Course Management 101
Did you hit the links a few times over the Fourth of July holiday weekend? You’d think with a career focused on golf I would get to play all the time. Sadly, I do not, and I’ll bet your local golf pro doesn’t either. However, I bet when he/she does get the chance to play they somehow manage to still score pretty well. “How is this!?” you ask puzzled. “I rarely see him/her on the range or putting green. How is he/she still so good?!”
The simple answer: course/game management.
(I’m also a firm believer that being around the game and teaching it makes you better as well.)
Seasoned players manage their games with a balance between conservative and aggressive play. An easy way to help make a sound decision on the golf course is to ask yourself “Can I hit this shot successfully 8 out of 10 times?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then go for it! However, if you hesitate, even for a second, you’re probably about to cause more trouble for yourself.
Let’s look at some scenarios to help paint this picture.
Poor course management:
You’ve just hit your drive right into trees on a moderate length par 4. You’re about 180 yards to the green. Annoyed, you rush over to find your ball, grabbing your 5 iron prepared to punch out towards the green. You take a couple of practice swings, glance at the hole, and then pull the trigger on the shot. CLANG!!! Uggghhh…. The familiar sound of the golf ball striking solid wood. Your eyes dart in all directions trying to see where the tree spit your ball, just as you see a streak of white. “Great,” you think to yourself, “I’m even further in the trees now.” At this point you decide to just take your medicine and chip out laterally. You grab a wedge and swing away. Only, you miss judged the distance and hit it through the fairway and into a bunker. Now you have a long fairway bunker shot. The shot from the bunker comes out a little heavy and ends up well short of the green. You’re laying 4. Then you knock it onto the green, but well past the pin, leaving a tricky downhill putt. You 3 putt and walk off the hole with a 7, triple bogey.
Whew that was exhausting. Let’s look at the same scenario, but using our check list from Dr. Mo.
Good course management:
You missed your drive into the right trees on a moderate length par 4. You find your ball and slowly approach it. Without a club in hand you take a look at your options. You look in all directions to determine the best possible shot to put you back in position to score. You determine you have about 180 yards to the green. You have a lot of confidence in your wedges and tell yourself, “Just try and get it inside 120.” You don’t have much of an opening directly at the green, but you can still advance it forward keeping it low. You decide a 5 iron is the right club. As you’re taking practice swings you check what is through and long of your target line. There’s a bunker that you need to make sure you stay short of with your punch shot. Then as you stand behind the ball, you pick a specific target/landing area and zero in on it as you walk into the shot. You glace back to that landing area two more times before you hit. You hear the sound of your club striking the ball, and that’s the only clang you hear as the ball skims the ground avoiding all the tree branches coming to rest in the fairway. You’re bummed you couldn’t pull off the hero shot to get to the green but know you can put it on the green from here and have a putt for 4. You’ve left yourself a good distance, hit the shot on the green, and roll a good putt, just missing the hole. You tap in for a 5.
The second scenario saved you 2 shots. Who wouldn’t like to save 2 shots per round, let alone on just 1 hole!?
Course management is more than just getting out of trouble. It’s putting yourself in the best possible position to score. Here are some of the more overlooked situations in my opinion:
- Tee shot placement. Know the direction of the hole before you tee off. Does the fairway slope one direction? Does being on one side of the fairway provide a better angle to the green? Is it a short hole, if so, is driver necessary?
- Check the pin location before you hit your approach shot. If the pin is in the back of the green, you don’t need to fly it all the way to the hole. Missing long would be an unforced error in this case. Same is true for a left/right pin. Missing on the same side as the pin leaves you with a tough up and down. Pick targets that will leave you in a spot you know you can two putt or get up and down from every time.
- Know your true carry distances. We all like to think we hit the ball farther than we do. Knowing exactly how far you carry each club will help you make better club selections. Get really good with knowing your touch yardages too.
- Power of two putting. A bogey turns into a double bogey very fast with a careless first putt. The statistics for making putts dramatically decrease the further you get from the hole. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for an easy second putt. You’ll be much happier with a brush in bogey versus a double, simply because you got a little greedy trying to make a long par putt.
I hope you find a tip or two helpful and save a few shots on your next round!
Fairways and Greens,