Chopping one’s golf handicap down to single digits is many a golfer’s dream. It’s why one practices. Knocking strokes of your handicap is a sign of improvement and how well you’re playing at the time, a sign that says you’re a formidable or not so formidable opponent. So when serious golfers stop knocking strokes off their golf handicaps, they do something about it.
Usually, these golfers focus on improving their mechanics. They take golf lessons. They go to the driving range. They work on their chipping and putting. Whatever it is, their efforts are designed to cut strokes by improving their technique. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what some players fail to realize is that they can cut strokes from their golf handicaps by just by playing smart golf.
Below are six on-course strategies that will change your game without changing your swing and help you play smarter.
Hit for the Fat Part of the Green
Among the keys to playing smart golf is playing within your capabilities. Far too many golfers aim for the pin on the green without considering its location. That can get you in deep trouble. Instead of hitting an approach shot to a pin near the green’s edge or tucked away behind a bunker or two, aim for the fat part of the green. It’s an easier shot, which takes pressure off you, and it lessens your chance of making a bogey or double bogey on the hole.
Forget About Your Mechanics
Too many golfers focus on their mechanics when playing. It’s one of the most common mistakes golfers make. When you start tinkering with your swing on the course, you shift your mind from the strategy behind the game to the swing itself. You start playing golf swing instead of golf. That can cost you. Work on your mechanics when you’re at the range, where you’re free to make adjustments and change your swing without costing yourself strokes. When on the course, focus on strategy, not mechanics.
Divide and Conquer
Playing smart golf means making good decisions. To make better decisions, divide your clubs into three categories: 1) play it safe, 2) proceed with caution, and 3) go for it. Your play-it-safe clubs are your fairway woods and long irons. Your proceed-with-caution clubs are your 5-iron through 8-iron. Your go-for-it clubs are your 9-iron through wedges. When you choose a club, remember what category it’s in and play within your capabilities.
Strive For Consistency
Ever wonder why you play well one day and poorly the next? One reason is rhythm and tempo. Inconsistency on the course is often related to poor tempo and rhythm. Tempo is the total amount of time it takes to make your swing, from beginning to end. Even though your swing is longer with a driver, it should take the same amount of time to create as it does with your pitching wedge. Rhythm describes how you split your time between your backswing and your forward swing. Like tempo, golf swing rhythm should be the same for every club and every type of swing.
Know When To Use The Driver
A smart golf knows when to hit the driver and when not to. Good driving isn’t hitting it long but securing a good position from which to hit the next shot. When determining whether or not to use the driver, start by deciding how far a second shot you want; then decide on the club. With a 3-wood the average shot might be about 230 yards, leaving 120 yards to the hole. Is gaining that extra 20 yards worth the risk of hitting the driver?
Of course, with driver clubheads getting bigger and bigger these days, you may find yourself going to the driver more than you did before. Bigger clubheads are more forgiving and somewhat safer. Nevertheless, you still need to know when to hit the driver and when not to.
Play Away From Trouble
Ever see a player with a big hook aim at a hazard or clump of trees with the idea that the natural hook on the golfer’s ball will take him into the fairway? If the ball hooks, fine. If the ball doesn’t hook, the golfer ends up in the hazard or the trees, costing him strokes. Play away from trouble. If you have a big hook, move to one end of the tee box and aim so that if your hook or slice doesn’t materialize, you’re not in trouble. That should cut a couple of strokes off your score.
Playing smart golf is a simple way of achieving lower scores and lower golf handicaps without going to golf instruction sessions or spending extra time at the range. Review a course in your mind before playing it. Develop a plan for playing each hole. See where you can capitalize on some of the strategies discussed above. You don’t have to change your swing to change your game.