Top 10 course management tips

KEVIN HAIME, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Last week we were treated to a terrific PGA Championship. We saw great shots, clutch putts, lots of drama, but mostly we saw how much intense pressure and raw emotion are part of our game. Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley both rode emotional rollercoasters at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Highs and lows are a huge part of golf and how you deal with them goes a long way to determining what kind of golfer you are and can become.

Well, it's club championship and tournament season right now, so many of you will be faced with the same nerves, situations and decisions that Dufner and Bradley just went through. How you deal with your emotions, nerves and how you manage your game will have more to do with your success than your ball striking or your putting stroke. Keeping that in mind, here are my Top 10 Course Management Tips.

Always Consider Your Next Shot: Never hit a shot without thinking about the shot that you'll be left with. Golf is a lot like chess. You have to move your ball around the course as efficiently as possible. Considering your next shot is a huge part of that. You should always hit a shot that leaves you with the easiest next shot.

Be Committed: Once you decide on the shot you want to play, the most important thing is to hit that shot with 100% commitment. Any hesitation will destroy your rhythm and results. Hit every shot with confidence and you'll be a much more consistent player.

Use Your Angles On The Tee Box: The tee shot is the only time on any hole that you can decide where you want to play from. Teeing your ball in the right spot can really make the hole play easier. As an example, if you're a right-handed player who tends to fade the ball, then tee up on the right side of the tee and aim down the left side of the fairway. That simple adjustment will give you much more room to drive your ball into the fairway. If you want to hit more fairways, choose your tee position wisely.

Develop A Pre-Shot Routine And Always Use It: A consistent pre-shot routine does many things. It gives you time to assess your situation, think about your shot and figure out your aim. It also takes some focus and pressure off your shot because it makes your actual swing just a part of your process rather than the only action you'll take. A consistent, thoughtful pre-shot routine will also really help with your rhythm and confidence.

Play The Odds: Never try a shot you don't have a strong expectation of making. If you can't hit a shot 8 out of 10 times, don't try it in competition. To play your best golf, you need to play to your strengths and figure out the course's weaknesses. Too many golfers try what I call a "hero shot" in competition. Those shots lead to more high numbers than poorly hit shots. Crazy risks or trying to hit a shot against your tendencies almost never pays off.

Aim For The Bull's-eye: The middle of any target is usually your best bet. That's true in archery or darts and it's pretty true in golf. It's never a bad idea to aim for the middle of the green, especially if you're not a single-digit handicap. From the middle of the green, you'll never have more than a 30-foot putt to any pin and you'll eliminate short siding yourself with tricky or impossible pitch shots. A pin tucked just a few feet from the edge of the green is called a "sucker pin" for a reason. More bogeys than birdies are made when hitting to those pins.

Stay In The Present: It's both distracting and a waste of time to think forward or back on the course. You certainly can't do anything about the past, so worrying about what's already happened is pointless and thinking about upcoming holes will prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. "One shot at a time" is a bit of a cliche, but when it comes to your golf score, it's an absolute must.

Stick To Your Game Plan: First of all, you should always have a game plan. Don't expect to play your best golf if you just blindly hit the ball off every tee without considering that hole's strengths and weaknesses. Golf is a thinking man's game that requires both preparation and strategy. Once you have a game plan, stick to it. Be patient and try to play every hole like you planned. It's almost never a good idea to get more, or even less aggressive mid-round.

Play For Your Favourite Putt: Every golfer has a putt they feel more confident with. Many golfers prefer right to left putts. Others prefer just the opposite. Some prefer uphill putts and others prefer downhill putts. Whatever you prefer, keep that in mind when you're hitting little chips and pitches around the green. If you're more comfortable with a certain type of putt, you'll have more confidence and make more putts from those areas.

Never Give Up: You don't need much of a memory to learn this lesson. PGA champion Keegan Bradley triple-bogeyed the 15th hole last Friday to drop five out of the lead with only three holes to play. Instead of throwing in the towel, he birdied two of his last three holes and then won a three-hole playoff. Every shot is critical in competition. If you lose your focus and waste even one shot, it may come back to bite you.


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