Five Tips For Better Course Management
First of all, thanks to all of you who have sent in your feedback from my Friday post asking where you get your information about golf equipment. I’d love to hear from more of you, as new wedges are on the line here! I’m going to collect your feedback for another couple of weeks, and will announce the winner when I get back from the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando next week.

Now, for today’s winner, I’ve selected Travis Miller, who noted that we spend a lot of time on little swing tips, but not enough on how to play the course in front of us. Specifically, Travis asked:
What would be your top five tips for course management?
That’s a great question, Travis, and I agree with your guess that good course management can shave shots quicker than any swing overhaul. Every hole usually has 3-4 ways to play it, and every golfer has their strengths and weaknesses to play to, and away from. Here’s are my Top 5 when it comes to managing your way around the golf course:

1. Dance with who brung ya. When you are hitting your warm up shots on the range, don’t try to “learn” anything new, just try to see what you’ve got today . . . and then play it. If you are not hitting it particularly crisp on the range, relax your expectations and don’t play any “hero” shots early in the round. Never underestimate the importance of getting off to a good start with a couple of pars or easy bogeys.

2. Look for the “safe” side of the fairway. Every hole usually has a safe side, so make sure you take a few seconds to see the hole the way the architect designed it. Most will give you a ‘bail out’ to one side or the other. Play for it.

3. Shoot for the 150 markers. I’ll be playing unfamiliar courses in Orlando next week, and my approach on these is to always see where the 150 marker is, and assess trouble from there. Usually, short holes get skinnier and tougher as you get closer to the green. On a short par four, I’d much rather have a 6-, 7- or 8-iron in from the fairway, than to later realize that trying to drive it into wedge range gave me ½ or 1/3 as much fairway to work with. It’s frustrating and unproductive to face a short par four and then have no shot to the green at all.

4. Play for the ‘safe’ side of the flag. As you survey your approach shot, notice where the flag is located on the green – left, right, front, back – and where the tough up-an-down is going to be from. A short right pin placement, for example, probably leaves a much easier approach putt and/or chip from long left. Unless you are a sub-scratch player, shooting at tucked flags is a recipe for disaster. Even the pros usually avoid “short-siding” themselves.

5. A series of 18 challenges. Rather than look at your day as a “round” of golf, how about just see it as 18 opportunities? You can’t do anything about the last hole or the next one anyway, so focus all your attention and energy on the hole you’re playing . . . and the shot you are facing RIGHT NOW. More bad shots are hit as a result of steaming about the last one than for any other reason. Get “in the moment” on each tee, block out what has happened or how you are playing . . . good or bad . . . and focus on the hole at hand and how you’re going to play it. It will make a difference.

So, Travis, there are my Top 5 keys to course management. I’m sure your fellow ‘oobers” will have their own as well so stay tuned to their input on this subject.

I’ll see you all Friday.

photo source
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[ comments ]
mjaber says:
1. Don't be afraid to pitch out (sideways or even backwards) to get out of trouble. Let's be honest, there is a reason you're in the trees.

2. Learn from your mistakes. I play with a guy who ALWAYS goes for a par 5 in 2. He'll top his drive and be 400 yards from the green, and pull his 3 wood and try to hit it from the rough. I have yet to see him hit a par 5 in 2.

3. You don't have to hit driver on every par 4

4. If you're having a really bad day, find 1 club you are hitting well and stick with it. For me, 3 shots with my 8 iron (130-140) will usually get me to almost any par 4 green.

5. Play from the tees that you feel are appropriate for your game. Don't be pressured into playing from the tips, just because everyone else in your group is.
aaronm04 says:
There's no shame in laying up!! Realistically assess your chances. Taking an extra stroke to get to safety is better than taking 2+ going for the "hero" shot.
mschad says:
One tip I heard that I try to remember is to tee up on the same side as any trouble. That way you are shooting away from it, not toward it.
lcgolfer64 says:
Stealing mjaber's thunder...

1. is a great one to play by, plenty of opportunities through course of a round to make up that one shot.

3. Analyzing my oob stats, I was WAY better off playing 4 iron or 3W off the tee then driver - have to learn to check my Driver-ego at the clubhouse more often.

4. Get comfortable with playing a 'confidence club' to a lay up or even off the tee. Three 6 irons @ 165 yards/each (495 yards) puts you in contention for par on almost any par 5 - just a thought.
nocurling says:
i use the 150 marker all the time. the reason? i know what club consistently flies ~150 yards for me. and it turns every par 4 or 5 into a 150-yard par-3. how hard is that?
Optimus Prime says:
This is good preaching.
K_Rich10 says:
I think a lot of people try to put to make long putts, rather than setting themselves up for an easier 2nd putt. They either push them way past the hole or read the line wrong and still leave themselves a putt at a distance they are not comfortable with. Eliminating 3 putts will save strokes every round for people like me with higher handicaps. I've been trying lately to leave myself in a position for a shorter, uphill putt for my par/bogey than going for the cup from 25+ feet.
Bryan K says:
When you're hitting over water, take an extra club. It's usually better to be over the green than in the drink. If you don't have an extra club, lay up.
mjaber says:
Don't fight "your shot." I took a few lessons last year and we (instructor and I) determined that my normal shot shape is a cut. From what he told me, it seems everyone has a basic shot shape with their normal swing. If you can figure out what you're normal shot shape is, play it.

I can't hit a draw at all, but I have a lot of confidence with my driver. There have times where I have hit a drive toward trouble (trees, bunker, etc.), because I was confident in the cut I would hit. It would have been better to be able to hit a draw, but I don't have that ability, so I play for my typical shot shape.

I played with a couple older guys once. One hit dead straight every time. The other had a nasty slice. I can remember him hitting at almost a 45 degree angle left of the fairway. Every time, same shot shape, same result... center of the fairway.
Bryan K says:
lol...and then you have me...I spray the ball all over the place:)

I usually have a nice draw, but my swing isn't grooved enough to hit that draw all the time. Heck...most of the time I top the ball 90 yards down the fairway.
TravisMiller says:
Terry - I had never really thought about tip number 1. It didn't matter if I hit my driver terrible on the range right before the round. 1st tee would be driver. I will have to pay more attention next time. Great tips from you all. My best tip - Enjoy the game no matter what the end score is!
Mrob says:
Adjust your par. If you miss your tee shot on a par 4 play it as a 5. It releases pressure and frees you from feeling like you have to make everything up on your second shot. You'll be amazed at how many time you save your 4.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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