Augusta National Golf Club has a style of its own. Its wide, rolling fairways are unmistakable by their Masters green. But that, in some ways, masks how best to navigate them.

Ahead of the 2024 Masters, defending champion Jon Rahm wrote an ode to one of his idols, Jose Maria Olazabal, in this year’s Masters journal. Olazabal collected two green jackets: The first in 1994, the second in 1999. Two wins that were hugely influential on Rahm and the golfing culture in Spain he grew up within.

When Rahm rose to become a Masters contender—and future champion—himself. And when he did, he’d spend his practice rounds picking the brain of Olazabal. It was during those exchanges that Rahm said he learned the most valuable piece of advice from Olazabal, as he writes in the Masters Journal:

The biggest thing I’ve learned from him was when he told me in 2017 ‘Jon more often than not, the low shot is the better outcome.’ He told me that Augusta National was meant to be played like a links golf course, and that is how he played it during his two wins.”

It’s not often you’ll see a links course look as green and lush as what you’ll see at the Masters, but look closely in the runoff areas around the greens, and Olazabal’s insight will reveal itself.

It was especially evident during Olazabal’s wins. Here’s an example from his 1994 victory: Long of the green on the 14th hole on Sunday, Olazabal faced a chip that many modern players may choose to loft high into the air. The Spaniard, instead, took a short iron, and hit a soft bump-and-run that lipped out.

Choosing to hit the low shot gives Olazabal—and every golfer who does it—three main benefits:

  • It allows Olazabal to use the slopes to his advantage, rather than try to avoid them.
  • It simplifies his chipping motion, which is easier to repeat under pressure.
  • He’s taking the potential of a disaster shot off the table in the event of a mis-hit (which is important!).

Simply put, it’s just an easier shot with more low-maintenance technique and less margin for error. When in doubt, go low. Something the rest of us can learn from when we find ourselves greenside. Lofting something high may look good—when it works—but the low route is often the best one. As a Masters legend can attest to.

Image: Andrew Redington