Thinking Ahead Techniques For Course Management

    Golf is a sequential game, in that each shot follows up from where the last one ended (within each hole, at least). That being the case, it only makes sense to think about your shots as a series, and plan accordingly. The way you play the current shot is going to directly impact what you can do with the next one. This concept is particularly important with regard to approach shots into the greens. If you position your ball properly on or around the greens, you can make life much easier in the short game.

    While this is a tip that can benefit your short game, it is actually going to require you to make changes in your long game. When getting ready to hit an approach shot, you need to determine which side of the hole is the low side. In other words, on which side would you need to miss in order to setup an uphill chip or putt? You want to be playing short game shots in the uphill directly as often as possible. Pros call this ‘staying below the hole’, and it is one of the key building blocks to good course management.

    Let’s go through a quick example – imagine you are standing in the middle of the fairway, 150 yards away from the green, getting ready to hit an approach shot. You can see that the hole is located near the middle of the putting surface, and the green is sloped down from right to left. In this circumstance, the smart play would be to aim the shot just slightly to the left of the hole location. If you hit your target, you’ll leave yourself with an uphill putt for birdie. If you miss a little to the right of your target, you will be in great shape – because that means you will be even closer to the hole. Even if you miss left you will still be okay, as the longer putt (or chip) you are facing will at least be uphill.

    Most golfers, when faced with the situation described above, would just aim for the flag and swing away. However, if you are willing to pay close attention and think carefully about your plan, it makes more sense to aim just a bit to the left. This strategy gives you the best possible chance to leave yourself in prime position to have an easy putt. While this strategy is effective on all golf courses, it is particularly important when the course features fast greens and firm turf. With firm and fast greens, it will be difficult – or nearly impossible – to control your short game shots going downhill. Staying below the hole in such conditions is a prerequisite for success.

    You can also apply this same line of thinking to shots you play from around the edge of the green. When facing a difficult chip shot, for example, take a look at the area around the hole and decide which side of the cup would make for the easiest putt. You have even more control over your line when chipping as compared to when hitting an approach, so you should be able to execute on this point without much trouble. Leaving yourself easy putts is a great way to improve your up-and-down percentage.