Four Techniques Playing a Course for the First Time

    Even with a well-rounded game that is prepared to handle a variety of situations, you are still going to need a plan when playing a course for the first time. There are certain challenges associated with playing a new course, such as not knowing the layout of the course, being unfamiliar with the grass, and more. You get used to having a certain degree of local knowledge when you play the same course over and over again. When you go to a new course, however, you will have no local knowledge, and you’ll need a plan to get through all 18-holes successfully.

    When you take your next trip to play a golf course for the first time, consider keeping the following tips in mind.

  • Use a conservative game plan. During your first round on a given course, you really don’t have enough local knowledge to take many risks. Instead, you should do your best to stick with a conservative plan, playing toward the wide side of the fairways and the middle of the greens. This might not be quite as exciting as taking on risky shots, but it is the right way to go on a new course. If you decide to come back to this course in the future, you will be able to take a more aggressive approach in future rounds, thanks to the knowledge you have gained.
  • Ask in the pro shop. When you check in for your round, ask a few questions while paying your greens fee for the day. Simply tell the worker in the pro shop that you are visiting for the first time and would appreciate any advice they can pass along. Ask specifically about the greens, with relation to speed and how much they break. You might be surprised at how much valuable information you can get just by chatting in the pro shop before you head out.
  • Have a way to measure distance. You won’t be able to base your club selections on experience when playing a new course, so it is a good idea to have a distance measuring device on hand. The two most-popular types are laser rangefinders and GPS devices. If you have one of these devices, be sure to bring it with you for this round, as you’ll have a much easier time picking the right clubs when you have high-tech help with your distances. Of course, if you happen to be playing this new course as part of a tournament, make sure your distance-measuring device is allowed under the rules of the event.
  • Learn on the go. You might make a few mistakes on the early holes as you get used to this new course. For instance, you might hit a couple putts too hard, or too soft, as you work on learning the speed of the greens. Or, you might hit an approach shot over the green, not realizing that the ball carries better at this course than it does at your home course. Rather than continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again, you should adjust on the fly and make the changes that are necessary to get your round moving in the right direction.
  • The first time you go to play a course away from your home course, it is likely that you have a few struggles along the way. That’s okay – you can still have plenty of fun playing a new course, even if you don’t post a great score. As you gain experience with this kind of challenge, however, you’ll get better and better at playing well on unfamiliar courses. In fact, you’ll start to look forward to the opportunity to play a new course, and you just might post some of your best rounds in this type of situation.