carry over water, a cut 3 iron under the trees, or a drawing 3 wood over them, the challenge of these shots can be irresistible, but these are the shots that destroy scorecards, egos, confidence, and, occasionally, clubs.

Blow Up Hole

This Lesson Is For You If:

You have “blow up” holes

You find yourself compounding your mistakes on the course

You struggle with course management

Tiger Augusta

The 80% Rule

If you can’t pull off the shot 80% of the time in practice, you shouldn’t be hitting it on the course.

Exception: For the high handicap golfer, this might mean that their only option is to sell their clubs.  I don’t want that, so adjust the rule to suit your skill level.  It might be the 70% Rule for you or it might be the 25% Rule.  Do whatever works for your ability.

Tiger Punch Out

Option 1: Play It Safe

For most golfers (read: those who don’t practice much), this is the best option.  When faced with the temptation to take on a high risk shot, find an alternative that fits within the guidelines of the 80% Rule.  This might mean laying up rather than attempting a 200 yard carry.  It might mean punching out instead of trying to fit the ball through a 6 inch gap between trees.  Yes, taking your medicine stinks, but it beats the hell out of writing an “8” on your scorecard.

Hit Fewer Golf Balls (1)

Option 2: Practice the Hero Shot

This is the fun option because it not only allows you to hit the hero shot on the course, but it also increases your odds of pulling it off and adds more fun to your practice sessions.

Before your next range session, think about the two hero shot opportunities you encounter most often and figure out a way to practice them.  If one of your hero shots is a long carry, find a driving range where you can clearly see a target that’s far enough away and work on carrying shots over it.  If your hero shot is squeezing a shot between two trees, stick two alignment rods in the ground to simulate the trees and practice hitting shots between them.

Once you can successfully execute the hero shot 80% of the time, it’s fair game to bring it to the course.  Just don’t forget to call your shot before you hit it so your buddies know it was 100% skill.

Matt Saternus


  1. Ron Reichert

    That’s a great article!

  2. This is why I love this website. No nonsense, honest and helpful information/ advice. You say what we all know to be true about our own game, but often ignore.

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