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6 Strategy Tips for Improving Your Course Management

Published on 03/14/2023 · 7 min readGolf Expert Andrew Howard shares a few strategies to help improve your game and keep your shots a bit more consistent this season!
Andrew Howard, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Andrew Howard

Photo by Savatore Dinicola

What Is Course Management?

You might ask yourself, what is golf course management and how can it help my game? It's more than good fundamentals and fitted golf clubs. If you’re struggling to break 100, 90, or even 80, keep reading. It doesn't matter if you have a low or high handicap. The idea is to change an impulse or two. Doing so might lead to your lowest score ever or improved consistency. Who wouldn’t want that?

A golfer with a strategy can easily lower their scores. If you have a great golf swing but are still shooting high scores, discipline is the answer. The impulse to hit a hero shot from a forest 250 yards out onto a green with water hazards and penalty areas is a perfect example. The shot could cause a high golf score if not executed properly. But it's more than hero shots we need to avoid. Let’s dive into the specifics of good course management and how to turn in a great scorecard!

Pin Location

Photo by Carl Lindberg

Pin location, aka knowing where the flag is, is more important than you think. PGA pro golfer or not, it will lower your score. If there is a 110-yard approach and the pin is at the back of the green, hit the ball a little shorter than 110 yards. Why? The goal is to get the golf ball closest to the hole in the least amount of strokes, right?

Well, in a situation like this, if you hit the golf ball too far and past the pin, you might not even end up on the green to have a birdie or par putt. The important thing is having approach shot opportunities to par, birdie, or even pull off a great bogey save. In this scenario, hitting the ball in the middle of the green is a big positive!

It doesn't matter if you aren't close to the hole or are still on the green putting. You might 3-putt even though you hit the green, but you’ll still have a lower score than if you tried to hit the golf ball 110 yards and it took a hard bounce over the green. That’s a potentially tough chip shot. Things can get messy fast if you double bogey or worse.

Hit the Golf Ball to Your Favorite Yardage

Photo by Andrew Lomas

Hitting the ball close to your favorite yardage is important. Having that yardage to the flagstick gives you confidence too. Picture yourself on a Par 5. You hit a great tee shot down the fairway with only 260 yards to the pin. There is water in front of the green and the golf ball has to fly at least 230 yards in the air.

You think the wind at your back will help carry the ball, but there are bunkers and trees surrounding the green. If the ball lands in the water, you will hit your 4th shot and might hole out and make a birdie from your drop.

Avoid big score errors in these situations. Maybe you go for the green and hit into the water. You then drop from 50 yards because of the yellow-staked area without realizing you could have dropped from even further away; more on stakes later.

That 50-yard wedge shot is hard for you and you hit the golf ball well beyond the green. Now the next shot is even harder. It's okay not to hit a hero shot with a 3-wood or another club every time. Showing discipline and hitting good shots to your favorite yardage helps lower scores and gives you more confidence to execute the shot.

Know Red vs. Yellow

Golfers can use the red and yellow stakes to their advantage if they know the rules. Let’s return to the previous scenario where we hit our 3-wood into the water and now have to drop for a one-stroke penalty. Yellow stakes around the water mean you have two options: dropping the golf ball on the line where it entered the water or hitting from the same place.

This is an enormous advantage. We can drop the golf ball at 100 yards, your favorite yardage, which builds confidence because you love this distance! It lowers the chance of a bad shot and a higher score! If you are a visual learner, Dr. Greta does a great job explaining the difference between red and yellow stakes.

The two stakes aren’t the same. Imagine you’re on your favorite par 4 and you hit the ball into the water on the left side of the green into a red-staked area. Also known as a lateral hazard, it is impossible to get behind the water from where the golf ball went in, like on the Par 5 scenario above.

Instead, we must drop the golf ball from where we think it entered the penalty area and within the club-lengths of the red hazard line for a one-stroke penalty. Know the differences between the two stakes to maintain lower scores when facing difficult situations during golf rounds.

Tip: Not all penalty areas marked with yellow and red stakes have water. If you can or want to, play the shot from this area. It’s up to you!! The only requirement is the golf club cannot rest on the ground before hitting the shot. It must be slightly above the ground, essentially floating in the air like a bunker shot.

Distance Control

It’s important to know how far you hit each club. It’s a guessing game without this knowledge and could be the reason you don’t break 90 or 100. Take some time on the driving range or course and don’t keep score. At the driving range, aim for yard targets like 100, 125, etc. See if you can hit your pitching wedge 125 yards, swinging at a controlled and smooth tempo.

Track your yardages in your smartphone or a yardage book. On the course, take a golf cart and drop the ball from different distances on each hole like 75, 100, 125, and 150 yards and so on. This is a great way to build confidence and learn how far your clubs go.

The Importance of a Rangefinder

Have you been to the range or golf course and seen people using rangefinders? Maybe you’re on the fence about them or never thought about the benefits of using one. They help with precision and knowing your yardages.

Aim the rangefinder at the flag to calculate the distance. It’s a precision tool for hitting shots onto the green with the club yardages learned from your distance trails. There are a lot of rangefinders out there and they do different things. Some have slope, others not. What's the difference?

Rangefinders with slope measure the distance, taking any elevation change, up or downhill, into consideration. They are extremely helpful in determining precise yardage. However, rangefinders with slope are not legal for tournament play unless a local rule is in place for the tournament.

This rangefinder is great for people who want a quality device for practicing or don't plan on playing in golf tournaments. Some models, like this one, are a little more expensive, but you can turn the slope off. Which one you choose depends on your game goals.

Don't Use Your Driver on Every Par 4 and 5

Photo courtesy of Callaway

We talked about discipline, but it may be difficult sometimes to keep the big dog (the driver) in the bag. Say you have a tight shot on a Par 4 or 5 and the trouble (out of bounds, water, trees) starts around 250 yards. It might be better to hit the ball with a wood or an iron at 225 yards or under to avoid potential issues. This alone achieves lower scores by not putting more risk into play on tee shots. Before each shot, use your new rangefinder to aim at trees, bunkers, etc. to measure their distance and avoid hitting the ball too far! Try hitting it at least 15-20 yards under the number you captured with the rangefinder. If the fairways aren't soft, the golf ball will roll some!

I hope these tips help you achieve your lowest scores and build more consistency into your golf game. Reach out to a Golf Expert here on Curated if you have questions or are looking to get a new rangefinder! Play well!

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Andrew Howard, Golf Expert
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Andrew Howard
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Andrew Howard, Golf Expert
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