A wise man once told me that good golf course management will help reduce the strokes in your game. The only problem was that when my father was teaching me this lesson, he was still young and dumb and he wanted me to stand on the ball and hit it as hard and as far as he could. It wasn’t until a few years later that I remembered the lesson he taught me on the 10th hole at Francis Byrne Golf Course. The lesson was basically to think about the risk in the shot you’re about to take, and whether the risk is worth the reward. So can good course management help your game? Well, here are some of my thoughts on how to manage a round that I’ve learned throughout my golf career, whether playing the game or with a partner.
Most of the time on a par 5 I get about 225 to 250 yards off the green on my shot, assuming I hit the fairway (and that’s a big guess). If I drop to 225 yards, I might be able to hit the green with a three wood, but I’d have to do it perfectly from the fairway, which doesn’t happen too often since I don’t hit the three wood. too many times in my round. Also, I just don’t feel comfortable hitting that stick in that spot. There was once a point in my young golf career when I would have always gone for the green. I estimated that 90% of the time I put myself in great danger due to the inconsistent way I hit that club and walked away from the par 5 with a 7 or 8 on the scorecard. These days I take out the iron, which when I hit it leaves me about 75-100 yards from the green. I feel more comfortable from that distance down the course and I feel like I have the best shot from that distance to come out with a birdie or a par, and worst case, a bogey. That’s not to say I’ll never go for a green in two on a par 5, I’m just saying there’s a time and a place to do it, you just have to be smart about it.
During any round, I can be a mess off the tee, which usually leaves me in some treacherous spots on the course. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned on the field is to take your medicine when you miss a shot. I used to be the kind of golfer who thought he could make the miracle shot through the little gap in the trees by keeping the ball low, hooking it around a tree and onto the green. Yes, the kind of shot that only Tiger of Phil can pull off. Most of the time I hit the tree and the ball landed behind me in an even worse place than it was. Over the years, I’ve learned to play “safe” and get out of trouble, even if it means hitting it sideways to land a decent third hit. My thought here is that I could make a decent third shot and give myself a good look at par, but worst case scenario I’ll most likely walk away with bogey, which I’ll take at that spot.
Finally, look at the danger in front of you. There are always shots in the field that seem so attractive and tempting to try. Don’t let the course fool you, it’s usually these shots that if you miss you’ll find yourself in serious trouble. There invites for a reason. Take a step back and think if I miss my intended shot, what kind of danger can I expect to be in? This seems like common sense, but I see it over and over again on the golf course where people are trying to aim for a pin that is hidden in the back corner and surrounded by bunkers instead of aiming for the center of the green, or trying to do a cut hit on a left dog leg when they haven’t made a straight hit all the way. By playing the safest shot and avoiding the problems that the course brings, I think it gives us the best chance to shoot more consistent rounds.