If you would analyze every round you play, stroke by stroke, I would bet you give away at least two strokes per side for no good reason. It doesn’t have anything to do with how well you hit the ball, but with how well you play the game. Here are ten good ways to prevent throwing away strokes.
1. Recovery shots off the tee shot – if your course has heavy rough or lots of trees, you can waste several shots per round just chipping the ball back into the fairway. On a course like this, leave your driver home.
2. Playing over water – Bad things happen when you play over water if you don’t have to. Figure the longest club in your bag that you’re sure you can get in the air. If you have to hit a longer club than that to clear the water, go around or lay up.
3. Nutrition and hydration – Around the fourteenth hole, we can get tired. Prevent that by having a sip of water on every tee and eating a snack on about every third tee.
4. Hitting when you’re not ready – If you feel anything about the shot you’re going to hit that is off, step away and gather yourself. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself saying in about four seconds, “Why did I hit that? I knew I wasn’t ready. ”
5. Getting angry – You’re not as good as your good shots, nor as bad as your bad ones. Accept what happens and move on.
6. Playing with the distance you want, not the distance you have – If 155 yards with a 6-iron is a good shot for you, and you’re 153 yards from the pin, don’t hit six! Take out the five, grip down, and put a smooth swing on the ball. The extra club in your hand takes the pressure off and you’ll hit a better shot.
7. Two short shots in a row – At the professional level, the short shot takes the place of the approach putt. At the amateur level, the short shot is meant to get the ball on the green. Getting the ball close to the pin is secondary. Whatever it takes, get your first short shot on the green, two-putt close at least.
8. Not aiming your greenside chips – When the ball is close enough to the green that you truly can give it a run at the hole, line up the shot like you would an approach putt. This avoids hitting your chip hole-high but four feet to the left and gives you a chance to leave the ball tap-in close or even sink it.
9. Ignoring contours around the hole – When the ball gets near the hole, it won’t be rolling very fast, and will thus be greatly influenced by contours, much more so than in the early stage of its run. On a thirty-foot putt, the roll from six feet in is what makes the difference.
10. Not taking lessons – Don’t hit from the rough very well? It’s not hard to do. Do uneven lies give you fits? They shouldn’t. Can’t hit the chip from 30 yards? Simplest shot there is. Get a list of shots that give you a hard time and have a pro show you how to hit them. I don’t understand why so many golfers won’t do this. I just don’t.