A question I often get asked is how do I develop good course management? There is no secret answer when it comes to course management, it mostly comes down to planning, knowing your distances and having the strength of mind to then stick to the PLAN you have created.
The way I see it, players have a variety of ways to play each shot, you could get three players facing the same shot and each would see it slightly differently. This is because each player has a different ball flight, shot shape, ability level and vision, but there are things that can make it easier.
Below are a few pictures I took a while ago but relate to this really well, the hole is a short par-4 dogleg left.
The pictures show the Driver (high risk), Hybrid (medium risk) and Iron (low risk) approach to the same hole.
The reason I have classed these in this way is not only because of a smaller landing zone the more club you use on this hole, but also the percentage of hitting a good shot.
If you have a stroke on a hole there is no point in saying ''I'm going to go for this green'' if its an unrealistic goal, so you may aswell aim for a green in regulation and try 2 putt. I'm not saying you have to be 100% set on hitting low risk shots all the time because there will be times you need or want to go for a shot, but make sure its one you feel fully committed too and not just one that you think you MIGHT pull off!!
If you have any doubt in your mind at all that your not capable of taking on a shot I suggest you don't, only because you will never be totally committed to playing it correctly. There is no miracle answer to this age old question but just by a little pre-planning on each shot and careful thinking, you may make better decisions on the course and take a few shots off your round, so leave your ego at home.
Don't be scared to club up either, many players I coach often take far too little club. This is usually because they have once hit it that far, but that doesn't mean its your average distance, you need to take time to get to know your distances and play shots to suit your strengths and if you have a rangefinder or GPS use it.
My personal strength is from 110 yards, from this distance I know I can hit my gap wedge fully and be fairly close to that yardage. If I have a par 5 that I cannot reach in 2 or one of those fiddly par 4's I will club down off the tee and leave myself that yardage because I know I can rely on it, this then gives me confidence to commit to the shot.
Take your time too, I'm not saying take all day but by simply thinking about the next shot on the walk to the ball or the tee you could mean you have already chosen and thought more about the shot.
Don't be intimidated by playing partners or the course, there are hundreds of ways to play each hole and you have to play it in a way to suit you. Not how you think it should be played but how you should play it.
A good course management lesson can also be more beneficial than a technique lesson, it can save you so many shots but is an area not enough golfers consider when booking a lesson.
I personally always a make sure I take a player out on the course as much as possible because this is where the game is played and where so many shots are saved.
I tend to break the sessions down and have one initial session which focuses on getting to know a players distances. This makes the on-course management session a lot easier for the player and often sees quicker results as they already know their yardages.
Remember scorecards don't have pictures and it's how many not how that matters!
Famous Sucess Story
When Zach Johnson won his Masters Title in 2007, he picked Augusta National apart by leaving himself his favorite yardages into greens or as close as he could. He is not the longest hitter on tour but this made sure he could get it close to the flag meaning less lengthy putts, which on those greens is key. He minimized those fiddly short chips and rarely low sided himself simply by not attacking greens from long range, he didn't want a 30ft putt as he knew it could so easily lead to a 3 or even 4 putt. Zach Johnson is one of those few golfers who picks a course apart and sticks to his plan, yes this means he has to have a solid putting game but he sticks to his PLAN. It must work as he has picked up 26 Professional victories in his career to date and a green jacket.
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