The Art of Course Management
People say golf is a game played between the ears, and that the mental aspect trumps the physical nature of it. Well, whoever says that, is right. I was told at an early age to “never make 2 mistakes in a row” which didn’t make sense until I started competing competitively. There is a big difference between messing around and actually keeping your score. Bogeys will happen, but it is the doubles, triples, and snowman holes that really get us in trouble. So lets discuss how to avoid “the big number.”
Visualize your shot before you actually hit it. Take a good look at the hole ahead of you, determine where you want to go, where you don’t want to end up, and play the shot accordingly. For example, if out-of-bounds in on the left with a slanted fairway from right to left, playing a fade, or a draw that doesn’t challenge the left side is imperative. A miss on a safe shot may result in the occasionally bogey, but at least you’re not re-teeing.
However, there will always be times to take calculated risks. We have all found ourselves in the trees with window (A) being the safe way out and window (B) being the riskier one that gets us closer to the hole. I am not going to sit here and say always take the safer route, because I rarely do, but there are definitely a few factors to consider.
- It is much easier to hit a draw around trees than a fade
- If your ball is in deep rough the amount of spin you can generate is much less
- Trust your swing path
- Always make sure to stay down on the shot and compress the ball
Chipping around the green is where your course management skills are magnified. You are not taking full driving range swings, and you’re most likely not in the fairway, so what now? Visualization is again, key. Try to imagine what the ball will do once it hits the greens to determine the ideal landing spot. Tour professionals frequently read the greens when they are chipping to get a feel for break. Tiger made a living in his prime hitting boring chips with his 60 degree wedge, while Phil wooed crowd with his incredible flop shots. Short game is all feel and preference, just make sure to practice what feels right for you.
Lastly, putting. There is LITERALLY nothing that makes me more mad on the course than 3putting. It infuriates me, and often times, carries over into a poor next shot. The key to putting is understanding the subtleties in the green, figuring out the speed, and keeping your first putt around the hole in case you miss. Too often have a seen myself and other golfers blow their first putt past, or leave in 10 feet short. No one enjoys a 10 foot par putt, or worse, a 10 foot bogey putt.
You drive for show, and putt for dough!