On tomorrow’s Back Nine Radio Show we’re going to discuss the dos and don’ts of keeping your golf statistics. I’ll admit, I’m a numbers guy and after each round I’ll reflect back on my round and record certain statistics I feel will help me understand where I need to improve. I’ll use this information as a way to focus my practice sessions and ultimately to determine a game plan for my next round of golf. Golf is a game of misses, so knowing where you are missing and where you’re vulnerable will go a long way towards improving your course management skills.
All this being said, I’m a big advocate of when you are on the golf course, just play the game. Leave your swing thoughts on the practice tee and bring with you one swing feeling to get your through the round. Prepare yourself to play the round with what you have that day and focus on executing your game plan.
Now this is where I see a lot of players struggle on the golf course. They don’t have a plan. You don’t have to be PGA Tour player competing for millions of dollars to implement a game plan into your round of golf. If you enjoy getting better at this game and measure your success by a lower handicap, pay attention here as you’ll quickly realize fewer shots are wasted during a round if you go into the round with a game plan.
Let’s assume your playing a golf course you’ve played before (we’ll address playing a new course in just a bit). You know the distances of the holes you’ll be playing and you likely have a tendency of what clubs you hit off the tee on each hole. Now before you immediately plan on hitting the same clubs as you usually do off each tee, let’s consider the course conditions you’ll be facing that day. Check the direction of the wind, the amount of roll in the fairways and based on this information consider modifying your strategy off the tee, but do this modifying before your round starts. Once the round is underway, you want to think only about the shot at hand, and as little about club selection off the tee as possible. Too many players get in their round and try to press things and decide to hit Driver where they planned to hit an iron or fairway wood. Stick with your plan that you devised before the round regardless of how well or poorly you are scoring. I don’t care if you’ve missed four consecutive fairways with your Driver, if you planned to hit it again on the next hole, hit it.
Following your round is when you can reflect back on your day. Record your fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts, which side you missed on (right, left, long or short). Record if you were able to save par from thick rough, bunkers, etc. As much information as you can record the better, as long as you are doing it after your round. Don’t try and record all of this information on your scorecard during the round as you want your brain on autopilot while you are playing.
Once you understand your tendencies, not only will you develop practice sessions to work on your weaknesses, but you can also modify your next game plan to ensure improvement in fairways hit, greens in regulation and so on. If you continue to struggle hitting fairways with your Driver, you’ll want to consider hitting more fairway metals or hybrids off the tee. And once you’ve learned to get the ball in play more consistently you can consider adding the benefits of increased distance by incorporating more Drivers into your round.
So this is all great if you are playing a golf course you are familiar with. But what about when you are playing a course for the very first time?
Every course is designed to be played a certain way. The course architect has built in landing areas that maximize room and offer more forgiveness off the tee. You’ll often find this area of maximum forgiveness is between 140 yards and 175 yards from the green. If you are playing the correct teeing area, you should be able to hit a Driver or Fairway wood into this general area. When playing a new golf course, make your first priority to position your tee shot into this area of maximum forgiveness. Literally walk up to the teeing area, figure out how far the hole is and how far you need to hit it to get into this 140 – 170 yard from the green distance. Then choose the appropriate club to get you into this area. If it only requires a hybrid to reach this area, hit the hybrid.
When developing your strategy for approach shots, plan on playing every shot to the middle of the green. Typically the yardage you get from the sprinkler head or yardage stake will be to the middle of the green. Once you’ve confirmed this is the case, plan on hitting every approach shot to this distance with no concern over a front, back, right or left hole location. Again, give yourself maximum margin for error.
If you approach a par 5 that you aren’t able to reach in two, immediately plan to hit a hybrid or fairway metal instead of Driver. We’re looking to pick our spots to be aggressive and we’re not going to get baited into being aggressive when it’s not going to reward us for taking the risk.
Knowing your tendencies, weaknesses and strengths is paramount to scoring well but don’t inhibit your athletic ability by bogging your mind down with analysis in the middle of the action. You won’t see Kobe Bryant examining his shot chart at halftime to understand his shooting percentages when he dribbles left or right before taking his jump shot. After the game he will study his weaknesses, but in the midst of the game its all about reacting and playing. The same discipline should be used in your golf game.