Almost every golfer I know wants to improve their swings. They practice regularly on the course, trying to fine-tune their form. Practicing is a wonderful idea and can improve your golf game.
But sometimes, you don’t need all of that to improve your game and lower your score. Have you ever thought about how golf course management influences your game? If you haven’t, then let me tell you how.
What is Golf Course Management?
Golf course management is every smart decision you make while working your way around the course. It’s everything — that doesn’t directly involve hitting the ball — you do to hit a lower score.
Golf course management can include your club selection for different shots or how you pick a target line. It’s those parts of the game you pay little attention to but influences your results.
As fundamental as a golf course management strategy seems, only a handful of golfers consciously consider it when playing. We tend to shift this task to our subconscious, fully focusing on our swings, forms, and whatnots.
Golf Course Management Tips Every Golfer Should Know
While concentrating on the basics is important, your course management ability can significantly impact your game. The following golf course management tips will tell you all you need to know.
- Stop Working on Your Swing
- Work Your Way Back on Each Hole
- Know the Course, Hazards, and Troubles
- Use GPS Devices
- Off the Tee
- Use the Greens to Your Advantage
- Learn to Work Around the Greens
- Avoid the Short Side
- Think Two Shots Ahead
- Factor in Course Conditions
- Have a Yardage You Can Hit Confidently
- Play to Your Strengths
#1 Stop Working on Your Swing
Someone’s probably confused somewhere right now. Telling a golfer to stop trying to improve their swing sounds counterintuitive.
But, think about it for a minute; we spend too much time obsessing over the aspects of our game that involve swinging. However, we do that to the detriment of the other elements of our game because we pay less attention to them.
The first tip is to take your attention away from swinging and invest in improving your golf course management. Take your mind off your swing and start thinking more about other aspects of the game you often ignore.
You can come back to tinkering with your swing. But for now, focus your attention on something different.
#2 Work Your Way Back On Each Hole
A major part of golf course management is starting at the end result. Determine your goal for each hole, making sure it’s a realistic one.
Ideally, your goal will be either one of these two scenarios. Getting a birdie putt on each hole i.e. getting below an 18 handicap. Or getting a par putt on each hole, i.e. getting above an 18 handicap.
Based on whatever your desired outcome is, create a strategy to get you through. Some golf courses may come with special twists that require adaptation. Here, you’ll need to tweak your strategy to accommodate the difference.
#3 Know the Course, Hazards, and Troubles
You should take care to learn the exact yardages on shots to hazards, bunkers, and out-of-bounds stakes. Having this information helps you make better decisions regarding your shot selection.
For example, if you have to clear a water hazard but don’t know the exact yardage, you may have to do guesswork. However, say the hazard is 30 yards, and you know, then it becomes easier for you to decide at that point. Taking your skill level into consideration together with a knowledge of the golf course yardages improves your decision-making.
#4 Use GPS Devices
You may not do this during the game, but nobody says you can’t do it before. Use a GPS device to familiarize yourself with the golf course before the game. Google Earth is a good example of software that is perfect for this purpose. There are also many free golf GPS apps available for download on both Apple and Android phones.
Download the app, find the golf course and zoom in to check it out. Use it to get accurate information regarding yardages, location of key holes, and other important points you need to note. Prepare yourself before stepping on the course.
#5 Off the Tee
Following the last two tips will prepare you properly for this one. You should already have a distance in mind that you’d like to hit off the tee.
That distance should influence your club selection and narrow it down to a club or two. After that, you can then pick the best club for the job and hone down on a target.
Often, golfers will look down the fairway, aim, and swing. That’s not a bad idea, but that’s not one of the best golf strategies.
The best golf players hit the fairway and take the hazards out of the way. In other words, you want to consider the side of the fairway that puts you in the best position to avoid errors.
Then, you want to consider your shot distribution and see the best way to go about it. Lastly, you want to finalize your target by picking a point on the horizon as your primary target and giving it your best swing.
#6 Use the Greens to Your Advantage
Many golfers aim straight for the pin from the get-go. That’s not how to play golf; pro golf players don’t always aim for the flag with every swing.
The ultimate goal is the hole. But golf is also a strategy game. Sometimes you need to make some seemingly unnecessary moves to get the best outcome.
If you’re trying to get many pars, then putting the ball in the green should be part of your game plan. Aim to get the ball as close to the pin as possible, not the pin itself. Distance control is easier when you’re aiming for a wider area than a single target.
#7 Learn to Work Around the Greens
Very few people know how to work around the greens, but this is where the best golfers show their skills. You don’t necessarily have to aim for the area outside the greens, but you can always prepare for such eventualities.
When playing around the greens, first try to determine what’s possible with your skillset and equipment. For instance, if you’re inside 20 yards of the pin and have a simple chip, aim to hole it.
You’ll probably not get it, but it’s always worth the try. When chipping or pitching, visualize a landing spot while hitting the ball towards the hole.
#8 Avoid the Short Side
While working your way up around the greens, you want to stay clear of the short side. The short side is the part of the green closest to the pin.
The short side leaves you with a little green patch to work with, thus, giving you a harder time chipping the ball close to the hole. And that translates to a harder time getting around to save your par.
To avoid the short side, you need to aim towards the wide side of the green. This method involves taking a conservative approach to the game and your strategies.
#9 Think Two Shots Ahead
Golfers tend to focus so much on the end goal that they pay little attention to the process. That’s why you find yourself trying to cover as much ground as possible with each swing. This approach often lures you into taking unnecessary risks. And we often fall victim to this approach because we’re only thinking about one shot at a time.
A well-thought-out strategy involves creating a detailed plan for the shots you intend to take. Think about the distances you can and want to cover with each shot. The best golfers of all time think two or more shots ahead! Create a plan of the best way to follow through and hit your targets.
#10 Factor in Course Conditions
You probably do this already; however, one can never be too sure. It’s vital to consider the fairway’s firmness and the wind condition when playing golf.
The fairway’s texture may particularly affect the bounce of your ball. You don’t want to see your shot land first, bounce on the putting surface, and catapult into trouble behind.
#11 Have a Yardage You Can Hit Confidently
Not being able to perform your full swing golf stride may impair your shot. So, you should have a yardage limit you’re confident you can strike a full shot from at any time.
It may even mean settling for a shorter club from the tee instead of a nine iron. Hitting from your favorite yardage will help prevent wayward shots, and your scorecard will thank you for it.
Next time you’re out practicing at the driving range, take a small note book with you and write down your yardages with each club. This will help you know your distances and build confidence with each club the next time you play. I do this all the time and it has definitely helped improve my game!
#12 Play To Your Strengths
Know your limitations and play to your strengths. Avoid shots you don’t have business taking on or challenging shots.
I’m not saying you should play golf negatively or not attempt daring plays. However, not all plays are worth it.
More often than not, you’ll be better off sticking to what you can do perfectly. Professionals call it ‘playing the percentages.’
#13 Let it Go
The bulk of golf course management involves making the right decisions at the right time. But there are times you just need to let go. It’s no longer a question of the right decision if you hit a stinker of a golf shot. If you catch a bad break, suck it up and move on.
Everything stated above requires experience and conscious effort to achieve. But always keep them in mind and practice them next time you hit the course. After all, golf is not all about the swings or expensive clubs. It’s about heart!
As tempting as it might be to try and bomb it off the tee every time, its usually not the best way to play golf. Having a good course management strategy is very important, especially if you are a beginner and still struggling to shoot below 100.
The best way to improve at golf is to first build your confidence and mental game. Remember, golf is all about consistency and minimizing as many variables as possible. Having a solid and repeatable plan for how to tackle a course is how you will get better. You’ll also enjoy the game a lot more when you aren’t stinking every shot!