What made Tiger Woods so tough in PGA tournaments? Some say it was his extraordinary putting. Others say it was his ballstriking. Then there are those who say it was his confidence. We say it was his golf course management skills. These skills set him apart from his competitors. They told him when to play it safe and when to go for it.
Put simply, Woods kept himself in the hunt at all times with his course management skills. He knew that the key to going low in tournaments was avoiding big mistakes—the kind that ends in double and triple bogeys. That’s why he often shot 68s and 69s instead of the blistering 64s and 63s that other golfers shot. That approach paid off big time for him.
Few weekend golfers have Tiger Woods’ course management skills. They’re especially helpful when you want to go low on courses you’ve never played before. Good course management cuts down on costly mistakes, prevents blowup holes, and eliminates those double and triple bogeys that can haunt you after a round.
Five Key Course Management Principals
Ideally, you want to have a course management plan for each part of your game before heading to the first hole. Below we provide golf tips on developing a course management plan for all your tee shots. It’s a great exercise, one you should complete for every phase of your game before playing.
Your drives are a great place to start because of their impact on your scores. Great drives carry a lot of mental significance, start you off on a positive note, and generally lead to lower scores. Hitting poor tee shots, however, suck the life out of you right from the start. Follow the principals below and that won’t happen.
1. Keep the ball in play
Belting the ball an extra 20 or 30 yards sounds great. But it can bring into play areas of the course you want to avoid—hazards, bunkers, trees. Since course architects love to tease you to gamble, you need to base your club selection on keeping the ball in play. Staying away from these trouble spots cuts strokes. So, make keeping the ball in play your guiding principle off the tee.
2. Use right club for the hole you’re playing
Sure. We all want to belt one off the tee. It makes you feel great. But going for more distance isn’t always the best way to start a hole. Using the driver on every hole, however, isn’t always the savvy play—especially if you lack consistency.
Instead, use the club that provides the most control over the shot. That might mean using your 3-wood than the driver on some holes. But it’s easier hitting the green from the fairway than the trees.
3. Develop a “go to club” for emergencies
Confidence is a great thing in golf—especially when hitting driver. But having doubts about hitting driver off the tee can derail things. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, you need it to develop confidence in a club other than your driver, like your 3-hybrid iron.
No matter how bad you’re hitting them off the tee, you know you can hit the fairway with that club regularly. So, start hitting clubs other than your driver at the range until you develop a “go to” club you can hit well in emergencies.
4. Find a specific target to aim at
Many weekend golfers pick out a spot generally to hit to with their drivers. This approach seldom works. You need to aim for a specific spot on the fairway—a tuft of grass beyond the water, a brown spot on the fairway, or a bush that serves as a yardage marker.
There are many natural targets you can use as focal points. You just have to look for them. This approach generates consistency because it encourages you to commit fully to the shot—and that’s never a bad thing in golf.
5. Know your distance to safety and trouble
You need to know where and how far trouble is and where and how far safety is before selecting a club. This information is critical to you getting off the tee successfully. So, don’t hesitate to take advantage of GPS and laser devices to help generate this type of information. A yardage book may also be helpful here.
Make these determinations as quickly as possible. You don’t want to waste time. If you play the course regularly, you’ll eventually learn these distances by heart. Often, the safer part of the fairway is wider than the rest. Look for it before hitting.
Keep these five principals in mind when developing a tee shot strategy for your course management plan. If you can keep the ball in play consistently off the tee, you’ll have won a critical part of your battle to go low. Take a similar approach when developing a strategy for the other phases of your game.
Developing a course management plan shaves strokes off your scores, generates better scores, and increases your chances of breaking 80. If developing a solid course management plan can help Tiger tame the PGA courses on the Tour, it can help you beat the local courses you play.
How to Lower Scores Without Changing Your Swing
Want to lower your golf handicap without changing your swing? Who doesn’t? You can reduce your scores by developing a solid course management plan before playing. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a tool that instills confidence in your club selection. Removing doubt when you swing allows you to commit fully to the shot. That’s always good.
But developing a golf course management plan takes some thought. Fortunately, there’s Google Earth. The information it provides is invaluable. Processing that information helps you develop a course management plan for that specific course. That, in turn, helps you determine yardages to the green, what clubs to play, and distances to trouble and hazards on the course.
Here are four golf tips on developing a course management plan:
- Use Google Earth and GPS
- Play to your strengths
- Build a conservative plan
- Play uphill as often as you can
Put simply, developing a solid course management isn’t a panacea. It won’t solve all your golfing problems. But it will help you cut strokes from your scores.
1. Use Google Earth and GPS
Google Earth can also help you determine yardages to the front, middle, and back of the green. That’s not always easy to tell when paying. GPS tools can help, but it doesn’t always give you the full picture. This approach does. When combined, they create a lethal combination for going low
2. Play to your strengths
This approach is the key to developing a course management plan that works. You want to put yourself in a position that gives you the best opportunities for scoring, depending on the course’s defense. It’s hazards, slopes, trees, traps, and so on.
3. Build a conservative plan
Sure. Developing an aggressive course management plan sounds like fun. After all, who doesn’t want to dominate tough courses? Hit par 5s in two. Drive par 4 greens. But that’s not playing smart golf.
Plus, you may not have the ball striking capabilities to play aggressively. That can cost you strokes. Instead, develop a conservative plan. Figure out the safest clubs to play and safe distances to target. But stay alert to opportunities that let you plan more aggressively.
4. Play uphill as often as possible
When you get inside of 50 yards, you want to “play uphill” as often as you can. Short shots uphill are easier to play than short shots downhill. That’s because speed is critical to short shots, Plus, hitting shots uphill provides a greater margin for error. Stay away from the short side whenever you can.
Developing a conservative golf course management strategy can help cut strokes from your scores without changing your swing. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice hitting shots. You still have to do that. But it can help you go low without changing your swing.
Five Tips to Prevent Late-round Fatigue and Lower Scores
Following a golf course management plan lowers scores. No doubt about it. But even the best course management plan fails if you lack the energy to execute it. That’s called late-round fatigue.
Late round fatigue stems from one of two things: Eating the wrong foods before playing or not eating at all before going out.
Below is a checklist of golf tips that can help you chase the back nine blues away and execute your golf course management plan:
- Eat a good meal — You want to eat a healthy meal, one that features the right mix of carbs and fats, along with satisfied and full of energy— eggs, bacon, fruit; oatmeal, blueberries, peanut butter; or chicken or steak with egg or avocado.)
- Avoid sugar and refined carbs—Eating these foods can cause mid-round crashes and loss of momentum during the round.
- Drunk lots of fluids before you play — Dehydration limits your mental output to save energy. Drink plenty of water throughout the round. Try a low-carb, zero-calorie sports drink that features sea salt or electrolytes.
- Exercise or stretch beforehand — This may seem odd, but It works. Light exercise helps you get loose for a round. Stretches can help also. Focus on core workouts.
- Warm up at the range — Get to the course early if you can and hit some range balls. Don’t go crazy, though. Hit 20 to 30 balls max.
Try to do these things before every round. During the round, keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water and/or Gatorade.
Walk the course where you can, which keeps you focused and loose during a round. And pack plenty of snacks—fruits, trail mix, nuts, protein bars, and/or banana sandwiches—for eating between holes.
Doing these things during your round increases your chances of executing your golf course management plan and breaking 80.