5 Tips For Better Golf Course Management
This topic is getting lots of dialog, so I thought I would just write a little on the subject this morning. There is no question that almost every golfer . . . of any skill level . . . can improve their scores by altering the way they approach each hole on the golf course. To me, this is a very complex subject, and has thousands of angles, but let’s address the basics of course management that any golfer can work from.

1. Manage Your Expectations - This is the first principle, to my way of thinking. If you are a 10-15 handicap, for example, there are no “birdie holes”. None. If you make 5-8 pars and the rest bogies, you’ll lower your handicap quickly. The key for mid-handicap players is to take out the doubles or worse.  Even if you play to a low single digit, thinking “birdie” on the tee is quite often a recipe for bogey or worse. I try to not think “birdie” until the ball is on the green within one-putt range.

2. “Play” the hole backward - By this I mean to take a moment on the tee to dissect the hole from the cup back to the tee. On a mid-length par 4, for example, that has several fairway bunkers, maybe the best play is to hit a 3- or 4-wood off the tee, taking the bunker out of play (the fairway is usually widest just before fairway bunkers, by the way). That may leave you a couple of clubs more into the green, but a 5-iron from the fairway is a lot easier shot than a 7-iron from a fairway bunker.

3. The flag is seldom your target -  Unless you are a tour player, knocking down flags is not your game. Even those guys, however, will always target the “safe” side of a flag with their approach shots. In a typical golf course setup, only a few holes are positioned where you can fire right at it and have equal opportunity for par or birdie from either side. When you are assessing your approach shots, try looking at it from the perspective of which side of the hole offers you the best chance to AVOID BOGEY, rather than think “birdie”. You’ll see a “wide” side usually, and the side that offers uphill putts or chips.  Particularly when the greens are fast and firm, this is a great strategy for shooting good scores.

4. Bogey is not a bad score - Even for single digit handicap players, there are 4-5 holes on every course where bogey is not a bad score. When you’re playing the longer and tougher holes, make it your game plan to ensure yourself no worse than bogey. Play the hole more conservatively. On the 3-4 longest par 4s and 3s, for example, you’re not likely to hit long iron, hybrid or fairway wood to “easy par” range. Find the “safe zone”, which is generally short and wide of the flag, and play to it. Make bogey the worse you can make and give yourself a chance at par if you make a good chip or lag putt.

5. Keep reading The Wedge Guy - And use the Ask Terry button in the right-hand sidebar to ask me any golf questions you may have.
Especially when you play the same one or two courses all the time, we lose our analytical creativity. Next time you play, just look at each hole with “new eyes” and see if you don’t recognize a completely different way to play it. And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that will improve your shotmaking and scores.

Feel free to leave me a comment and let us all know if it helps you the next time you're fortunate enough to play this grand old game of golf.
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[ comments ]
Worth says:
Excellent advise. I've been attempting to put the ball in play better from the tee which has allowed me to hot more greens. Hard to score badly when you

a) keep the ball in play
b) leave yourself 2 putt pars
c) take the worst case mistake out of every hole by having a plan of how to play the hole.
toddmok says:
Great post. As I've gotten my handicap down to single digits I've started shaping my shots to give myself the best opportunity to avoid trouble. Whether it be staying out of fairway bunkers or staying on the safe side of the green this has allowed me to be more creative and play to my short game strength.
new2golf says:
Soon after I started playing I always asked myself, "Where is the best miss".

One course I play has the greens tucked in the woods and I regardless on pin position, I always play those approach shots to the front of the green because long/left/right is never good.
Finlarden says:
Yes this is great advice but it should come with a warning. The great sports psychiatrists have the same sort of advice as follows;
Don't loose your accuracy when focusing on targets. Its fine to play a long iron off the tee, but I see many golfer do this and come unstuck. I ask them :what were you thinking about" and they usually reply with "just trying to hit the fairway". Doing this increases your margin for error and puts you in a negative frame of mind. I'm all for trying to hit the fairway but with a long iron you still have to focus on your smaller target like a sprinkler in the middle of the fairway or a discolouration in the grass. You wont always hit your exact target but you will be closer to where you need to be rather than just thinking on the fairway somewhere and hit and hope. The closer you are the smaller the target should be. On chips, you may try and leave a chip short to allow an uphill putt but focus on the exact spot you need to land the ball to do that. Your target should be very small like a golf ball sized mark or a stay leaf. Putting is the same, focus on a blade of grass or mark on the green for where you want the putt to go. Don't try and judge your speed, just let your natural ability do that and focus only on the target. Never putt to miss. By this I mean don't try and lag a putt to the hole or just aim to get it inside a few feet. You will be worse off then if you try and make every putt. Some putts you will try and dribble over the front edge rather than slamming the back of the cup. For example, on a quick downhill putt where the ball could go flying past if you miss, just try and dribble it over the front edge of the cup. But always try and hole every putt.
toddmok says:
That is an interesting idea Finlarden, I'll have to try that out and see how it works.
doug says:
best playing advise I ever got from a pro was - when ask what he was using off the tee "I dunno. Where's the 150 yard marker."
perlguy9 says:
I really like the ideas presented here. As a mid to high handicapper, it's a good idea to try and put things in perspective and to play YOUR game, not Tiger's game.
William Marshall says:
Good advice. I have gotten away from some of these guidelines over time. Will try to put them back in play tomorrow morning.
Troy says:
Finlarden touched on a great subject. Ideally visualizing your target is a great pre-shot routine to habitualize. Especially when you are standing over your ball. Instead of thinking about where the club head should be or where your hands should be or your swing at all, see your target in your minds eye. The quieter your mind is during you swing regarding technique the better your shot will be. This is especially important on "danger" holes, i.e. water, ob, bunkers...vizualize where you WANT the ball to go not where you DON"T WANT the ball to go. Work this all into a repetative pre-shot routine and you'll notice lower scores and less "bad" shots.
Bob Damron says:
Finlarden is right about your focus. One thing is certain, whatever spot you are thinking about is where you will end up. Whether it is a spot in the fairway or by the ducks in the lake!
BAKE_DAWG40 says:
I play in a league on the same course throughout the season on Thursdays. I have never broken 40 on the North 9. I decided to approach how I played several of these holes from a different perspective and I shot one under a month ago. I couldn't believe it!!! The advice in the last paragraph is priceless!!!
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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