Three Secrets to Better Course
Management and Lower Scores
by I.J. Schecter with Doug Weaver
Every golfer is restricted by the limits of his physical skill. Big Berthas or not, most of us still can’t drive a ball 300 yards, after all. The one thing within our control, however, is how we approach an overall round, a specific hole or a given shot. The
most common fault committed by the average golfer has little to do with his physical abilities, but rather it involves thinking
too little about what he wants to do with a particular shot. Adopting a tactical approach on the course can make an enormous
difference to your scorecard. With that in mind, let’s discuss three crucial principles of good course management.
1. Play it safe
Instead of aiming for the flag, in this simple
drill, aim for the middle of the green. Your goal is
not to see how close to the pin you can get but
to land as many balls in the green as possible.
While the Seve Ballesteroses of the world did occasionally make their mark, habitual risk takers do not last in
professional golf. More often, it’s those players who learn
to strategically play toward the areas of least risk that rise
to the upper echelon.
To help implement this approach, here’s a simple drill.
Take a pail of balls to a driving range, then pick a flag 100
yards away. Aim for the middle of the green with every ball,
regardless of the position of the flag. Your goal is not to see
how close to the pin you can get, but to land as many balls
on the green as possible.
By aiming for the green and not the hole, you will help
embed the safe approach that pays dividends once you take
your game out onto the course.
If you want to up the ante, create tangible rewards for
hitting greens in regulation when you play the actual round.
If chocolate-chip cookies are your biggest weakness, award
yourself one for every green hit. Perhaps allow yourself to rent
that new release after a round in which you hit 50 percent
of the greens.
Another excellent drill is to play a round with a partner,
and every time you have an approach shot to the green, ask
him to drive or walk ahead and remove the flag from the
green. This will force you to aim for the green rather than
the hole. Do this often enough, and you will find yourself
eliminating strokes because you’ll have lodged the lesson
into your subconscious, which will no longer insist you aim
directly for the pin. Get into the habit of trying to hit 18
greens—instead of trying to hole 18 approaches—and you’ll
see your scores start to fall.
2. Play the angles
To help you correctly play the angles on any
given course, set yourself up at a dogleg with
10 balls. With each ball you hit, try to cut the
dogleg and go over the danger instead of
playing the fairway. Then count how many times
you are successful.
Playing the angles, another vital principle of good course
management, means not only hitting solid shots, but also
placing yourself in position for subsequent shots. To help
understand this concept, consider top billiards players who