Managing a Poor Round Of Golf

Recently, Craig, and old golfing friend ask me how to manage a round of golf when we are not playing well. This is a great question; on that many amateurs contend with on a routine basis. Thanks Craig, I am grateful for your ask.

Craig is absolutely right that managing our golf game is easy when playing well. Everything seems effortless including our swing and shot decisions. These are the games we enjoy the most and generally are the ones we remember when recounting a golf story. However, when we are fighting our game, managing a round is very difficult.

Craig’s course management question is both easy and difficult. Depending on the struggles of the day, the solution might be unattainable. However, I do have some standard practices that have proven successful over the years. They work for my game and maybe they will work for yours.

  • Club up with my short irons. If I am struggling in my round, I make the conscious decision to club up. Where I would normally hit an 8 iron, I hit a 7. By clubbing up, I force myself to swing slower and easier. This generally results in better ball control because I complete all my swing movements.
  •  Forget The Pin. On approach shots, I forget about shooting for the pin. On approach, I aim for the fat part of the green and the safe shot. Sometimes this leaves me with a longer putt, but I will accept that when struggling with my swing.
  • Club down with my long irons. This is opposite to my first suggestion. Clubbing down with my long irons and woods I am able to keep the ball in play. Lets face it, I cannot score well if my ball is not in play. By hitting the ball under control, I can reverse the fortunes of a poor round.
  • Change golf balls. Yup, this sounds crazy, but I switch golf balls. I pick out ball I found and hack away. I like using distance balls at this time and as such I do not lose that much distance with my shots. There is no scientific basis for this suggestion, but it is a superstition of mine that seems to work. Common on, we all have them….admit it!
  • Forget the score. By forgetting the score, I stop score watching and this removes extra pressure off my game. Not worrying about my score will reduce my chances of taking unnecessary risks. I will not try to make the low percentage shot, but play the smart shot far more often. Eventually, these smart decisions reflect on the score card.

So there you have it Craig, these 5 tips work for me. I think I used them in the many rounds we played together a few years back, but never thought about why. I hope they are helpful and please drop me a line and let me know if any of them worked for you.

Everyone else, do you have something that will help Craig out?

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

15 thoughts on “Managing a Poor Round Of Golf

  1. Jim,

    Thank you for the sage advice. As I improve my golfing IQ, it is refreshing to know that golfers at all levels have to contend with “that” round.

    Club up, change ball, and keep it in play.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim,

    Thank you for the sage advice. As I improve my golfing IQ, it is refreshing to know that golfer of all levels have to contend with “that” round.

    Club up, change ball, and keep it in play.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim,

    Great topic; very relevant. Love the suggestion about changing balls! Here’s two more: Add a small wager with a playing partner. Helps you to refocus for some reason. And I like to draw a line on the scorecard as a mental reset after a bad stretch of holes. Only works half the time though. 🙂



    Liked by 2 people

    • Good suggestions Jim (and Brian) – just don’t change the type of ball you’re playing in a tournament or match played strictly under the rules of golf! Remember what happened to Phil in the Ryder Cup?

      I find my struggles with thinking too much about score happen early in the round. It’s just too easy to know where you stand relative to par even if you’re not trying to think about it. And there can be that added pressure of wanting to get off to a good start! How about you guys?


      Liked by 1 person

      • Josh

        I am the same way about a quick start. I am very score focused, but around the 4th hole start to focus on playing well. It can resurface around the 1tth hole depending on what is happening. This a mental challenge I need to work on.


        Liked by 1 person

  4. All excellent things to remember. After playing for 20 years, I know that my first step in getting control back is to stop trying to kill the ball. The idea being to be more direction oriented than target oriented. Usually after hitting one or two shots a tad short or a tad long but getting my line back I can switch back to target golf. From a mental perspective I know myself well enough to know that I need to be wary of that with better players. My competitiveness can be a bad thing for my game because it’s easy to let it make the choice instead of my golf sense. I’ve always been able to look at the next 9 as a new game but it took until the last couple before I could do much better than that. They tell me I have a smooth swing, but I can tell you, my mind is anything but. It takes work to keep it quiet and let me just play.

    Oh and you asked for a follow up report on my putting. I played this weekend back at my normal coarse instead of the nicer one. And of course I did not drop nearly as many as the week before. But I had a good day with the putter again. I dropped some and I lipped more. My speed and direction were still a big improvement over the previous year. I never had a 3 putt, and I only missed one inside of 6 feet. I had hit my wedge past the flag which is a mistake on that hole because the green starts about 6 inches higher than the fairway and slopes up to 10 feet or so in the back. It’s one of those greens where if they get it too dried out, you can’t get a ball to sit still. I was putting from 6 or so feet high and about 2 and a half feet right of the hole. So it’s a downhill with a left right break and as fast as it gets. I aimed almost 90 degrees off the hole and I got the speed right enough so I didn’t run 20 feet past, but I missed on the short side. I got the longer return putt though so I wasn’t really disappointed with that miss. I’ve made similar, but they are really tough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin

      Thanks for the course management tips and an update on your putting. No 3 putts is a very good thing. Your point of ball position on the green is excellent. Most amateurs do not consider it enough when playing.



  5. All great tips. When playing poorly, I remind myself that golf is difficult and can’t be played perfectly all the time. So, forget the bad shots or rounds and move on to the next. We will all have bad rounds, but we don’t have to dwell on them.

    Liked by 1 person

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