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The 7/10 Rule in Golf: What's the Point?

Last updated Nov 03, 2023

The 7/10 Rule in Golf: What's the Point?

I know what shot I'm supposed to play, but I'm not confident I can pull it off, so what's the point?

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Written By: Zach Gollwitzer

Posted in: Course Strategy

In this week's issue, I want to talk about "smart golf".

What is it, and why doesn't it work for YOU?

This all came from a conversation I had with a mid-handicap golfer this week. We were chatting about his round and he said something along the lines of...

I tried to play smart out there, but every time I "took my medicine" I ended up screwing up that shot too! What's the point of "smart golf" if I'm gonna hit it in the hazard anyways?

While I'm paraphrasing here, this is an objection I hear all the time.

Let's talk about it.

What is "smart golf"?

When I say "smart golf", I'm referring to the type of golf that we know we should be playing, but oftentimes don't because "it's boring".

Here are some examples of "smart golf":

  • Hitting 3-wood off the tee instead of driver when there is no clear advantage to hitting driver
  • Punching back out to the fairway instead of trying to "thread the needle" between 2 trees
  • Aiming at the middle of the green when the pin is in a tough location

We all know we should try to play "smarter", but ironically, the only golfers I've ever seen truly play "smart golf" are the pros.

Why is that?

The 7/10 Rule in Golf

Something I talk about at The DIY Golfer all the time is the 7/10 rule.

If you can't hit the shot successfully 7 out of 10 times, don't hit it.

But what if you're not confident that you can hit any type of shot 7/10 times?

What if the "smart play" still feels like it could go wrong?

Let me paint a scenario for you:

  • Par 5 18th at Pebble Beach
  • You've got 218 to the front edge of the green
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Here's the logic I see lots of golfers use in this situation:

Well I know I should lay up with an 8-iron, but what if I hook that into the water? I might as well just go for it with my 3 hybrid!

I've used this logic.

You've used this logic.

We've all fallen victim to this logic.

That doesn't mean it's correct. For most golfers, the correct play here is to lay up with an 8, 9, or 7 iron and then hit a wedge into the green.

Pebble's greens are small and that 18th hole is a beast! Most golfers attempting to go for it from 218 yards are going to end up left in the water or right out of bounds.

Commit to every shot (even the easy ones)

So you've decided to "take your medicine" and lay up with an 8-iron. Great!

Now let's remember—you must have full commitment to every shot.

Commonly when we play the "smart shot" that's not so "fun", we walk into it overconfident.

We say to ourselves...

If I don't take this seriously it won't look bad if I screw it up.

Well... That's exactly how you will screw it up.

So treat each shot equally and put the same focus into an 8-iron layup as you would a 3-wood over a big water hazard.

You may still find yourself in trouble after playing "smart", but stick with it.

Have discipline out there.

If you do this over a long period of time, the law of averages will fall in your favor and your scores WILL DROP.

Concluding thoughts

Nobody wants to play "smart golf".

But if you can be one of the few golfers who stays disciplined out there, your scorecards will show it!

About the author: Zach Gollwitzer

Zach Gollwitzer profile picture

Hey, I‘m Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer! I created this site while playing D1 collegiate golf with a simple mission—I wanted to learn the golf swing and get better at golf myself.

Fast forward a few years, and my “journal“, The DIY Golfer, has been viewed by millions of golfers worldwide looking to do the same with their games. my mission is to make golfers more consistent in just a few hours a week through advanced practice strategies and timeless, first-principle golf instruction.