There are a huge array of different courses for players of all skill levels to try their hand at.
Each course is different from the last, so learning how to effectively plan and strategize your game plan depending on the course you’re playing is absolutely crucial to improving your game.
Golf course management can be a bit of a loaded and vague term that could be confusing for a high handicap golfer. It essentially refers to how you strategically approach the game.
Golf is unlike any other sport in that the course you’re playing on can be like an extra opponent that you’re constantly trying to beat.
Take the guesswork out of your game by learning how to approach it strategically and sensibly.
Assessing Your Game
Before you even step foot on the course, you need to take some time to think about and analyze your game. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Where do you always run into trouble? How do you usually miss? Ask all of these questions of yourself and try your best to identify the answers.
Pay attention to trends and patterns in your game. Identify the areas where you excel and leverage them to your advantage on the course. Similarly, pinpoint the aspects that need improvement and develop a plan to address them. This could involve seeking professional instruction, practicing specific drills, or dedicating more time to those areas during your training sessions.
This is an ongoing process, so it’s absolutely crucial that you are constantly assessing your game and keeping track of your stats and trends. It’s the best way to gain a detailed picture of your overall game.
Another good routine to get in before you reach for your club bag is to do your research and prep work on the course that you’re playing. If it’s just your local club course, then you probably already know the course fairly well, use this to your advantage.
That being said, just because you play a course every week, it doesn’t mean that you know all the intricate details or have even paid close enough attention to the course to improve your game.
Start by studying course maps, scorecards, and yardage guides. Familiarize yourself with the layout, including the placement of hazards. Take note of hole distances and elevation changes. This information helps you strategize and make informed decisions during the round.
Additionally, research the course’s history. What previous tournaments have they had? Are there any notable holes?
Strategic Tee Shot Placement
There is a popular saying: start as you mean to go on. A great tee shot will set you up for success straight away. A common mistake that a lot of golfers make is not finding the fairway. Many high-handicappers make the mistake of trying to bomb down to the green immediately and they end up in the weeds chasing shots all over the place.
In fact, most golfers only find the fairway around 49% of the time. That is a lot of opportunities for straightforward and more considered holes.
Analyze each hole’s layout and identify potential landing areas that offer the best angle and approach to the green. Assess the shape of the fairway, the location of hazards, and any doglegs or obstacles that may come into play. Aim to position your tee shot in an area that provides the most favorable angle for your next shot.
Assess your own strengths and tendencies as a golfer. If you have a consistent and accurate driver, you may opt to play more aggressively and challenge potential hazards or narrow fairways. Conversely, if accuracy is a challenge, prioritize finding the wide parts of the fairway or aiming for more conservative targets.
Evaluate the risk-reward trade-offs on each hole. Learn the permutations of each shot and weigh the potential benefits of a long drive against the potential risks of landing in a difficult or hazardous area. Sometimes a shorter, more controlled tee shot that avoids trouble can be a wiser choice.
Remember that course conditions and weather factors can influence your tee shot strategy. Adjust your approach based on factors such as wind direction, firmness of the fairways, or moisture levels.
Club selection plays a huge role in your course management. It all feeds into the wider idea that each shot needs to be carefully considered and not rushed. You need to take your time with club selection and learn the best tools for each job that is presented to you.
First and foremost, assess the distance you need to cover and consider your personal capabilities. Factor in any wind or elevation changes that may affect your shot.
Take into account the club’s loft and the trajectory it produces. For example, if you need a higher ball flight to carry over an obstacle or stop the ball quickly on the green, opt for a higher lofted club. If you need a lower trajectory to counter wind or achieve more roll, choose a club with less loft.
Consider the lie and the condition of the course. If you have a tight lie or firm turf, you may opt for a lower lofted club to prevent digging into the ground. On the other hand, in situations with a fluffy lie or soft ground, a higher lofted club can help elevate the ball cleanly.
Each scenario is different and there is no one-size-fits-all bit of advice for which club to use when. Take some time to do some research about club selection to firmly get to grips with it.
Playing to Your Strengths
Practice makes perfect for all things, but there are always going to be certain things that you excel at and others that you struggle with. Take stock of your strengths to help your strategy.
Knowing your strengths means that you can try your best to avoid putting yourself in scenarios that you know you’re going to struggle in. It’s mentally setting yourself up for success and trying to make sure that you hold the cards on the course.
For example, if your driving accuracy is excellent, focus on finding the fairway consistently to set up more favorable approach shots. If your short game is strong, work on honing your chipping and putting skills to save strokes around the greens.
Like club selection, choosing the right shot is never something with rigid principles or criteria for deciding. Excellent shot selection is about honing your situational awareness skills and understanding the bigger picture of the game.
When choosing a shot, you need to weigh the risk-reward trade-offs. Calculate the potential benefits of a more aggressive shot against the potential risks involved. Consider your skill level, confidence, and the circumstances of the round, such as your score or the stage of the game.
Prioritize accuracy and consistency over distance in most situations. Opt for shots that keep you in control and minimize the likelihood of landing in trouble. It is often wiser to choose a conservative approach that ensures you stay on the fairway or in a favorable position to advance toward the green.
Focus on Short Game
This is one of the golf strategy tips that we will always try to hammer home. Your long game is great, but a great long game means absolutely nothing if you don’t spend some time honing your short game.
Your putting and chipping will be the difference between an okay round of golf and a fantastic one. Some people are naturally gifted with their short game, but plenty of others need to take the time to labor over it and improve it.
To improve your putting, focus on developing a consistent and repeatable stroke. Practice alignment, posture, and grip to ensure proper setup. Work on distance control by practicing lag putts and short putts. Regular practice on different green speeds will help you adapt to varying course conditions.
For chipping, focus on achieving a crisp and controlled contact with the ball. Develop a variety of shots to handle different lies and scenarios around the green. Practice using different clubs and experimenting with different trajectories and spin rates. Work on your judgment of distance, allowing you to select the most appropriate shot for the situation.
Devote ample practice time to both putting and chipping to build confidence and consistency. Incorporate drills that simulate on-course situations and challenge yourself to improve your touch and accuracy.
Good Golf Course Management Takes Time
Golf course management is something learned slowly over time. The more you play, the more you’ll begin to understand how you should be approaching certain courses and certain shots.
Strategy and technique go hand in hand, without keeping one sharp, the other will suffer. Spend plenty of time practicing your technique, of course, but be sure to allocate plenty of your spare time to learn how best to approach a round of golf and hone our course management.
There’s no shame in being a high-handicap golfer. We’re here to provide tips and tricks from our own experiences of being high-handicap golfers ourselves. Check out some more of our articles today.