Do you Go For It, Or Lay Up?
I believe it is important to have the ability to know when to play aggressive and when you reign it in a little. Are you a golfer who will try to get the ball as close to the hole as possible or do you lay up to a preferred yardage?
What do the stats tell us?
The modern stats shows that we actually score lower when we get the ball closer to the hole as opposed to laying up even when potentially off the fairway. The best players in the world average a lower score from 30,40 or 50 yards than they do from 100 yards. So, is that favorite yardage really the best option?
When to lay up?
I think it’s important to understand your own game as well as possible and understand the conditions on the day. If you are a poor chipper of the ball and the grass is cut tight around the greens, then firstly I would recommend you getting a lesson. But from a strategy perspective you are only going to make life harder for yourself if you are playing the more aggressive route. A poor chipper is potentially much better giving themselves a yardage into green where they can hit a fuller shot or pitch as opposed to creating unnecessary pressure and potentially compound your errors. Working away from your weaknesses can certainly pay dividends at times.
The pin positions and firmness of the course should also be a contributing factor to whether you play the aggressive route or layup. Playing it close to the green and missing on the side where the flag is tucked tight behind a bunker and the greens are firm is making life a lot harder for yourself (we call this short side.) In this situation leaving a little longer in will give you a steeper land angle and greater stopping power. The wind direction should also be a contributing factor as playing down wind to that same pin location is also going to make life very difficult. So, in conclusion the answer is "it depends" but the more things you factor into these decisions the more chance you have of shooting a lower score. It's not as black and white as "Lay up" or "Go for it." but make sure you have a decision-making process that factors in all variables.