Chapter 10 : Course Management

You can ruin a good round by trying to pull off that one in a million shot and making a triple bogey. After hitting a shot into trouble you are almost always better off to take a safe route out and play for a bogey.

What exactly is course management? Essentially, it means adapting your game to the specific nuances of the course and playing the course in the best way you can to achieve a good score.

When does course management start? Some players will tell you it starts after they have to make a decision on the course. Nothing could be further from the truth. Course management starts before you tee off on the first hole. You should always have a plan for the round you are playing and more importantly you should always have a plan and a target for each and every shot.

One particular area that most all golfers should concentrate on is hitting the ball from 125-150 yards out to the green. By improving your game in this area you'll give yourself many more chances for birdie and par putts.

The key to this aspect of your game is being able to "know" that you can hit the ball onto any green from 150 yards out. You want to get to the point where you can consistently knock on 8 or 9 iron onto the green every time!

It may sound difficult if you're a higher handicap golfer, but it's really not. 125 -150 yards is very manageable, and most greens are large in size. In addition, hitting 8 and 9 irons are much easier to control than your longer irons.

If you have a tough time swinging these clubs then this is an area where you need to spend some quality practice time on. Once you do get this down, the only part left is distance management.

That's the first key. The next point is working your game around the 150 yard shot.

If you're on a 550 yard par 5, you know if you hit a decent drive and even if you hit your second shot poorly, leaving you with 135 yards to the green, you know you can now get it on the green with your third shot.

So, even though you didn't hit a great second shot, because you have the 150 yard shot in your bag you're still putting for birdie. This is what good course management is all about.

It's amazing what focusing on this part of your game can do for you. You'll see your golf game differently. Now you'll know that no matter what kind of trouble you get into off the tee box, all you need to do is get your ball 135-150 yards out and you'll be fine.

Practice until you can master this shot. Then build your golf game with that thought in place. By doing so, you won't be worrying as much on how to hit bunker shots, chips shots and other tough greenside shots.

Instead of being completely frustrated, you'll find yourself having more fun.

Once you have this shot in your bag, then you can focus on putting, driving, or hitting your long irons. Until then, put all your efforts into mastering the 125-150 yard shot. If you will take this advice I can honestly tell you that you will dramatically lower your golf scores.

You have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are on the golf course. This is essential to the principles of course management. You must know how far you can hit the ball with specific clubs in order to navigate the course in as few shots as possible.

When you are managing the course, you are taking into account the problems and strengths of your game and applying them to the way the course is laid out. Let’s look at two examples:

  1. You are on a par 5 hole with light rough on the left side of the fairway and a lateral water hazard up the right. You’re pretty confident you can hit the green in regulation, but you have a propensity for hitting a “banana ball” or a hard slice. How should you hit this shot taking into consideration the way you play?
  2. Most players would just hit it up the middle trying to hit the ball straight hoping to keep the water out of play. However, that water hazard is the hole’s strength and your slice is your weakness. It’s foolish to pit the two against each other because you will probably be the loser.
  3. Aim your teen shot to land in the rough on the left side of the fairway. In this case, your normal slice will result in a second shot from the fairway while a straight ball will result in a second shot from the rough. However, you will probably still be able to reach the green in regulation from the rough.
  4. Most fairways are at least 40 yards wide. If you aim 10 yards to the left of the fairway, it would take a 50 yard slice to get the ball to the water. A shot with that much curve is rare, so this is definitely the best way to play this hole.
  5. You are 150 yards from the green with the pin placed at the front of the green, but the pin is tucked behind a menacing sand trap. You’ve spent a lot of time practicing getting out of the sand and on the green in one shot, but you’re not confident enough in your ability to do it just yet. Your 150-yard club is an 8 iron. What do you do to try and avoid landing in the bunker?
  6. Most golfers would automatically reach for their 8 iron, and “take dead aim”. However if you were to play with sound course strategy, you would take a 7 iron and aim for the middle back of the green leaving a straight forward two putt for par.
  7. Most people would be afraid of going over the green, but you know that your 7 iron goes a maximum of 165 yards. Even if you hits your best shot you will still have a 45 foot putt for birdie. You also know that if you miss hit the 7 iron it will wind up pin high and in almost no circumstance will the dreaded bunker be in play.

On the other hand if you choose the 8 iron, it will require a near perfect strike to get the ball to the flag. The slightest miss hit results in your ball landing in the sand trap. Here, the 7-iron is the right club based on the layout of the hole.

Putting course management into play with your golf game requires a good working knowledge of the way you play and what you are capable of doing. That means you need to track your progress and really pay attention to how your game is coming along.

Course management skills can really help shave strokes off of your score. So can knowing what the most common mistakes and problems golfers have along with ways to combat them.

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