Every single student I work with has at least one thing in common: they want to lower their score. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a single-digit handicap, we all want to play better on the golf course. There are tons of ways to do this and most of them have to do with improving your fundamentals to create a better golf swing. There is one way that is guaranteed to lower your scores and it has nothing to with beating range balls or hours of practice on the putting green. It has everything to do with what you do on the golf course. “Course management” is a term of art used to describe the decisions and strategies used during your round of golf. Proper course management is necessary to shoot lower scores.
During my time coaching high school golf and working with my students, I have noticed a common trend – amateur players really don’t think about what they are doing. From the tee, they think “Hit in the fairway.” From the rough and fairway, they think, “Hit it on the green.” From the green, “Get it in the hole.” It never crosses their mind about where exactly to place it on the fairway and green or if they can execute a particular shot to get them out of trouble later. During a recent practice round with the CW Girls Golf Team I made two of my players describe their intent over every shot. This strategy of getting them to think about every shot did not instantly lower their score, but it made me realize how much I think about every single shot. The key is to not only think about the shots, but to develop a plan that you can execute and maybe more importantly, create a plan in which you have confidence.
Simple things you can do to improve your course management are to pick the spot in the fairway that gives you the best angle at the pin, and pick where on the green you want the ball to lie. Now I realize most players are not that accurate, but keep the plan in mind. You must play to be the player you want to be while choosing only shots you can execute. Another key is to keep your misses in mind and try to play high percentage shots. Give yourself a chance to succeed even if you don’t hit the perfect shot. Course management goes far beyond placement and aiming points. Very rarely do you play the perfect round of golf. I challenge each of you to review your most recent scorecards and focus on holes where you made bogey or worse. Why did you make the big number? Did you compound your mistakes by attempting shots that had a low percentage of success? After the initial mistake, what could you do to lower your score? You will quickly discover that your score could have been much lower without even making a better golf swing. I try to inform my students that sometimes you just have to take your medicine. Making a bogey is so much better than a double or worse.
Next time you tee it up, have a plan for success. Do more than just try and hit it in the fairway. Look at your approach shot and pick the pins to be aggressive with and the ones to shoot for the center. If you have to punch out of the trees, think about the next shot and decide where you should place the ball. No matter what, do not go from trouble to more trouble. Those 6’s on the scorecard usually come from the compounding of mistakes. It is my firm belief that just thinking about what you are doing will lower your score quicker than any other practice. Living in a society where the #1 reason for not playing more golf is time, good course management seems like a must.
Thanks for reading and see you on the course…