The PGA and LPGA tours are full of golfers that can really play the game well. Some are large, some are not. Some are strong, some are not. But there is one thing that every player on either tour share in common. They know how to think their way around the golf course. Power and distance are wonderful assets to have, but give me a player who is willing to harness that power at times, play the game smart, and I will have a partner that will make us unbeatable.
There are a number of mistakes that amateurs make. Not all of them are related to power and distance, but all of them, when made, will no doubt add multiple strokes to your score. Let’s take a look at some of these mistakes and see what we can do to make you a more cerebral player.
Underclubbing with your irons on approach shots
I use a red light/green light principle when determining whether or not I should aim at the flag or the middle of the green. The idea here is to play to your strengths. For instance, if the flag is tucked in short and left, with a bunker or other hazard guarding it, and you misses tend to be short and left, then it would be a red light scenario. Aim for the center of the green. Take your two putt par and wait for another birdie opportunity. In the same situation, if your misses tend to be long and/or right, then it might be worth the gamble to aim at the flag. It does not necessarily mean it is a green light scenario, but it is worth a bit of a gamble. If however, the pin is in the center of the green, with few or no obstacles to negotiate, then this is your green light scenario. Pick the right club and fire away.
Hitting The Big Dog When Perhaps You Shouldn’t
I have to admit that this is one area that I do not follow my own advice…not because it is not good advice….it is just that my driver is the straightest club in my bag. For most amateurs, this is not the case. So listen up. Most golf courses are built to entice players to hit it farther which then brings more trouble into play. There will always be a hole that you can grip it and rip it. Be patient and mindful of when not to unleash the big dog.
Don’t be a Hero
Watching golf on the television allows us to see some pretty incredible shotmaking. What you don’t realize is that these players will have practised almost every shot imaginable. It might be on the range or even during a practice round, but mark my words, they will rarely, if ever, try a shot during a tournament that they haven’t practiced somewhere previously. In addition, amatuers should get into the habit of realizing their limitations. Here is a quote from a famous sports psychologist regarding this
Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the one you think you should. ~Bob Rotella~
Putting To the Pro Side
Missing a putt on the low side of the hole is commonly referred to as “missing on the amateur side.” The origin of this term comes from pros realizing that a putt that is never above the fall line will never go in the hole. If you are above the fall line, there is always a chance that, even if it is hit too strongly, it could hit the hole and drop in. Another demeaning way of putting it is “never up-never in.”
Use the Teeing Ground to Your Benefit
As I am sure you have noticed, you probably have a somewhat predictable shot pattern. For most right hand golfers, it is left to right. The lesson here is to take advantage of, not only your shot pattern, but also the tee box itself. If you are a left to right player and there is trouble down the left side of the fairway, then tee up on the right side of the tee box, aim at the right edge of the trouble and let your tendencies take over. Conversely, if the trouble happened to be on the right hand side of the fairway, do not ignore your tendency to hit it left to right. Rather, embrace it. Just aim in the left rough and allow your power fade to do it’s business. What it boils down to is this. Do whatever you have to to increase the size of your safe landing area.
Using Less Loft Around the Green
Although there is a time and place for the celebrated Phil Mickleson full swing flop shot around the green, the best way to become more consistent with your chipping and pitching is to get the ball rolling on the green as quickly as possible. A lower lofted club means you don’t have to swing as hard. Softer swings mean better control.
Don’t Let a Bad Shot Ruin Your Round
I have one rule that I have tried to keep in mind when playing the game of golf. “Never make two bad swings in a row”. Regardless of how good you get at this game, you are going to hit a bad shot. When I was younger and more impetuous, I would follow up a bad swing with one that invariably tried to undo the damage that the previous swing had caused. It just doesn’t work that way. A better approach is to forget that bad shot and concentrate on making a good swing with the next shot. Sometimes this means that you have to become a bit defensive. I am not suggesting that you put your tail between your legs in shame and give in to the golf course, for that is something that you should NEVER do. What I am suggesting is that you should make sure and take a club out that you are 100% confident in. The worst thing you can do at this stage is make another bad swing and shatter your confidence completely.
I hope you enjoyed this brief article on course management. These are but a few things that will crop up from time to time as you journey towards mastering the game of golf. Just remember this…always play the game, don’t let it play you.