How Can I Play Golf Smarter?
Playing a smart round of golf can do more for your score than any fix to your golf swing - even a major one. But, learning to play smartly is no small task. I can’t be there with you on the golf course, but I can absolutely give you some tips to get your game moving in the right direction.
Taking Your Time
Every shot counts the same on the scorecard. Whether it’s a 2-foot putt or 200-yard iron, it’s one tally on your total score. Taking your time on the greens is essential to not letting your mistakes compound. After missing a putt, do not finish up. Mark your ball. Take the time to properly read it. And finally, take a quality stroke—not a stroke on one foot.
Do not let a bad shot influence your next one. Just like on the greens, take the same approach with each swing. If you flub a chip, take a full reset. If you hit a ball OB, take a full reset.
If play is slow, do not rush through your shot once the fairway or green is clear. When it’s your turn, run through your full routine and focus only on your game, not anyone else’s on the course.
How Can I Play Golf Smarter Using What I’ve Learned
When I am struggling during a round of golf, it can be because I am repeating the same bad shot over and over. If you’re playing a long course and have to hit several woods, but hit a few bad ones in a row, consider a hybrid or long iron.
These clubs might not go as far with your best contact, but a well struck ball always trumps a poorly struck one. After all, we’re trying to play the game smarter. Sometimes it's smarter to lay up on the difficult hole and try to play a bogey golf. One bogey won't kill you, but it can definitely help you get through the hole without a higher number.
If you have a 5-foot opening and a 20-foot opening, there is an obvious safer play—the 20-foot opening. In most cases when you’re standing there asking “How can I play golf smarter?”, you already know the answer. After getting yourself into trouble, your focus should be on limiting damage, not making a full recovery.
If you make a safe punch out that advances the ball a bit, you’re putting yourself in a position to get back on track for the hole. This play keeps your score closer to par compared to hitting through a tight window where your score snowballs.
I also want to advise against hero shots. After all, they’re called hero shots in golf for a reason. In the earlier scenario, that 5-foot opening might have a line directly at the green, but the likelihood of succeeding is low. It might work once in a while, but the safe play is the conservative one.
How Can I Play Golf Smarter Around the Greens?
Not every chip needs to be a flop shot and not every chip needs to go in. If a bump and run or normal pitch can do the job, these lower risk shots should always be the play. If going directly at a flag opens the door for missing the green entirely, a shot to an area where the next one can be made is a smarter approach.
Middle of the Green Approach Shots
An approach shot that ends up on the green is a quality one. We watch pros play golf on TV and dial it in to 10 feet, but fail to consider the ones not highlighted regularly miss the green. As amateur golfers, aiming at the flag can be a trap. If your approach shot hits the green, you have a chance to make your next shot. When you miss the green, especially in dramatic fashion, you leave the door open for big numbers.
Keep in mind that a smart play is usually a safe and conservative play. Maybe you won't have a successful hero shot which you will remember at the end of the day, but you will definitely play better and score lower. Hero shots should be played when you're at least 70% sure you're going to make it. This means 7 out of 10 shots would land in the desired position.