Manage your misses for lower golf scores
If you started playing golf with the dream of a 'perfect round' someday, how's that going for you? Have you come to the realisation that there's no such thing as perfect? If so, you're not alone.
There's a fine line between posting an impressive score or trudging back to the car park after a nightmare 18. Your ability to manage your miss will often determine which side of that line you fall.
No matter how dialled in you feel, you'll likely hit a few lousy shots in a round. Learning to navigate these misses can help you scramble par - or bogey at worst. If you miss in the wrong place, expectations of par can turn into a battle to avoid a double or triple, and the round can descend into chaos from there.
If you're regularly seeing promising rounds derailed by one or two card wreckers, use some of the tips below to help you avoid big numbers.
Know Your Own Miss
Understanding your golf swing tendencies is one of the starting points for managing your miss. If you've been playing a lot recently, you'll have a feel for whether you're more likely to push, pull, slice, or hook the ball.
If you're unsure, take out your Hole19 app and check your Performance section. Here you can delve into your driving accuracy statistics and see whether you lose more of your tee shots to the left or right. If your miss is generally on one side, choose a starting line that allows for that. It's a great way to take one-half of the hole out of the equation.
Know Where Not To Miss
If you're playing your local track, you'll have a good understanding of the general layout and the pitfalls that lie ahead. When you tee it up at an unfamiliar venue, you will make better decisions by looking at the hole's layout first (on your Hole19 app) and taking account of the trouble.
If you're approaching a green with water on approach, coming up short could be disastrous. If you aren't striking the ball as pure as you would like, take an extra club in case you catch one heavy. Off the back is always preferable to in the drink.
On the other hand, when short of the green is wide open and leaves you with an easy chip shot up to the flag, play for your miss to be short. The same goes if the green slopes back to front; short is often better than a nightmare chip shot back down the slope.
Knowing where not to miss helps you plan for where you want your ball to come to rest if you hit one a little skewiff. You'll shoot lower scores by identifying the red zones on the golf course and combining this with a better understanding your miss.
Balance Risk & Reward
Taking on a risky shot when the reward seems unlikely and the potential penalty is severe might seem the exciting play - but it's not a clever one. Despite this, many of us will go with the 'hero shot and it can often end in disaster.
Professional golfers talk about playing the percentages. You should too. Trying to thread one through the woods when you 'see a gap' might seem like an intelligent risk, but for every time you pull it off, many more will fail.
If you're a slicer, why would you go flag hunting when you know there's water all down the right side of the green? It sounds mad, but we can talk ourselves into shots we have no business taking on. If the possible reward doesn't outweigh the potential risk, it's best to reduce the danger.
Keep the ball in play, focus on your own game and don't get sidetracked by how your buddies are playing. Getting embroiled in a battle of egos is another surefire way to have a rough day on the links.
Avoid the short side
If you're playing on a course where the pins are located close to the fringe, chances are you'll end up short-sided at some point.
Being short-sided can return you to an internal risk/reward battle of wills. Your inner Mickelson wants to play a high flop shot and chase the glory, while your cautious self knows the key is to walk off with no worse than bogey.
The best way of dodging all that drama is to avoid the short side in the first place. Try creating an imaginary line that dissects the green and which the ball must not cross. Give yourself a reasonable margin for error and always aim well within the safer side of the green.
Get your head back in the game
The worst thing you can do after making a mental error is to compound it with another. One lousy hole isn't the end of the world. Opportunities to regain some ground will present themselves later in your round. Remember that par - or even bogey in some situations - is a good score.
Mental strength is an underrated quality in golf. Being patient and committed to your plan for the day can separate you from the competition. It's been said that 'the most important shot in golf is the next one', so let's make it your mantra for every round.
Plot your round one hole at a time and when that big miss comes, deal with it and move on. Ben Hogan only ever liked four or five of his shots per round, so don't hold yourself to unrealistic expectations when it comes to your own shotmaking.