Effective and smart golf course management is at the heart of any excellent golf player. Golf course management can easily be the difference between a player who breaks 80 and 70.
By taking the right decisions out on the golf course, you will improve your scores and your handicap. With course management being such an invaluable tool to any golfer, you may wonder: how do you master golf course management?
In this article, we will tell you exactly how to master golf course management.
How To Master Golf Course Management?
Mastering golf course management comes down to making the best decisions based on your capabilities, your limits, the layout of the different holes on a golf course, the situations your individual golf clubs are best for, and more. The higher the accuracy of the data you know, the better decisions you can take on the golf course.
Golf course management is the set of all decisions you take on the golf course, when it comes to which club you use, where you aim, how many strokes you aim to complete the hole in, and so much more.
Mastering golf course management takes some time, conscious thought, and dedication, but it is ultimately worth it. Bad golf course management will cap the potential of your golfing performance, whereas good course management can turn a mediocre golfer into an acceptable golfer.
Down below is a list of 11 tips to help you master golf course management.
11 Pro Tips To Master Golf Course Management
#1 Know the extent your skills and limits
Effective golf course management relies heavily on correct knowledge about the different possibilities you have. Therefore, it is primordial that you know the extent of your skills and limits like the back of your hand.
Here is an example:
Say you are at the 5th hole of a given golf course, and it is a par 4. This particular golf hole has a C-shaped layout, with thick trees in between the tee box and the green.
If you have excellent ball control, then you can save one or two strokes by hitting the golf ball over the trees and into the green. Heck, if you are a world-class golfer, you may even hit a hole in one!
However, if you are a beginner or an intermediate player, the chances are that you will hit the golf ball directly into the dense trees if you attempt a lob over them. With the ball in the trees, you will either get a stroke penalty, or use many strokes just trying to get the ball back onto mowed turf.
A beginner or intermediate player definitely would have had a better performance on this hole by following the intended C-shape of the hole.
The lesson here is to know your limits and the extent of your skills. Golf course management is about attempting safe shots that have at least a 51% chance of success. As you become a better golfer, more types of shots will become part of your arsenal.
Practice your skills and different types of shots outside of tournament play, and you will better know your limits, and push them further beyond. Keep at it, and you will become closer an artist with your golf clubs, painting the golf course with beautifully placed golf balls.
#2 Study the golf course holes
The second tip to effective golf course management is to study a golf course and its holes meticulously.
By understanding better the layout of a golf course, where its hazards are, the topology of the terrain, and more, you are gathering data that will help you take better decisions on the course.
Study the maps of the golf holes, the pin charts, and the best players on the golf course you are on. Look at the decisions that those high-performing players make on the course, and model their decisions that remain within your realm of possibility when it comes to shot difficulty and your skill.
For example, if a golf hole has a very wide layout, then it widely (get it?) opens up the number of directions you can consider for your tee off shot. Before ever setting foot on that golf hole, you can study in your head or on paper the different possibilities of shot directions you can choose.
If you aim to the right side of the hole, you may find that you have a bad set up for your next shot, as there are trees blocking you. If you aim to the left side, you may find that your set up is a lot better for your next shot.
Study the golf course well, and it will reveal its secrets to you. It will whisper in your ear all that you need to know about it. The golf course is bored, as it cannot move, so it excitedly wants you to become its worthy challenger.
#3 Gather distance data with a range finder
If you are in a setting where golf range finders are permitted to use, then definitely use them to measure distances.
Range finders are a revolution in golf, as they allow you to gather precise data about distances, how far you are from the flag, and more. As we have mentioned before, precise data is the key to mastering golf course management, and range finder will improve the precision of your data.
We all know that how far you are from your target should determine which club to use, as different clubs offer varied carry distances for the ball. If you are hesitating between 2 clubs to use, simply use a range finder, and compare the distance to the carry distance you usually hit with each club.
Using a range finder is relatively simple, but if you do not know how to, read our guide: How To Use A Range Finder?.
Furthermore, range finders can be expensive and out of the budget for some, but it is a myth that they are all expensive. There are various range finders available for under 100$. You can find a list here: Top 5 Range Finders Under 100$.
#4 Use shorter clubs over longer clubs in risky situations
We get it. You want to finish that par 5 hole in only 4 shots. Therefore, you take your longer club to make sure you reach the green, but you end up hitting the ball long, and into the rough behind the green. From the rough, you struggle to get a good shot off, and end up 1 over par.
If you had used a slightly shorter golf club, your golf ball would be on the green, or a bit before the green, but it would definitely not be in the rough. This safer approach could have guaranteed a 5 stroke par on this hole.
On the other hand, using the longer club rather offered a 25% chance at 4 strokes on the hole and a 75% chance at 6 strokes. Are those odds you want? The smart golfer does not go after fluke shots, but goes for safe plays that are within their capabilities.
The lesson here is that using shorter clubs over longer clubs in risky situations can be better. This especially applies to when you are performing an approach shot to reach the green.
Hitting the golf ball so that it lands a bit before the green is almost always better than risking hitting the ball past the green, into the rough.
Using a shorter golf club can also be beneficial if there is a bunker, water, or rough right in the middle of the usual carry distance of your longer club. Go for safe shots and play with high probability shots and club selection.
#5 Aim for the middle of the fairway
One of the quickest ways to improve your golf handicap is to start aiming for the middle of the fairway.
Yes, you might get a better set up for your second shot if you aim to one side of the fairway off the tee, but you are also increasing your chances of your initial shot going into the rough.
If you aim into the middle of the fairway, you maximize the allowable distance to each side (left and right) if you do not get off a perfectly aimed shot. Even if your golf ball hooks a bit, your ball should still stay inside the fairway.
Landing your golf ball somewhere on the turf or fairway is almost always better than landing it in the rough.
Naturally, if there is heavy wind, or you noticed that your shots always curve to one side, then you will need to correct your aim to account for these factors so that you maximize the chances of hitting the middle of the fairway.
#6 Take the wind, rain & elements into account
Let us take the following scenario:
Finally, you brought your handicap index down and are consistently hitting par. You studied the layout of the golf holes perfectly and know exactly which shots you can consistently hit. But one day, it starts to rain heavily, and there is strong wind.
Everything you previously knew seems to go straight out the window. The shots you normally hit easily are not working, and you end up scoring 85 on this particular par 72 golf course. 13 strokes more than your average!
It is extremely important that you consider natural elements such as strong wind and rain when taking decisions on a golf course. Heavy wind, and rain on a golf course heavily alter its playability, how the ball reacts, both in the air, and on the ground.
You need to be able to accurately gauge the effects of wind and rain on your golf ball and the golf course if you are to take the best decisions in bad weather.
For example, if the wind is pushing towards you, then it will require more power, or a longer golf club to carry the ball over the distance you desire. If the wind is blowing towards the flag, then you need to consider a shorter club or hitting the ball less vigorously.
If the wind is blowing strongly to the left or the right of the fairway, then you need to compensate for it by aiming in the opposite direction to get your regular windless ball landing.
On the other hand, rain makes the turf more sponge-like, which dampens and slows down the golf ball when it makes impact.
For example, if you usually rely on the golf ball to roll some distance after landing to reach the green, that might not work in rainy weather, as the ball may die down quickly upon landing.
#7 You do not always need to tee off with a driver
Some beginner golfers assume that you should always tee off with the driver, but that is not always the case.
Especially on smaller golf holes, you might consider using a 3-wood or a long iron if the fairway too short for using a driver.
Some people can also consistently achieve better, straighter shots with a 3-wood or long iron over a driver; those people need to consider letting the driver go in some situations.
#8 Aim away from bunkers, lakes, rough, water traps, etc.
Tip #8 goes without saying, but you would be surprised how many people it helps to tell obvious things. Aim away from bunkers, lake, rough, water traps, and all other hazards known to man.
Hitting your golf ball into a hazard can kill your golf score, especially if it takes you more than one shot to get out of a bunker, or if you get a water hazard penalty.
If you have a bunker on the left side of the fairway, simply aim to the right side. If you have a bunker on each side of the fairway, then perhaps consider using a shorter or longer club to avoid the high danger zone.
#9 Take safe shots out of the rough
If you end up missing a shot and your golf ball ends up in the rough, chances are you will be upset. In the upset mind state, it can be tempting to attempt an unlikely-to-succeed ideal and powerful shot out of the rough directed towards the green.
However, more often than not, this miracle shot will fail. Unless you are a great golfer and know which shots you can consistently hit, you will miss this miracle shot.
If you are in thick rough with lots of foliage, you should consider taking a safe shot instead that will bring the golf ball back onto intended turf, even if you have to sacrifice some power to do so.
It is better to lose a stroke exiting the rough safely than to likely lose multiple strokes stuck in the rough. Let us take a look at the example scenario down below:
Your driver shot off the tee took a terrible curve, and the golf ball is stuck slightly to the left of the fairway, surrounded by trees and thick foliage. Upset, you try to take a hard shot at the golf ball, hoping it miraculously blasts through the trees and lands 200 yards closer to the green.
Instead, the ball hits 2 or 3 trees, killing the ball momentum, and it lands in nearly the same spot as it was in before. Instead of attempting a safer, lower, and less powerful shot to get back onto the fairway, you lost one stroke, and are still in the rough.
The lesson here is that you should take safe shots that you know you are capable of hitting when you start from some bad rough.
#10 2-putts are sometimes better than 1-putts
Common sense would make you believe that attempting a 1-putt is always better than going for a safer 2-putt, but that is not always true. Even if you miss your 1-putt, and decide to go for a 2nd putt, you may still be worse off than if you decided to go for a 2-putt right away.
In fact, in a 2-putt, the first putt is meant to serve as an approach shot. If you miss your 1-putt, and require a second putt, your 1st putt is not necessarily a good approach shot for an improvised 2-putt.
For example, if you are on the green of a hole that has a slope starting from your ball and up to the hole, like a little hole, then aiming for a 2-putt is safer. If you shoot too softly and miss the hole, the ball could very well come back down the slope, setting you back further than you were before.
If you go for a 1-putt, the chances of you missing the hole are high, and there is no telling where the ball might end. It might take you 10 tries to sink the ball if you keep trying to 1-putt it in the hole up the slope.
On the other hand, by going for a 2-putt off the bat, you may notice a flat plateau on the left side of the top of the slope on which you can park the ball to have an easy second putt.
Getting the ball to sit on the plateau should be relatively easy. From the plateau, you would have an easy second putt on a flat surface instead of a slope to climb.
The short game is where legends are born and where the best scores are reached. Remember that a 2-putt is sometimes a better, safer option than a 1-putt on the green.
#11 Visualize the perfect shot in your head
The final tip to master golf course management is to visualize the perfect shot in your head as you are about to take it.
Visualizing yourself make the perfect shot will give you supreme confidence and free you from doubt and tension as you are about to shoot. If you would like more tips about increasing your golfing confidence, read our guide: How To Increase Golfing Confidence?.
In front of you, trace the line in the air or along the turf of the path you want to give the ball, and believe in your core that that is the shot you will shoot. Visualizing the perfect golf shot in your head tells your mind that you are committing to your decision.
If you cannot commit fully to the decisions you take in the spirit of golf course management, then you are only holding yourself back.
There you go! After reading this article, you have learned how to master golf course management, which should help you drastically improve your scores.
Remember, a golfer with perfect technique is only as good as his shot selection and golf course management skills.
What is your best tip for golf course management? Let the others know in the comments down below!