Playing Smarter = Playing Better

By Greg Schulze

Have you been working real hard with your local pro or on your own to improve all your swing and short game techniques but haven’t seen the results on your scorecard? Sure some blame has to be placed on swing flaws, but how much can be placed on poor course management? Someone once told me that at the end of every round I need to ask myself if I shot the lowest score I could and got the most out of my round regardless of my techniques. In other words, how SMART did I play not how GOOD did I play. There is a television commercial with a group of people making fun of a phrase Tiger Woods sometimes uses after a victory. He has said that he “did not have my A game today”. If he admits that he did not have his best swing working, how did he MANAGE to win? Here are some ideas for smarter and better golf:

Someday ride or walk your favorite course backward, meaning from greens to tee boxes. You’ll be surprised at how different the course looks and you may begin to understand some visual traps the course designer has set up for us players to fall into who only look at a hole from tee to green. One of the goals of an accomplished course designer is to try to create some optical illusions from the tee box to make the hole appear more difficult than it really is.

Don’t follow the leader! Just because all your playing partners are using their drivers off tight holes doesn’t mean you should. Think of the goal of the tee shot is to use the longest club you can as long as you know you can hit the fairway. A 5-iron in the fairway is better than a driver OB!

Know your limitations. Never attempt a shot on the course which you haven’t successfully practiced on the range a high percentage of the time. What percentage is required before you try that shot on the course? That answer is up to each golfer to decide.

Risk vs. reward. Do the math. Will attempting a shot over a hazard gain you a shot? Always weigh the rewards for trying a difficult shot versus the potential disastrous results if the shot does not come off as planned.

Information is power. When you have a shot into the green, what information do you use to choose the correct club? Do you rely on yardage only? Many golfers seem to have created a graph in their minds for the distance each iron shot goes. What’s your “150 yard club?” What’s your “180 yard club?” The true answer should be that you don’t have one. The club I use from 150 yards or 180 yards depends on many factors such as wind strength and direction, the lie of the ball, the type of grass, the temperature, the elevation of the green, the location of the flag, the locations of bunkers and more. Becoming a better course manager requires building the skill of quickly and sub-consciously analyzing ALL factors which go into club selection. And your two best teachers of this skill are learning from failure and playing experience.

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