While driving to the golf course, J.D. and I spoke at length about different ways to lower your score; lessons, practice, short game, putting, etc. All are good ideas, however, as I briefly stated in Part 1 of this post, lowering your score is simply a matter of understanding the game a little better. Most amateurs just make bad decisions on the golf course. Whether it’s hitting 3-wood from 250 out of the rough just because it’s a par 5, or trying to hit a wedge close on a tucked pin because it’s only 85 yards, amateurs just don’t think their way around the course well enough. Here's a few tips/examples of how I play the game, and a few different ideas to implement during your round. Hope it helps!
The first three holes are quite benign. All require lay-ups from the tee box which leave short irons into fairly substantial greens, although I did bogey the first hole from 65 yds in the middle of the fairway. As we walked up to the 4th hole, J.D. asked me “what are you planning on hitting here?” A legitimate question, as there are a ton of options from the tee. So, here’s a short video on how I think my way through difficult holes.
After escaping the fourth with relative ease, we reached the 5th hole; a very short par 5, with water up the left, and trees that stick out on the right guarding most of the green. J.D. hit a perfect drive here. Right down the middle, long, and seemingly in perfect position. J.D. pulled a wedge out from his bag, and was going to try and “use the wind” to help him work the ball around the trees. Sound familiar? Here’s a video of what we decided to do instead.
JD’s shot ended up safely in the greenside bunker, he blasted it out to 15 feet, and just missed his birdie. Often times we don’t think about all of the possibilities before choosing a shot. By playing a punch shot, par was the worst score J.D. was going to make after his second shot. However, had he tried his original idea anything could’ve happened. We get so caught up in the fact that we SHOULD make birdie, we make bad decisions which ultimately lead to bogeys or worse. Then we are left pressing on the following holes to “get one back.”
The 6th hole provided another opportunity to take advantage of the golf course. Just behind the tee, sat the 8th green. Most golfers never focus on available information that is all around us. With the inclusion of GPS and Range Finder technologies, golfers are even lazier about surveying the course than ever before. I took a few seconds to look at my surroundings and was able to gather important information I would use later, to make the correct decision on a difficult hole. Once I reached the 8th tee box, I had extra information about the hole, which allowed me to make a more aggressive decision off the tee. Here’s what happened.
I made a nice little putt here as well. One thing you will notice is that I am not recommending a consistent passive approach. I’m certainly not one to lay-up on every risk/reward hole, or to recommend you never go for a par 5 in two shots if there is water in play. My goal is to help you realize there are multiple opportunities to take big numbers out of play, and it’s those big numbers that usually elevate amateur’s scores. Having as much knowledge about the shot you are about to play can only help in your decision making process.
Our last hole was another short drivable par 4, with out-of-bounds long and left. The wind had finally picked up to its highest level of the day, which left me with a decision about how to play the tee shot.
Wind is another factor that plays with a lot of amateur’s minds. As I note in the video, the key to playing in the wind is solid contact. Poorly struck shots create extra spin, and a spinning golf ball is much more susceptible to the effects of wind than a ball with focused energy and rotation towards the target. Choose a club that gives you the most confidence when hitting a shot into the wind, not the club you think you need to hit.
Golf is a great game, probably the most difficult game ever created. As more and more courses open the degree of difficulty continues to rise, and amateur golfers continue to struggle more and more. Do yourself a favor and gain every advantage possible.
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The next time you find yourself on the golf course try and think about a few of the spots where you usually get in trouble, and see if you can play the hole slightly different. A little extra thought a few times a round, and I guarantee your scores with go down. Please let me know if this helps, and keep me posted on your improvement! Enjoy our gear, and stay hydrated this summer!