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Course Management Essentials

Posted on 26th January, 2016 / Source: Jayme Young, Arbutus Ridge


What is Course Management?  If I was to ask an average Amateur Golfer this question what would they say?  Would it be the same answer as a Professional?  Through my experiences playing with amateurs over the years I would say that the answers would be quite different.  In this article I am going to identify where I feel the main course management errors are made and how you can pick up strokes in your game without even practicing!

Course Management Error #1 – Driver all the time

On the tee box, if it is not a par 3, many players pull their driver out of the bag and try to hit the ball as far as possible regardless of hazards, out of bounds or the length of the hole.  Golf is a game of percentages and being self aware about your golf game is paramount to success.  If you know that you tend to be a bit crooked with your driver and there is trouble on both sides of the hole then using a club you can control off the tee would be the more prudent play.  Additionally there is a thought amongst amateurs that closer to the green is better.  Often it is, however there’s more to it than that; how good are you from 60 yards?  Are you more accurate from 100 yards?  If a golfer is self aware about their game they will know what the appropriate play for them would be.  I would suggest for your next round to plan your club choice off the tee with the above information in mind.  Once you have tried this compare your score to when you just play a regular game and you might be surprised at the results.  

Course Management Error #2 – Not knowing yardages

It always amazes me when I ask a player how far their 7 iron goes when they hit it well and they say “oh between 140-150 yards”...yikes!  You might as well say “if I hit this perfectly I could either hit it on the green or in that front bunker,” or “I could hit it close to that back pin position or into the out of bounds behind the green.”  One of the fist rules of course management is to know to the yard how far each of your clubs goes in the air when you hit it well.  Just knowing this number will give you the confidence that you’ve picked the right club and will help you avoid poor results when you’ve hit a well struck shot.

Course Management Error #3 – Not playing to your strengths

Very few professionals hit the ball straight and they do this on purpose!  If you consistently fade the golf ball (ball moves left to right in the air) or draw the golf ball (ball moves right to left) it is a strength.  Having the ability to eliminate one side of the golf course because your ball always moves in one direction is an asset that many tour players rely upon.  The difference between the professionals and amateurs is knowing how to utilize this strength.  If a player consistently fades the golf ball they should always aim at the left side of the fairway, if their ball goes straight, no problem.  If their ball fades they have the whole width of the fairway to fade the ball into.  Amateurs have been taught to aim down the middle of the fairway but if their ball never goes left and always fades then why would they do this?  Effectively they have cut the landing area, where a large percentage of their shots would land, in half.  This also applies to shots into the green.  If the flagstick is on the left side of the green for a player that fades the ball then aim at the pin.  If the ball doesn’t go straight then at least it has the largest portion of the green to fade into.  If the pin is on the right hand side then aim at the larger portion of the green to the left of the pin and allow your ball to maneuver towards it.  If the ball goes straight in this instance you are still on the green.

Course Management Error #4 – Aiming at the flagstick all the time

I am sure we have all heard the term sucker pin! Well if you have not, it is when the pin is near a hazard with little room around it to have the ball stop close. An example at Arbutus Ridge would be hole #9 when the pin is on the back right portion just over a deep bunker with a ravine to the right side.  Now you could go for it and you may be able to put the ball close but the risk is high because of where your ball might end up if you didn’t hit the perfect shot.  Regardless of how confident you are in your fade or distance control as mentioned in the previous course management errors, sometimes it’s best to play away from the pin to ensure you eliminate the big number from your scorecard.

Course Management Error #5 – Trying to hit the miracle shot

Another error that most golfers need to eliminate is trying to make up for their bad shots by trying to hit a shot they would make only 1 in 10 times, even if it’s one in 3 times it’s probably not worth it.  When you put yourself in a bad position TAKE YOUR MEDICINE don’t try to pull off the miracle shot because if you don’t, chances are you will see a big number on your scorecard. The best way to approach this situation is to take your lumps and punch out to a spot where you can make a good swing for your next shot. This was one of my personal demons but when I learned this discipline and applied it to the way I played golf I started to make more pars or bogeys instead of doubles, triples or worse.

Course Management Error #6 – Not paying attention to my lie, stance and the elements

The last error on this list is when golfers don’t take into account the elements and how the ball is sitting, both on the ground and in relation to their stance.  There are many situations to consider that, if you took your normal stance and swing, would not produce the shot you are looking for.  Situations such as: ball in a divot, ball above or below your feet, ball in thick rough, etc, all provide different challenges that require slight adjustments in our fundamentals to execute the shot properly.  For example, for a right handed golfer, if you find your ball is slightly above your feet the ball will go a little left of where you’re aiming.  However, to hit this shot solidly you need to make adjustments to your set-up by having the weight slightly more towards your heels and choke up on the club to adjust for the ball being a bit higher than normal.  As for the elements such a rain and wind, it takes a lot of experience to know how to adjust for the conditions.  Knowing when to take and extra club or how to hit the ball lower than your normal trajectory are all important elements of becoming a well rounded master of course management.  So as you approach your golf ball make sure you are trying to assess everything to help you make the best possible shot.

I hope this insight into course management has helped.  As always if you have any questions please feel free to get in contact with me.

Jayme Young
Associate Golf Professional, Junior Golf Coordinator and GBC Golf Academy Instructor 
Arbutus Ridge Golf Club

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