Don’t Manage Your Round Like a Pro!

Golf is a chal­leng­ing sport. There are many, many body move­ments that make up your swing. Not cor­rect­ly exe­cut­ing any one of these move­ments can have dis­as­trous results. Watch the pros this week­end. Almost all of them will exe­cute at least one swing incor­rect­ly result­ing in a poor shot.

One area you less sel­dom see a pro make a mis­take in is course man­age­ment. Course man­age­ment is play­ing your way around the course by best uti­liz­ing the strengths of your game. It is rare to see a pro­fes­sion­al golfer hit a shot out of trou­ble that does not put them in a bet­ter posi­tion. We ama­teurs do it quite more often. By using bet­ter course man­age­ment, high hand­i­cap golfers will be able to shave strokes off their round. These are valu­able strokes on the way to shoot­ing 90.

Your name may be Rory, Phil or even Tiger, but you’re not them.”

I enjoy watch­ing pro­fes­sion­al golf on TV. The pros’ lev­el of play is both amaz­ing and inspir­ing. Some of the shots they pull off to recov­ery from bad spots are jaw-drop­ping. Phil Mickelson’s sec­ond shot off the pine straw on the 13th hole of the 2010 Mas­ters final round was incred­i­ble. As was Bill Haas’ third shot on the sec­ond sud­den-death play­off hole of the Tour Cham­pi­onship on his way to win­ning the 2011 Fex­Ex­Cup Play­offs. I only wish they came with the warn­ing “These are pro­fes­sion­als — Do not try this on your home course”.

I’m not blam­ing pro­fes­sion­als for my ill-advised shots. Some­times we trick our­selves into believ­ing we can pull off shots we do not pos­sess the skills for. We try to pull off the improb­a­ble shot and leave our­selves in the same or worse sit­u­a­tion.

High hand­i­cap golfers need to build the dis­ci­pline to take an unplayable lie and sal­vage the hole the best we can. You should not attempt a shot unless you are 80% con­fi­dent you can pull it off. By fail­ing to pull off the improb­a­ble shot, we put our­selves in posi­tion to have a blowup hole. It is dif­fi­cult to recov­er your round after a triple bogey or worst.

Make Going for Par 5’s in Two a Rare Occur­rence.”

I’m not say­ing nev­er go for a par 5 in two. Some­times you boom the per­fect dri­ve and have the per­fect lie in the fair­way on a par 5 with an acces­si­ble green. The prob­lem is that the major­i­ty of the time, the risk of going for it in two is greater than the reward. The best you can expect when miss­ing the green is a short yardage chip off the fair­way. You have an equal chance of being in a bunker, green-side rough or worse yet a haz­ard.

You are bet­ter off to layup to a yardage that you are com­fort­able with. My com­fort­able yardage for a third shot on a par 5 is 100 yards. Yours may be dif­fer­ent. 100 yards leaves me with a full wedge to the pin. This shot actu­al­ly gives me a bet­ter chance of a real­is­tic birdie putt than a shot from a green-side bunker or rough does.

Play the Shot You Brought to the Course.”

We all have a ball flight that is nat­ur­al to the skill lev­el we are at and where our game cur­rent­ly stands. It may be a slight draw, fade or even rel­a­tive­ly straight. When warm­ing up on the range or on the first hole or two, you may find your ball flight path is notice­ably dif­fer­ent. Our nat­ur­al urge is to fix it but nei­ther the warmup peri­od or the course is the cor­rect time or place. Our swing and ball flight path are defined by prac­tic­ing and com­mit­ting our mus­cles to mem­o­ry. Mak­ing changes on the course will only fill our head with swing thoughts lead­ing to bad shots and high scores.

What usu­al­ly hap­pens to me when try­ing to change my swing on the course is my first cor­rec­tion isn’t enough. I end up over-cor­rect­ing on my next shot which usu­al­ly has major con­se­quences.

The next time you find your­self with a slight­ly dif­fer­ent ball path out on the course, man­age your game around it instead of try­ing to change it. Leave the work on your swing to your prac­tice time on the range.

We need to man­age our way around the course dif­fer­ent­ly than the pros. There are shots we can­not make, par 5’s we can­not eas­i­ly reach in two, and swing cor­rec­tions we can­not make on the course. Match your course man­age­ment to your game and shave strokes off your score.

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