A lot of players grow frustrated that their ability to post lower scores on their home golf course has become stagnant. They have reached a plateau, and have trouble finding rounds below 90 or below 80, or some other personal goal that they may have set for themselves.
While it may be true that most players who view golf as an occasional recreation will seldom take it seriously enough to work on the driving range for lower scores, there are quite a few of us Saturday afternoon hackers who could score better by simply realizing the limits to our abilities, and playing the course a bit safer. In other words, find the fairway and avoid the hazards.
1. Let’s look at the tee shot.
Most of the professional players are able to hit the long drives, often over 300 yards, and hit them straight. They are able to shape a shot such that they can play a slight fade or draw around a tree line. They are able to do that because they make a living at it, and spend hours and hours on a driving range practicing the same shot over and over.
Those of us who only play once or maybe twice a week would rather just go play the course, and not spend much time hitting balls on the practice tee. So we probably should not expect to develop a golf stroke that consistently produces a straight 300 yard drive. Still, we can concentrate on using a shorter drive, one within our abilities, to land in the fairway, and set up safely for the next shot.
2. Consider the second shot.
And why would some recreational golfers believe, after they have topped, sliced, or duck-hooked the last few long iron shots, that they should be able to hit a fairway wood 235 yards over the creek and onto the green of a par-5 hole?
The smart strategy, of course, is to play the shot that you know you can hit consistently, lay up short of the creek, hit the chip shot onto the green, and make a good putt. The goal of using one putt for a birdie on a long hole is much more achievable than trying to make eagle where even the long-hitters question reaching the green with the second shot.
3. Shots from the rough.
The other location where amateurs hurt their scores is from the rough. The long cut of grass on either side of the fairway was designed to make the shot harder to hit. While we may see a professional blast his way to the green in a single shot from 180 yards out, the recreational golfer trying the same shot may never even get the ball out of the high grass.
The safe shot from the rough, especially when the distance to the green is significant, may be to select a spot in the fairway short of the green, and make that the target. At least, with this shot, the ball is out of trouble. Follow the shorter shot with a plan to chip the ball close to the hole, and again depend upon one putt to salvage the par.
With these strategies in mind, it becomes apparent that accurate chipping, which can be hit in one’s own back yard, is the most effective use of practice time. Playing it safe on the course and chipping it close to the hole just might be the two moves that help the occasional golfer reach his scoring goals.