Golf can be an immensely satisfying game that many find to be a relaxing experience. While it takes a tremendous amount of skill and dedication to master, even beginners can enjoy the nuances of a relaxing afternoon round. A major part of being able to enjoy golf involves knowing how to play the game “smart.” For some players this means taking less risks. For others it means challenging the course. What does it mean for you?
The golf strategy you take onto the course depends primarily on two factors, the first being your individual level of skill. Forget handicaps for a minute and try to view your game through a more fundamental lens. Ask yourself the following questions:
1.) Are you a good ball striker?
In other words, do you consistently make contact with your Driver, your woods, your hybrid clubs, your irons and your wedges? Or do you frequently hit the ball fat, shallow or off the club’s heel or toe?
2.) Do you hit your clubs the appropriate distance and lofts?
Crushing a 9 iron 150 yards is impressive, but it’s not what the club was designed to do. Part of a good golf strategy is to let the natural loft of the club affect your shot. Better to hit your 7 iron for that 150 yard shot and keep your 9 iron at a high, arching 120-130.
3.) How do you recover from the rough, the bunker and other hazards?
Your ability to “make do” after a poorly executed shot should greatly influence your golf strategy. If you have mastered the punch shot out of the rough, maybe going for the green on a par 5 with heavy woods on either side of the fairway isn’t such a bad idea.
Your answers to these questions should help you build a mental profile of your game that you can use when crafting your strategy for each golf course. After all, these kinds of beginner golf tips or golf “tricks” are really nothing more than understanding the strengths and limitations of your own game and then applying them to each hole on a particular course.
Which brings us to the second factor that should be influencing your golf strategy: the unique challenges and demands of the course you are playing. Coming up with a great golf strategy that benefits your game is one thing. Carrying that same strategy over multiple golf courses with success is another; in fact, it’s more than likely impossible. The reason for this is that each golf course presents unique challenges that may or may not work with a singular “one-size-fits-all” golf course strategy.
Instead, you must be able to adapt your golf strategy to the current hole you are playing. How you adapt it depends on your knowledge of the course you are playing. The first place to look for golf course tips is the scorecard. Most scorecards offer previews of each hole, highlighting tees, fairways, greens, rough, bunkers and other hazards. Check the scorecard image of the hole for trouble before blindly firing that fairway wood over a hill to an unseen green.
Beginner golfers can also find useful golf course tips from the pro shop. Talk to the course pro, if he or she is available, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of other players who are familiar with the course.
Once you have sized up your own game and the challenges of the course, you can formulate a specific strategy for each shot. The more information you have will allow you to take a higher percentage shot in any given situation. In the end, this knowledge you have gained is better than any golf trick designed to fix a fundamental flaw in your game (and most flaws in a golf swing can only be corrected by taking beginner golf lessons from a pro).
Your basic strategy for each shot will come down to one of two options: attacking the course or playing it safe. Choosing to play it safe is not a “wimpy” decision; in fact, many professionals will chose to take a penalty drop rather than blast a ball from a hopeless lie. On the other hand, playing it safe is not always the same thing as playing it “smart” for every golfer. This is where that intimate knowledge of both your game and the golf course will come in handy.
For example, let’s say you are in the middle of the fairway on a par 5 after an excellent drive. You are about 200 yards from the green, which could be reached on your next shot. Depending on your level of skill, you can either go for the green or you can lay up for an easier shot. Some people will tell you that laying up is always the “smarter golf shot.” However, this is not the case with every golfer.
Let’s say you do decide to lay up instead of going for the green. You now have to execute an iron shot from fairway to fairway, without slicing, hooking, duffing the ball. You must also know exactly the right club to use; over-hitting or choosing the wrong club can place the hazards strategically positioned to guard the green into play. These are the same hazards you are supposed to be avoiding by “laying-up.”
Now, here’s the cruel part. Even if you do execute your layup shot perfectly, you will have to line up and execute yet another perfect shot to be on the green. And because you used a stroke getting to where you are now, you’ll probably need this next shot to be reasonably close to the pin. Executing two shots and making the second one special is a lot of pressure to put on a beginner golfer.
On the other hand, you could choose to go for the green. Perhaps you aren’t very accurate with your 5 wood or 3 iron or whichever club you hit to this distance. Maybe your short game around the green is solid, so that a miss won’t hurt your chances of getting up and down. Or, perhaps you have a good punch shot in your arsenal to recover from a slice or a hook into the rough.
Attacking the course may present a greater risk at first, but in the end you run many of the same risks that you face when laying up. And there is a greater reward. The bottom line is that the decision to attack the course or play it safe it a unique decision to each golfer, each golf course and each hole. Knowing your game and the course will give you the best opportunity to play smart golf and create a winning golf strategy.