Course Management in Golf

Play the shot that makes the next shot easy.

Tommy Armour

Course management is a familiar topic in golf. To manage your golf game is challenging, depressing and rewarding all at the same time. We have all played rounds of golf where nothing seemed to go well and others where mistakes could not be made! Most of the time, the difference between a final score of 75 or a 78 is course management. Like chess, playing golf requires a player to think at least two shots ahead before taking a swing.

Hitting the best club to set up his next shot.

Hitting the best club to set up his next shot.

Focusing on your shot at hand is obviously the first step to course management. Proper execution of this shot is critical to low scores. When I talk about execution, I do not mean contact of the ball (although this is very important also). What I mean is executing the shot that best sets you up for the next shot. Sometimes that means hitting your 3-wood as close to the green as possible on a par 5 or laying up to 100 yards to have a full shot over a hazard. The most interesting aspect of course management is that it is different for every player! The reason for the differences are that each player shapes the ball differently and hits each club different distances. Therefore, their course management has to be different.

Trying to advance the ball too far usually spells trouble!

Trying to advance the ball too far usually spells trouble!

However, before hitting the first shot, determining what the next shot should be will help with club selection, how to play the shot, whether to punch the ball out of the woods, or try to hit the ball 75 yards down the fairway around a tree. Every shot has infinite variables that are hard to list. The most important thing to consider is what you are planning for the next shot. This part of course management is really what sets up how a round of golf is played. Not staying focused on the next shot is where most amateurs run into trouble!

Under a tree

Under a Tree on the 15th Hole. Managing this shot properly will be the difference between par and double bogey!

There are three simple rules I follow to make my next shot easy. I use these rules as the basis to scoring well or at least trying to score well.

  • When in the fairway, always go for the green if in range! Greens In Regulation or GIR is the most important statistic in golf. Personally, I would rather play a short chip or out of the sand then to have a 30 or 40 yard chip to the green.
  • When hitting from the rough, I use my hybrids. I cases where players are not using hybrids, then use an iron. I know many players will suggest that if the lie is good then hit a wood, but the higher percentage shot is to hit a hybrid or iron.
  • When playing out of the woods, do not get greedy! The moment I try to squeeze an extra 10 or 15 yards out of a difficult shot, disaster strikes! Taking my medicine is the safe play! This does not mean that I do not try and find the most advantageous exit from the woods, it means that I have to be smart about setting up my next shot!

I am sure there are many other rules that players use to keep their score low. Depending on the competition, others rules will come into play, but for most amateurs trying to break 100, these three rules are plenty.

This is my approach to course management. Do you have anything to add?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

6 thoughts on “Course Management in Golf

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