"Putting A Score Together"
I don’t usually “call out” a reader who sends in a question, but this one from Chris was pretty timely as we enter a new golf season, I thought, so here it is:
“The part of my game I struggle with ‘putting a score together’. I forever look at my card after a round and go through the usual ifs & buts, and always say to myself..... “I played much better than that”. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and the OOB communities also.”
Well, Chris, I’m betting that you’ll get lots of feedback from the readers here, but let me kick this off by giving you my $0.02 worth. “Putting a score together”, as you state it, is the essence of the game, isn’t it? You have dozens of ways to evaluate a day on the golf course . . . fun, good company, nice course, hit driver/irons well, putted/scrambled well, certain shots that were just perfect . . . but the short answer is “What’d you shoot?” And that’s where a good round can get derailed by a few bad holes.

In order to put it all together, you have to be introspective as to where you’re “losing it.” And then focus your practice time on those areas that cause the derailment most often. It might be a wayward drive that puts you in trouble. Or how you elect to get out of that trouble that digs a deeper hole. It might be flubbed chips and pitches, or missed short putts, both of which can drive you crazy and impact your next tee shot.

One thing I see often is that golfers get away from playing the game “your way”. By that I mean letting yourself get out of your comfort zone and trying to hit it longer because the guy you’re playing with is a bomber. Or taking chances because the other guy pulled off a hero shot. Each of us has a style of play that suits our game and personality. And we should stick with it. That goes all the way down to a game plan for holes that give us particular trouble.

For example, if one hole seems to “have your number”, and you double-bogey it often, switch gears and play it for bogey. Turn a long par-four into a three shot hole for a while. Play that long water-guarded par three with a shorter club to the safe landing area and pitch or chip up for your chance at par and a sure-fire bogey, rather than trying to hit the green with your approach. Change it up and get back on the good side of these holes.

There are three big things I see golfers do that derail a round quickly:
  1. Trying to hit the ball too far off the tee, rather than placing it in the fairway. You can’t hit it as far as “that guy”, so don’t try. Play your game from the tee.

  2. Trying to hit a great shot after a poor one. You are already in trouble and this puts you in a much deeper hole more often than not. If you hit it into the junk, pitch it out on the safest route back to the fairway and give yourself a chance to save par, make bogey at the worst.

  3. Trying to hit tough pitch shots closer to the hole than you should. Be realistic. If you short-sided your approach and have a tough pitch or chip, give yourself room on the far/safe side of the hole. Put your putter in your hands, even if you have to leave it further from the hole than you’d like. Ensure your bogey, and take double or worse off the table.
So, there’s my input on the subject. Guys, chime in on Chris’ question.

How do you “put a score together”?
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[ comments ]
Bryan K says:
It's all about putting it all together. I have played all aspects of the game well at some point, but I've never been able to play all aspects great at the same time.

I think the best approach is to make sure you are practicing. Yesterday, I took two hours after work to work on the things that drive me crazy the most. I worked on trying to hit greens from inside 100, which is all about distance for me at this point. I worked on the short little chip shots that so often get hit fat when I get wristy. And I think I made some progress that will hopefully lead to a better score.

I have plenty of rounds where I feel like I played better than my score. But I also have rounds where my score is much better than I feel like I've played. It's all about minimizing the impact of one's mistakes and never hitting two bad shots in a row.
dartboss04 says:
Great question and response Terry. My goal this year is actually to think much more about course management and strategy in terms of playing percentages. How many times do you need to leave it short in the bunker when you are trying to hit that perfect chip and you have 60 feet of green behind the flag. I know I will hole that 20 foot putt a lot more times than a bunker shot.

I totally agree about playing a hole in a new way as well. I'm not a long hitter at all, and am going to approach long par 4's differently this year as you said. Instead of trying to hit that miracle second shot from 230 out, I'm going to try and birdie this new "par 5" I'm playing, and play to the strength of my wedge game.
dartboss04 says:
Sorry for rambling, but I another thing that seems to be prevalent in all the rounds I play with friends is underclubbing. People tend to base their yardages on that one pured shot they hit two years ago, and don't seem to factor in pin position, elevation, wind, etc. enough.

I was just playing a par 3 this weekend, with a plaque on the tee box that read 155. It was an elongated green, pin tucked way in the back, and per GPS back edge was 178. The hole was slightly uphill and into the wind. Factoring in everything, I was playing this shot at 190, and as I'm not a long hitter at all, pulled out the 7W. My friend said "is that your pitching wood?"...collective laugh. I was the only one pin high after the tee shots.

As Terry said, this year I'm going to play the game my way. If that means hitting a hybrid when everyone is hitting and iron, so be it. I will hopefully let the score talk for me.
Nojdemo2 says:
I suffer from derailments 1 & 2 as much as the next man. The biggest change to my game I've made recently though is a subset of derailment 3, 3a if you like. It's best described by the old maxim: "Never pitch when you can chip, never chip when you can putt." Until I recently discovered that rule I was dropping 5-10 shots per round from thinning (or chunking) dinky little pitches from anywhere round the green.
barbajo says:
Fun topic -- amazing to look at the score card at the end and see what it says. Played Sunday - hit the ball nicely from tee to "around" the green - but lost lots of shots there. Wound up with an 89 that felt like an 83 or so. Tracking stats while playing gives you something to practice, as BryanK states above. For me, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the short game, stupid!"
birdieXris says:
I put a score together the same way i'd put a puzzle together or build a house. One piece at a time. One stroke, then another, then another. The trick is keeping my mind from going ahead and trying to pick up strokes before i'm on that shot. It worked out well the last round i played. Despite a triple bogey, i had 4 birdies on the day. 3 of them came AFTER the triple. That's the hardest part of golf. keeping your mind together to put that score together.
bkuehn1952 says:
I agree with all 3 of Terry's points. Attention to these will help many of us post more acceptable scores. I can't count the times I have had a delicate uphill little chip to a green that runs away from me, only to leave the chip short so I have almost the same shot again. Same with the attempt to hit a great shot after a poor one. Fortunately, even I have the capacity to learn. Most times now I make the smart shot rather than the emotional one.
GolfSmith7 says:
My biggest aspect I have to control is that I am long hitter and because of it I get tempted and in trouble often going for par five's in two. I get in trouble because my short game needs lot's of work. I agree with @dartboss I get too cute with trying to pitch to a tight pin, salivating at a potential birdie and leave it often in the bunker. I need to manage par five's better and improve my short game shot.
lcgolfer64 says:
I had it all summed up for me a couple of years ago while playing with buds and a new 'fourth' who came in and consisently shot in the mid 70's and on a bad day low 80's - which was good with for group. I asked what he did mentally with his game:
"I try and play boring golf." Rarely did I see him try and be a 'hero' off the tee or go for the green in 2 on the par 5's. Did he get in trouble? Sure and he'd promptly put himself back in position in the fairway when he couldn't safely advance the ball. He'd look at us and say 'It's just one stroke.'
Made sense and helped me out in situations when I thought I'd pull a Phil from the pine straw or a Sergio from the rough.
Or I'd remind myself - no one in our group today is going home with a paycheck or a trophy, so...
GBogey says:
Two things to add to Terry's list: 1) aggressive putting in hopes of picking up strokes - for me this is where the 3 putts from within 15 feet almost always start; 2) I know from my stats that what turns a sub-par round into a really ugly one is the number of bogeys that become doubles and triples, not the pars that become bogeys.
Also, I had the good fortune to play a round last fall with a really good caddy who is a teaching pro in the north during the summer. It was a great learning experience to see what high percentage shots he recommended versus what I would normally attempt. Very eye opening and game changing.
jrbizzle says:
Course management and game management is key. I don't always follow my own advice, but I try. My biggest mantra I try to tell myself the last couple years is "there are 18 chances for par". My handicap usually hovers slightly under 20, so anytime I get a par, I'm beating my cap for the holes. Anytime I get a bogey, I'm staying even. So if I get into trouble, I try to get out safely, concede the bogey and look for my next chance at par. Every once in a while I get really lucky and find a birdie. But usually if I try to "force" a par, I'll end up with a double or worse.

Again, I don't always remember my own advice, but it usually works when I do.
Dusty23 says:
I am guilty of #2 & #3, though I am getting better. Trying to make a hero recovery shot instead of taking my medicine and taking a big number out of play. I have stopped going for it on par 5's, instead playing them as a 3 shot hole to set up par which has left me with more birdie chances because of it. Ultimately my practice goals are to work on the shots that put me in trouble, ie: better driving, and the smarter recovery shots, better chipping, pitching and sand play
legitimatebeef says:
Right on Wedgeguy. Putting a score together, literally, is the name of the game. (Well literally speaking "golf" is the actual name of the game, but then again I didn't literally mean "literally".) To someone who is golf-wise that statement packs about as much punch as saying "In golf, the lowest number of strokes wins" but hey if this is what ppl need to hear then I'm all for it.
GBogey says:
It should go without saying, but the better short game you have the easier it is to resist the temptation of the hero recovery shot. I know that early on I was tempted by a lot of hero recovery shots because I didn't have confidence that if I put the ball 50-100 yards from the hole that I would hit the green on the next shot. Now that I have confidence that the 50-100 will be on the green, it is much easier to play for bogey / up and down par.
larrynjr says:
I played my first round of the year this past weekend and i've been practicing my chipping and pitching quite a bit over the winter and I could see the difference, especially in my chipping, I put myself into 3'-8' range quite a few times but wasn't always able to take advantage of the longer ones. Where I got into trouble that round was off the tee and on the green. While I averaged 1.8 putts There were still more 3 putts than I wanted to see. I was impressed to start my year off scoring right at my handicap, were as last year it was mid summer before I got back to my handicap level and managed to drop 3 strokes off it. I'm hoping to drop 4-6 this year...........
daytripper says:
The 3 things you bring up are true. Also course mgmt,short game,etc are all true but in my opinion , it's where you miss and then taking your medicine by playing the right shot with the right club. Golfers lose most of their strokes tee to green, so IMO you gotta be a better BALL STRIKER by placing your misses short and more in front of the greens. In other words,stuff like never short side yourself.
onedollarwed says:
Don't play match play!!! If you're counting strokes for the round, do that. Play against the course, not another opponent! In fact if you and your buddies or strangers collectively play against the course, you'll work together and help each other. In putting together a score, you need to solve the most obvious problems, and hit the ball well. Golfers who struggle are usually ignoring something very obvious (there is a swamp over there, why are you going over that bunker and not up the throat?), attempting a skill or feat that they can't do with any regularity (why the extreme flop shot? You can't hit it that far), or just mishitting the ball. Most golfers have little control over the ball. Are you able to hit the ball straight when you want to with long clubs? Are you confident with your wedge? Can you line up and sink short putts? If you answered no to any of those then keep reading this column and get squared away on basic technique and equipment. Otherwise get out there and play and practice!
onedollarwed says:
Even after having relative success, every golfer has to come to grips with a plan for improvement. We all have tough rounds, and our scores balloon and dive. We must accept this - the inconsistency - and be able to control our emotions on the fly to prevent the complete meltdowns. In a kind of cruel twist in golf, nines often differ greatly in result. As well as I've hit the ball, and as many rounds I've rescued from certain disaster, I also need to ferret out my own recurring patterns: I make bad decisions... like forgetting to play the draw wide enough, like you can't go long here, like I don't need that club on this tee, like gosh these greens are slow - for the tenth time!!! A caddy would surely help if I ever played with one, so perhaps I need to develop a mental checklist. I gotten much better at keeping my emotions in check, or keeping them separate from the game - a touch more boring perhaps, but much more satisfying!
DaRupp13 says:
This is the type of information my game currently needs. After getting a lot of practice in, i'm finally at a point where I'm more playing against the course, and less against myself (usually). I think those 3 points really help with that and that's really my goal for this season - play smarter golf to put myself in position to score well. When I think about it, a million examples come to mind where I mess up a shot and instead of taking my medicine and going for bogey or even double, I try to play a miracle shot and end up costing myself something worse.
mlf16507 says:
Terry and GBogey are correct. Try to keep "WITHA's" out of your game. I hear all the time ---Shot 77 witha 7 or a par 4. the only thing I would add is to LAY UP SAFE. Always take one less club than you think it is. When you are laying up, you are normally making a smooth swing and 9 times out of 10 you will hit the ball further than normal.
stedar says:
Our club is running an eclectic comp this year (best score per hole over year). Shooting 8 under par after 4 rounds is exciting, but looking at my average per round of 8 over, it makes you wonder why it is so difficult to put it all together. You have to admire the pros that consistently shoot under par, no matter the conditions. Mental attitude appears to be a bigger part of the game than shot making. All of the practice allows for the shots to be made. The mental attitude to know which shot to play and set up 100% the same for it is the big thing for me. Managing the course is key for me (not taking on the low % shot and make sure that 1 bad lie does not turn into 2 or 3 shots extra).
If you haven't done the exercise of looking over some past cards and looked at your best combined score, it is well worth it. Certainly helps with getting your confidence up and also helps to "manage" the holes you find difficult, better...
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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