The quest for game-improvement never ends for amateur golfers, but while we all spend endless hours working on our golf swing at the range, and can get all starry-eyed looking at shiny new golf clubs online, how many of us take a serious look at our golf course management?
If we can think a good game, then the chances are we'll play better golf and, ultimately, get that handicap moving south. To help you with your own golf course management, we've listed a collection of our top 10 tips which will help you (and every golfer here at Hole19 HQ) take a more considered approach to the game.
Preview the course before you play
Your round starts way before you step up to hit your first tee shot. Do your homework the night before your next round, and it could be the difference between a frustrating 18 holes and posting your best round ever.
Whip out your Hole19 App, download the course you're playing, and start to formulate your plan of attack. If it's the first time you've played this track, pay particular attention to the position of hazards and let the hole layout guide your tee-shot selection.
Know (don't guess) your yardages
You must have reliable in-round yardages to help you find the putting surface with your approach shots, and to keep you out of as much trouble as possible on the golf course.
Your Hole19 GPS App is tailor made for this very task, and you'll get accurate distances to the front, middle and back of the green, helping you play to any pin position more confidently.
Have a favourite yardage
Having to take something off your full golf swing can lead to a poor strike for many golfers. If this is true of your game, and if you have a yardage that you're confident hitting a full shot from, you should try to leave that number as often as possible.
If that means taking a shorter club from the tee to make sure you're not left with a 3/4 wedge, instead of your preferred trouble-free full 9iron, then so be it. Your scorecard will thank you. Playing to leave your favourite yardage more often will reduce the number of wayward shots.
Always factor in the course conditions
While it's a great help having the correct yardage, you will need to factor in wind conditions and the firmness of the fairways and greens to help you 'throw darts' at the flag.
Hard, firm fairways might be welcome when it comes to ripping your driver deep into green-light territory, but make sure you factor in the firmness of the green itself for the next shot. It's no fun watching your ball land first bounce on the putting surface only for it to catapult into a whole heap of trouble behind.
Have a trusty 'go-to' long club
A long iron (or hybrid) can be a useful weapon for a wide spectrum of golfers. Single-digit handicappers may use them to reach long par-3s or perhaps a par-5 in two, while those with a little less length off the tee can use this option to open up the possibility of a green-in-regulation on longer par-4 holes.
Also, as we all know, the driver is quite an unforgiving club from the tee-box; having a reliable 'go-to' club could be the answer to keeping the ball in the short stuff.
Take your medicine
A straightforward message here: Don't be a hero.
Just because you think you can embrace your inner-Bubba Watson (circa. 2012) when you're deep in the trees, the odds of you pulling off your own 'shot for the ages', when a forest sits between you and the flag, are far from healthy.
If your ball is caught up gnarly rough, or trees impede the line to the green, a perfectly valid option is to chip out to your favourite yardage. The key is to get back in play, and you could still save your par.
Avoid the short side
If you're playing on a course where the pins are placed devilishly close to the perimeter of the green, chances are you'll end up short-sided at some point. The smart golfer will employ good course management practices to try and avoid this situation at all costs.
A good suggestion of how to avoid leaving yourself short-sided include the idea of creating an imaginary line which the ball must not cross. If the ball crosses the line, making par will be very tricky. Always aim well within the safer side of the green.
Leave an uphill putt
The difference a golfer feels when standing over an uphill six-footer or downhill six-footer for par can be night and day. As these putts increase in distance, that feeling becomes amplified, so it's essential to aim for a spot on the green close to the pin which offers an uphill roll.
While you should never fear the downhill putt, if you can start leaving your ball under the hole more frequently, you'll see your scores tumble. Two-putt pars will quickly morph into your fair share of birdies, and three-putt avoidance will skyrocket
Let it go
While much of proper course management comes down to making the right decisions at the right time, none of that is possible if your judgement is impaired after hitting a stinker of a golf shot.
There's real truth in the famous quote 'the most important shot in golf is the next one', and it should be the bedrock of your more considered approach to golf. Clear your head after hitting a ball OB, fat, thin, and everything in between. Check your Hole19 App to help make your next shot selection, and get back in the game.
On a similar note: if you catch a bad break, there's no use in feeling sorry for yourself. Suck it up. Move on.
Know your limitations
Some golfers can struggle to play within themselves and, at times, will attempt golf shots they have no business taking on. Some of this is ego. They may thrash driver off the tee to keep up with playing partners, or perhaps vainly attempt to eek every possible yard out of their longest club to reach a green that's clearly beyond their limits.
Knowing your limitations and playing to your strengths need not be the same as playing golf negatively. Instead, professionals might refer to it as 'playing the percentages'.
Sure, we can all pull off a 'worldie' of a golf shot here and there, however, the next time you try it, you could just as easily wreck your card as shave off a single stroke.