How often have you attempted that hero shot out of the woods or a long carry over water and then said to yourself when it didn’t come off, “I should have just chipped out to the fairway or layed up so I wouldn’t make any worse than bogey?”
Understanding proper golf course management is one of the surest ways to shave strokes off your score. It involves calm decision-making, playing the percentages, sound strategy and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. By applying these principles, you will eliminate those big numbers that ruin a round and more often set yourself up to succeed.
Here are some tips on the art of golf course management.
- Take Your Medicine
You’ve hit a wayward shot and now you’ve got trees in your way, you’re in heavy rough or you’re in a fairway bunker up against the lip. Don’t get greedy. Ignore the green and choose a club that gets you back in play. Find the green on your next shot and maybe you make a putt for par. Worst-case scenario is you make bogey. You’ll be amazed how good it feels to play smart.
- Know the Rulebook
The rulebook can be your friend. It’s not just about penalties; it also gives you options. You might be entitled to a free drop, or perhaps you can give yourself a clear shot by walking back in line of the hole. Remember when Jordan Spieth took a drop on the practice range at the Open Championship in 2017? He knew the rule, and it allowed him to save par and go on to victory.
- Tee Up for Success
Don’t walk to the middle of the tee box on every hole and mindlessly stick your peg into the ground. Assess the layout of the hole, then tee off on the side of trouble. In other words, if there is out-of-bounds on the right, go to the right side of the tee box and aim away from the trouble. Teeing up on the wrong side can mean the difference between a ball in the fairway and taking a penalty drop.
- Lay Up to a Comfortable Yardage
When laying up, too many golfers select a club that will leave them just short of the trouble. Instead, lay up to a number that will put your favorite club in your hands for the next shot. Most golfers are better at hitting a full shot into the green than trying to finesse a half wedge.
- Use What You Have That Day
We all know that golf, and our swings, can fluctuate from day to day. One day we might be hitting high fades, the next day our ball flight is low draws. Don’t try to fix your swing on the course. If you’re hitting fades early in the round, then strategize accordingly.
- Play the Percentages
Whether teeing off or hitting approaches into the green, look for the path of least resistance. Instead of attempting to carry that fairway bunker, aim away from it. If a pin is tucked into the left corner of a green, guarded by a bunker and a steep drop-off, take the safe route and aim right of the flag to the middle. Just as Wall Street bankers say they never went broke taking too little profit, you’ll never find trouble landing your ball in the middle of the green. The key is to think about where you want the ball to be if you mishit your shot. By taking the hardest shots out of play, you’ll also be removing the big numbers.
- Take Plenty of Club
How often do you fly your approach shot over the green? Most golfers rarely do. Instead, they land short. The main reason? They have chosen a club that will get them there only if they hit a pure shot. By hitting, for example, a 6-iron instead of a 7-iron, you will be amazed at how many more times you will reach your target.
Applying these golf course management tips is the quickest way to lower your score. Lessons are not required, nor is hitting the ball longer or making more putts. It’s all about thinking your way around the golf course.