So you are improving your game and your swing is looking good but you just can’t get your score down. A much ignored factor in the game of golf is course management, or playing safe to avoid those ‘blow-out’ holes where you could easily go to 10 strokes. Leave aggressive play for the pros, they have all the time in the world to practice those awkward shots to get out of trouble.
How many times have you played a round with colleagues where you are presented with a dog-leg hole with an option to go direct over water? The dog-leg gives you a drive of say 180 yards but the direct route is 250 yards. So if 250 yards is a stretch for you it makes sense to take the safe route around the dog-leg. Trouble is when you’re playing in a group of 4 the macho aggressive behavior can easily come to the surface. It is no surprise in this scenario that all players go for the direct route with perhaps one player making it. The rest of you end up in the water and have to take a penalty shot.
If this sounds familiar then you will certainly benefit from some course management and it is one of the most neglected aspects of a golfer’s game.
Remember the purpose of the game of golf is to ultimately attain the lowest possible score, not to show off perfect shots on every single stroke. In other words, depending on the course and the hole you are about to play, it is sometimes safer (and wiser) to play for a bogey than trying to go for a one in a million shot. This ability to always think about what the right shot at the right time for you is what makes a successful golfer.
Try and understand the concept of position golf. Playing position golf could be defined as striving to land your golf ball in the best position for the next shot rather than trying to achieve a technical prowess on your current shot.
With better course management you will be better able to handle serious lies and situations on the course; cope with poor weather conditions; evaluate risks and rewards, then make the right decision. In the same way you play a game of chess you should always be thinking a few moves (strokes) ahead, it will show you how to handle hazards in order to facilitate your next shot.
- Tee off with the right golf club for you. So many players automatically take out your driver at the tee because that’s what you’re expected to do. Many players will tell you distance takes precedent over accuracy, but unless you are a genius at playing difficult shots from the woods this is not necessarily true. If you have more control with a 3 wood or rescue club than with a driver, then, it may at times be a better choice to switch clubs in order to position your ball more securely for the next shot.
- How long is the hole? Teeing off in order to get your ball the furthest is not necessarily the best strategy (see point 1). Try and work out where you’d like the ball to land so that you can play a club you are comfortable with from that position on the fairway. Depending on the distance you may again choose a 3 wood or rescue club over your driver.
- Uphill putts vs. downhill putts. It is common knowledge that an uphill putt is easier than a downhill putt, because players instinctively have a tendency to decelerate through the ball, fearing it will otherwise finish well past the hole. So, when chipping onto the green aim for a spot that will leave you with an uphill putt.
- Dealing with hazards. Study the hole layout and if you use a caddy ask them too so you can understand the position and distance of any hazards. You can then choose the right club and distance that will land you in a good position for your next shot. This may lead to an extra shot, rather than going for a seemingly perfect aggressive shot that may put you in a blind or unsafe position leaving you scrambling for your next shot and ultimately cost you more shots.
- Prepare your round by studying the course map. Remember that course management starts even before you tee off on the first hole. Indeed, as a player you should have not only a plan for each and every shot, but you should also always have a plan for the round you are going to play. So, to successfully implement the previous four points do your homework and study the course map defining the game strategy and stick to it!