Taking Your Game to New Courses
Three Keys to Enjoying The Experience

One of the great treats of this game that has us all hooked is visiting new courses – no two are the same, right? But the challenge of a new course is that you really don’t know where you are going, and many things affect the way your eye sees the hole ahead. In the mountains for example, things can look much further away from you than on the flat land. And it’s darn frustrating when you are not performing to your potential on a course you really looked forward to playing.

This topic comes from this week’s winner in “Ask The WedgeGuy”. For getting his question selected, Bill D. wins his choice of a new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge. Bill talked about playing courses for the first time, specifically:

Can you give any advice as to how to better prepare to play on a new and unfamiliar course?

Well, Bill, I gave this some thought, as I play many new courses each year in my travels around the country. And I came up with what I would consider to be the Three Keys to giving yourself the best chance of playing to your potential and enjoying the experience:
1. Get in the right frame of mind. You are on a new course, so relax your scoring standards a little. You’re going to be on greens you don’t know, hitting tee shots that are an unfamiliar look and approaching greens where you really aren’t aware of the nuances of which side is safe, etc. So just relax and accept that you are not going to shoot a career round here today. Take time to hit warm up balls on the range so that you can go to the first tee with good swing thoughts. Spend a little time chipping and pitching . . . and especially putting . . . to get a feel for the greens and how the ball reacts on them. And make your mind up to HAVE FUN TODAY!

2. Relax. Your primary goal is to enjoy this new golf course that you are about to experience. Take time to smell the roses, as they say. To give yourself the best chance to make good swings, approach your shots with a little slower pace, pick out the target you think is right and then “get inside” yourself, and just make a good swing with conviction. Forgive yourself of bad shots, and accept that you will get to your ball sometimes and be surprised that what you thought was a good shot really didn’t put you where you expected to be. It’s all part of the mystery of golf – savor it.

3. THINK! Every shot is going to be chosen from analysis, not memory or familiarity. On each tee, look at the hole thoroughly, and refer to a course yardage book if you have one. Figure out where the wide part of the fairway is, and where trouble might be. When in doubt on shorter holes, play for a spot that will leave you a 135-165 yard approach – that’s usually a safe area. If you have a laser rangefinder, shoot a tree or bunker at the corner and across the dogleg to see what you have to work with. Shoot fronts of greens as well as flags. Look carefully to see which is the “tough” side of the green and favor the other side of the flag on your approach. And go for the middle of greens, rather than flags.
Over the years, I’ve found that these keys help me enjoy new courses to the fullest. I trust that they will do the same for you.

And if any of you have other ideas or tips, be sure to chime in, OK?
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[ comments ]
Kickntrue says:
I think these are good tips- with the best being to just realize scores are going to creep up a bit. Relish the good shots. Pros are playing new courses every week- but they do it year after year- and after 2 or 3 meticulous practice rounds. Accept +5 to the score- and if you're really concerned about the score on a new course- start early and play 36.
mjaber says:
I've gotten into the habit of checking the websites of courses to see what info they may have. Some of the courses I've made plans to play have general hole information, and some I've found go into great detail. At the very least, most have a basic map of the course, with the general yardage from the tee to the center of the green.
pikapp23 says:
One thing I do in a lot of these cases is ask pros in clubhouse or the starter for hints or things to watch out for. There are a several times I have gotten some really good advice about a hole or more that I would not have known otherwise.
RIDuffer says:
I tend to harass the people I am playing with if they have played the course before... But I agree with pikapp23 that asking people that work there about specific things to look out for is a very useful thing...
GBorn says:
This would have been good for me to read yesterday. I was feeling pretty good about myself at my home course, and then stunk it up yesterday at a new course. But the way I played, it would have been ugly anywhere! :)
woobwoob says:
Wear a blindfold and will it into the hole :)
cchelmick says:
Thanks for the tips. I'm about to play three new courses in the same number of days, so this helps a lot. I would emphasize the yardage book tip. Even if a course charges a few bucks for it, it's money well spent.
Shankapotamus says:
When in doubt on what club to hit into a green, take the shorter club. I think one of the biggest unknown (and potentially most disastrous) areas on an unfamiliar course is the area just behind the green. In addition, the majority of greens on most courses slope front to back so you will be under the hole more often than not.
Lerxst says:
Great article! Very informative and positive!
cjgiant says:
Some courses have lots of blind shots or elevation changes that make it hard to judge what/where to hit. For the former, if your not being pushed on every hole, drive (or walk if no one behind you) up and look at the hole. For the latter, the sound advice given in the article applies.
jefs2box says:
I will usually pull the course up on google maps to get some close-up satellite images to try and get a feel for the course. Using info from the course website (or just following the cart paths on the satellite imagery) you can often figure out which hole is which.

Having google maps on your phone helps too! You can zoom in on greens when you're setting up an approach.
ploleary says:
I'll second the 'Look around' thoughts. At least 2 or 3 times a year I'll find myself forgetting that I love the game for it's natural features and not only the skill. I'll walk thru most of the course in a fog - concentrating on my game and then when I think back to decide if I liked the course or not, I'll mostly just recall fairways and greens and not the settings on which they were played.
I've gotten into the habit of using the camera on my phone to take 1 picture every round so that I'm now always looking to find the picturesque side of new courses I play.
falcon50driver says:
It definitely helps to have played a course before. I played Angel Fire N.M. this weekend. Only the back was open so I went around 3 times. Knocked off a couple strokes each time, just by knowing where to aim.
Changed out says:
It's all about paying attention to what's around you, so what if you have a blind shot and have to drive or walk ahead to look. It's better than taking the time to look for a lost ball. As long as you have the time to go to the range and get comfortable with your yardages that day, all you have to worry about is the short game.
onedollarwed says:
Strangely, I usually score better than average on new courses, because I am looking at what's there, and not trying to take any shortcuts! But I'll always grab a yardage book. I've even gotten satellite photos a couple of times, and with a compass you can scribe driver distance arcs from the tee box.
By far, the best is good local knowledge, though bad local knowledge is fatal. Learn quickly to discern the difference. Like with asking for directions, many locals don't know street names/ distances - same for the golf course. If someone you're playing with plays like you, follow their lead. Members have played it so much, and have seen many others play, they usually have a good idea of what you can do.
onedollarwed says:
Speaking of which...
we could keep some kind of database for local knowledge in oob. Highlighting your local courses where first timers need vital info would help.
Example: Whaling City Golf Course in New Bedford, MA has no yardage book, and features some really strange holes - where yardage is essential! There's even a tee box in the middle of a swamp where you can't even see the fairway, or what direction it's in. There are also invisible ponds.
Triggs in Providence, RI has some yardage/ direction issues, and semi-blind shots, and again no yardage book. It may also be poorly marked in areas. Also features invisible ponds off the fairway.
onedollarwed says:
try this link, and hit "bird's eye view"
maps.nationalgeographic.com/map-machine#s=b&c=41 -70.9630710830948&z=19
onedollarwed says:
or this one
maps.nationalgeographic.com/maps/map-machine.htm -99.71000000000001&z=3
onedollarwed says:
Sorry the link itself doesn't seem to work, but if you go to the "map machine" and put in the course name and state, and then hit "bird's eye view," you're in pretty close. You can even look for that ball you lost last week.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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