Playing Tentative Is A Recipe for High Golf Scores

I cannot count the number of rounds of golf where I failed to play my game. It happens less as I gain more experience, but my weak rounds are rooted in one fault that is easily avoidable. My mental focus is on being tentative vice bold. You will see that I did not say aggressive, but bold. Defined as showing an ability to take risks or being confident. Playing bold fits into most golfers abilities when they decide to let this approach be at the forefront of their game. Every round of golf produces a plethora of situations where we have the opportunity to rise to the occasion. When we do not play with confidence, think tentatively, then high scores is in our future.

I do not need professional help to understand this concept. I have played enough rounds to know that being tentative is a failure on all levels. I do not swing the clubs with confidence or intent. I second guess my shot selection. I do not commit to each and every shot. I am short more often than not on approach shots and putts. I see challenges that should not creep into my thoughts. I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the point. Additionally, I am confident that many of you recognize what I was describing in past few sentences. The challenge we face as golfers is how to prevent tentative play from grabbing hold of our game because once it has a grip, it does take a great deal of effort to wrench it free.

Using the yardages properly will lower your golf score.

I use two techniques that are proven winners for my game. The first is on approach shots. I hit to a deeper distance than the registered on my GPS or rangefinder. In the example on the left, you can see the distances. Being 138 to the pin and 156 to the back are great yardages to know. To hit 138, I would normally hit a smooth 9 iron. To hit 156 is a smooth 7 iron. Therefore, the correct club to hit to avoid or beat back playing tentative is an 8 iron to 145 yards.

Most amateurs do not realize that when hitting to distance, they usually come up short. Losing distance on shots is caused by many, many different reasons. An article by offers 10 reasons why amateurs lose distance on their shots and because I have lost enough distance in my career, I tend to club up because poor shots that come up short cause us to rethink our game and that is when tentative play starts to creep in.

By selecting a club that allows me to have a chance to hit the ball pin high, I am playing boldly. This approach builds confidence in my game. Which in turn lowers my golf scores. A point of note, as each of us becomes a better player, the number of mishits changes of off-hits. The ball is struck well, but is just slightly off its mark. This area of ball control is still something that needs to be managed. Regardless of your level of play, being bold is key to lower golf scores.

My second area of playing bold is on the putting surface. The old saying that ‘100% of short putts do not go in’ is absolutely true. At the beginning of my career, I tried to just drop the ball into the hole. I thought that this was the best way to score. However, my experience tells me that I need to hit the ball with enough energy so it travels 8″ past the cup.

On a side note, “Aimpoint (2013) & Pelz, (2000) identified that the optimum speed of a putt should finish 9 inches and 17 respectively, inches past the hole. However, a common distance referred to by professional golfers is 1 foot or 30 cm past (PGA Teaching Manual, 1990)”. For a more detailed scientific look at the putting distances see the article written by Dr. Paul Hurrion.

Putting the ball 8 inches past the hole works best for my game. To be fair, if I am within 3 feet, I use enough speed to hit to the back of the cup because I have found that being overly bold from close range is a detriment (you can figure out what works best for your game). By hitting the ball with enough speed to get past the hole offers the best opportunity to sink most putts. Additionally, it removes the tentative putting stroke from my bag. I know I have hit the ball with confidence to ensure that it has enough speed to drop. This style of putting definitely fits into my bold headspace I am trying to create when playing golf.

Playing bold golf by hitting to a longer distance on approach shots and putting past the hole are two ways I keep the tentative monster at bay. I know for experience that playing tentative just adds strokes to my final score. Therefore, I want to avoid this weak mindset as much as possible. My confidence builds after each successful shot and playing bold reinforces my confidence. Focusing on these two areas does lower my golf score and it should lower yours as well.

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


2 thoughts on “Playing Tentative Is A Recipe for High Golf Scores

  1. You can really get a wake up call on what playing aggressive can do to help lower your scores. When it’s birdie or bust, you seem to find a way to get the ball in the hole.

    I know I make more mistakes when I’m trying to finesse a shot than when I’m going for it.

    Liked by 1 person

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