If you’re like most golfers, you probably use stroke play a lot. In fact, stroke play may be all you play with your regular foursome. Giving strokes to your opponent or opponents is the most popular way to play golf. That’s why a lot of golf tips in magazines and on TV cover stroke play as a topic.
But playing match play is also a fun — and highly enjoyable — way to play golf. But many golfers who excel at stroke play don’t do as well with match play. When Tiger Woods was at his peak, for example, he was a better stroke player than a match player. That’s because match play is a different animal when it comes to playing competitively. So you need to think differently.
Below are seven golf tips that will help you win a golf match. Keep them in mind next time you have a match with other players and you’re sure to do well.
1) Stay positive all the way: One hole can turn a match around. So stay positive when you play even though you may be playing poorly. Comebacks happen all the time, and they often start with winning one hole. But a turnaround can’t happen if you’re down on yourself while playing.
2) Mind your opponent’s ball: Critical decisions during match play—like going for the hole or laying up—often depend on where your opponents ball lays. So pay attention to where it is and what difficulties your opponent faces. For example, if the match is on the line and you’re both in the fairway, but he’s 20 yards in front of you, you probably should go for it instead of laying up. Makes sense, right? Matches often require different strategies.
3) Be automatic on short putts: This probably goes without saying. You should practice making short putts until you establish a solid reputation for never missing the short ones. Your opponent or opponents may concede borderline putts based just on your reputation. That never hurts.
4) Putt for birdies first: Winning matches is often about pressure. So if you have a 12 footer for a birdie and your partner has a five footer for par, go for the birdie first. If your partner goes first and misses the par putt, it will put pressure on you to avoid three putting. So you could go into a defensive mode. Putting for birdie encourages aggressiveness, which is what you want.
5) Determine who plays first: If you’re playing with a partner, decide who plays first off the tee on all holes. Generally, it’s the best ball striker. If this doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to change it. Also, when it comes to partners, pick one that you think will be fun to play with and who complements your game. For example, if you hit it long but the rest of your game is so-so, look for someone who has a good iron game or a good short game.
6) Be prepared for the hole’s key shot: Every hole has a key shot that helps decides the winner. It could be a drive, a wedge shot, a chip, or a putt. But it’s the most critical shot of the hole. Be prepared for it. Try to arrange things so that the key shot comes from you, not your opponent. This goal isn’t always easy to achieve, but the better you’re able to do it the more holes—and matches—you’ll win.
7) Don’t let your opponent up for air: Sometimes when golfers get a lead on an opponent, they let up. That fault often helps an opponent get back in the game. Remember, it only takes one hole to recharge a player’s batteries. So stay aggressive throughout the match. Have the mindset that you’re going to make big leads bigger. In other words, step on their throats.
Stroke play is a fun way to spend an afternoon, but it can get tiresome. Match play is a good way to break up the monotony of stroke play. But winning a match doesn’t come easy. So keep our seven golf tips in mind next time you play a match—whether it’s by yourself or with a partner—and you’ll boost your chances of winning the match. And if you play matches, that’s what you’re trying to do!
Jack Moorehouse is the author of the best-selling book “How To Break 80 and Shoot Like the Pros!”. He is NOT a golf pro, rather a working man that has helped thousands of golfers from all seven continents lower their handicaps quickly. His free weekly newsletter goes out to thousands of golfers worldwide and provides the latest golf tips, strategies, techniques and instruction on how to improve your golf game.