Golf Course Management: 10 Tips for Smart Players

Mariah Swigart Mariah Swigart
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golf course management

One thing that draws golfers to the game is the beauty of the golf course. However, the scenery soon fades when the course begins to get the best of you. All of a sudden you find yourself in one hazard after another cursing the "beauty" of the course. Golf is a game that challenges its players both mentally and physically. The challenge and fleeting success is what draws us back to it time and time again. Enjoyable rounds and lower scores are possible, but they often depend on learning better golf course management.

Course management is a big factor in the overall improvement of your golf game. It's accomplished by playing to your strengths and knowing which shots are going to keep you safely in play. Keep reading for 10 tips on how to employ smart golf course management and play to your strengths on the course.

Tip 1: Set Up for Success 

The first step to success is learning the course. Knowing the course will give you a leg up on those surprise doglegs or any hidden water. This does require a little homework before your round. Like the saying goes, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.  

Let technology benefit you. Many courses have posted their course guide online. For example, Moon Valley Country Club has a “course flyover” which displays every hole on the course in detail. If the course you are playing does not have any information online about their course layout, Google Earth serves as a useful tool to give you a look at the course. 

By looking at the layout of the course you can see what areas you want to avoid. Look for any hidden water hazards or bunkers by studying the course beforehand. 

Tip 2: Work Backwards 

Our goal is the hole, which means we want to be on the green as soon as possible. As you look at the layout of the course at home, think backwards from the hole. Planning from the green first will aid in setting you up for success. 

Find a way to measure out your shots. For example, Google Earth also allows you to measure distances. This means you could literally play the course shot by shot in your head using yardages that are consistent for you. If you are not able to do your research before the round, a detailed scorecard, GPS app, or course guide can also help with measuring out distances during the game. By working backwards from the hole, you can measure and plan out yardages that you are confident with. This is a perfect way to have a solid game plan.   

Tip 3: Stick with Your Plan

Once you've done your homework and have a plan, stick to it. An area that causes many issues for golfers, is playing shots that they cannot consistently execute. A solution to this is the 70% rule or the 7 out of 10 rule. Several pros recommend this rule to playing safe golf and achieving good course management. The 70% rule means that you play the shot you know you can execute well 7 times out of 10. If you step up to your shot, and you aren't sure that you would be able to pull it off 70% of the time, then start looking for a different, safer approach.

One example is a 180 yard shot over a large bunker. If you know you can pull out your fairway wood and stick the ball tight on the green, then go for it! But, if you are uncertain about flying the bunker, consider a layup, or a different approach to the green.  

Tip 4: Aim Smart 

Start with a generally safe location that is about 30 yards wide. The general location of your target should be safe and avoid any chance of the ball rolling into a hazard. This safe area will allow you to set up for success on the next shot. When you have a general location in mind, then choose a smaller spot to envision your ball landing. A small target can help you focus and execute the shot. 

Tip 5: Choose a Fairway Favorite 

Have a club that you love in the fairway. Having a favorite club can be a huge benefit to your confidence. If a favorite club hasn't emerged yet or if all your clubs are equally loved, don't worry. Most important is to know your yardages in the fairway and the layout of the course. 

The true goal in the fairway is to choose a shot that you feel good about and will set you up for the next. If you don't feel confident enough to reach the green from the fairway, keep your short game strengths in mind. If you're most confident chipping, try to land the ball somewhere safe, chipping distance to the green. But, if you prefer a 100 yard pitch, then choose an area that leaves you that 100 yard approach shot. You will quickly find that planning ahead can be a real game changer. 

Tip 6: Check Out the Lie 

As you approach the shot, whether in the cart or walking, look at the lie of your ball. For example, if your ball is in a divot, you will want to put the ball in the back of your stance,  your weight on your front foot, press your hands forward, take a steep backswing, and swing down and through the ball.  The lie of the ball plays a big role in the shot. You may execute a bad shot for several reasons, but it may have been as simple as not adjusting your stance to your lie. Other awkward ball placements often make it hard to hit the shot. There are strategies to hitting all types of lies successfully in our Golf Shot Survival Guide. It is full of easy to remember golf tips that prepare you for whatever situations you encounter and aid in successful course golf course management. 

Tip 7: Look to the Wide Side 

When you are approaching the green, look to the wider side. Remember, the goal is to be on the green and putting as soon as possible. Regardless of pin placement, aiming for the smaller side of the green greatly increases your chances of missing the entire green. Instead of risking it, aim for a target that favors the side the has the most green to work with. 

Tip 8: Check out the Slope 

Before you hit that chip shot, look at the green as a whole. Analyze the slope and visualize the potential breaks. Whenever possible, set yourself up for an uphill putt. Uphill putts are generally easier to gauge the speed offend are less likely to end up 4 feet past the hole. 

Tip 9: Simplify Your Putts 

The simpler your putting stroke can get, the easier it is to make pars, and birdies for that matter. Start with a simple stroke. The putter should be taken straight back and then straight through. Instead of accelerating the putter face through the ball, let gravity do the work for you. Simply allow the ball to get in the way of the pendulum. With this simple stroke, the farther back you take your putter, the farther distance your ball will go. 

Tip 10: Stay Confident 

The most important tip of all is to play to your strengths and stay positive on the course. Good course management means playing to your strengths. Research the layout of the course, know which areas to avoid, and you’ll save strokes every time.

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