Whenever I take a new student out on the course for a lesson, it never fails to amaze me the responses I get when I begin asking questions about which targets and shot selections they are considering. Time after time I find they are carelessly throwing shots away not due to poorly executed shots, but more to do with poor course management. So many golfers spend hours perfecting their technique, but fail to consider the best strategy to play a course, resulting in frustrated scores and handicap not improving after putting all that effort into training. If you find this is happening to your game or your handicap has remained the same despite working on your technique, it might be you're falling foul to this trap too. So I would strongly urge you to take some time out and assess your course strategy to see if its serving you well. It is after all, far easier and quicker to reduce shots using good course management than any other way, so why not give it your best shot (no pun intended). Not convinced then think about the world's top players at the Masters recently. At that level they all have superb technique, but on the day great swings alone will not win the coveted trophy, especially around a tight challenging course like Augusta. I've never been a fan of Dustin Johnson, but he gave a master class over the 4 days in how to use course management to win a tournament. Unlike the favourite Bryson DeChambeau, who chose to hit the ball as far as he could and find himself shooting a ridiculously high score. So if you want to lower your score, work on your golf strategy to get the most out of your game and ability. Here to get you started are my top 7 tips.
Top Tip No.1 - Know your numbers Do you know how far you can hit your clubs? You'll be amazed how many people don't and many sadly think it's a lot further than it is in reality. Spend some time to get your yardage and carry distance for each club in your bag. Book a session with your coach and a launch monitor to capture this vital information. Make a copy of the distances and place them in your scorecard holder for reference, or better still mark the distances on your clubs with tape or marker pens. Top Tip No. 2 - Know your shot dispersion Knowing your distance is only one part of the equation. You also need to be aware of how narrow or wide your shot dispersion is (left and right, long and short). This will reduce your margin of errors and dropped shots. Use a Trackman or Flightscope to gather this information. Having this knowledge will prove to be invaluable to your game as you can consider the range within which your shot may land with greater accuracy, giving you better choices when considering risks and hazards nearby. For example consider a shot into the green with a pond that hugs the left-handside of the green. Knowing your dispersion rate will improve your confidence taking the shot on knowing where to aim and which club to take, eliminating the possibility of dropping a couple of shots.
Top Tip No. 3 - Know your favourite wedge yardage This is a common fault players make especially on par 4’s and 5's, thinking they have to drive the ball as far as they can to get close to the green. A far better strategy is to reverse engineer your shots, starting from the green and working back to the tee. Think about your favourite yardage to hit into the green with accuracy, for me its 80-85 yards. Now work your way backwards from this distance and calculate what club you need to play to put you in that position. Don't make the common mistake of driver off the tee and then 3 wood to get as far down as possible on par 5's. Putting yourself with a shot of 50 yards into the green is not putting you in the scoring zone. Ask yourself how many times have you pulled your shot and landed in a bunker simply because the your wedge yardage was not your preferred length or overshot the green? Top Tip No. 4 - Know your good misses You will see tour players with their yardage books taking into consideration the contours and hazards. Good tour players always consider where to bail out, picking shots and targets for good misses. This gives them the best chance of getting up and down whilst removing the chance of a bogey or worse on the scorecard. Considering where not to go is not negative thinking, its part of good course management. Playing your own course you will know where the popular pin positions are for major tournaments, so consider where these can be and formulate a strategy to play to them. Also consider which pins you can attack and which ones carry high risk. Grade them like traffic lights red for danger means play with care or consider where to bail out. Green means attack the pin aggressively. Amber is aim middle of the green. Start to build your own yardage books and add notes to help remind you when you’re on the course, its just like having your own caddie to help you make good decisions on your course strategy. Top Tip No.5 - Know which holes its ok to have a bogey Consider which holes are the problematic ones on your course, these tend to be the ones with the lower stroke index. Accept this hole is a possible bogey hole. The law of averages says it will affect most players. So adapt your strategy to play conservatively, plot your way and lower your expectations to play well, remove the pressure. Taking the pressure off to score on this hole will free you up to swing with ease and the results will follow. Top Tip No. 6 - Take your medicine If you find yourself in difficulty, for example in the trees, don't take the risk on. Simply take your medicine and get the ball back into play. When your game feels like you're not in control and you find yourself out of position, don't let the red mist fall and take on risky shots. The chances are you'll drop even more shots. Avoid shots you don't feel confident making, or lack the skills to execute, this will only put you under more pressure and more mistakes will follow. Put yourself back into play and back in control of your game. Top Tip No.7 - Consider the lie Think about the lie of your ball. So many golfers fail to consider the ground conditions to their detriment. Take your time to consider how the ball is sitting, is it in deep rough wet grass, or plugged in sand like a fried egg, or on a slope. So often we rush the shot without assessing the options and club selection, annoyed by where the ball is, we simply want to hit the ball and get out of there as quickly as possible. Inevitably rushing the shot will lead to poor decisions being made and consequently another dropped shot. Practice playing these type off shots out on the course to improve your technique so that you can call upon them with confidence in competition.
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