Golf is a game that requires more thinking than any other sport, and most of it must be done by yourself. I’ve seen plenty of players with beautiful swings and incredible ball-striking ability that simply cannot put up good scores because they make poor decisions. Here are some tips to help you think your way around the course and manage your game properly.
1. Don’t immediately pull out driver on par 4’s and 5’s – This was a mistake that I made for years playing high school and junior golf and got me into trouble more times than I can count. Unless the hole is incredibly long, you don’t necessarily need to hit your driver. Having a trusty wood, hybrid, or long iron that you know you can hit straight most of the time will give you confidence on the tee and a much smaller chance of making a double bogey or worse. So you have a 6-iron into the green instead of an 8-iron, big whoop. At least you’ll be in play and have a great chance at par more often than not.
2. Short is usually better than long – While this is just a rule of thumb and isn’t always true, it’s generally easier to get up and down from in front of the green than it is from behind. Trees, long rough, bunkers and other obstacles often lurk behind greens, and most green complexes slope back to front. An example is the image above, where clearly being short is much safer as anything over the green is likely in the water. If you’re between clubs take the shorter one and make sure to be in front of the green rather than behind to save yourself a stroke or two.
3. Avoid 3-putting – The most dreaded happening in golf, this one seems obvious but there are a few tips to help with this problem. Focusing on your lag putting will be the easiest way to avoid 3-putting during your round. On a put 20 feet or longer, your main focus on the putt shouldn’t be making it, but rather getting it close enough for a stress-free next putt. Often times when trying to make a putt, you focus too much on the line and forget to think about the speed causing the putt to be either well short or way past the hole. These 4-8 foot putts are where 3-putts can easily happen, so avoiding those putts by lagging it closer will ultimately save you strokes.
4. Take it one shot at a time and stay focused – I’ve found that dwelling on past holes or looking too far ahead to the next hole is the easiest way to make a double bogey or worse. Maybe you missed an easy birdie putt and can’t get it out of your head. Maybe a really tough hole is coming up and you’re thinking about the shots you’ll need to hit there to make par. Focusing every ounce of your energy on the current shot and current hole is absolutely crucial to success on the course.
I hope that these course management tips are helpful for you during your next round. You can also check out our tips on how to play good golf in bad weather, which requires a similar mindset and utilizes the tips listed above.