How to Improve Your Golf Course Strategy
When playing a round of golf, your course strategy is one of the big factors that determines how well you play and what score you shoot.
Every golf shot requires taking in information and deciding the best golf shot to play using that information.
Golf course strategy is all about identifying the risk factors and making the smart choice of club to play a shot that helps you get into the best position to score well on the hole.
In this guide we’re going to cover the different things to think about at the various stages of a golf hole starting with the tee box, then the approach shot, around the green, and putting.
Things to Know Before Hitting a Tee Shot
As you step onto the tee box for each hole on a golf course you’ll want to determine the following:
- What is the par and total distance of this hole?
- Are there any hazards to watch out for on the tee shot (bunkers, water, out of bounds)?
- If I hit my drive ____ yards, how many yards would I have left for my approach shot?
- Where is the best place to land the tee shot and where is the worst place to avoid hitting to based on the angle to the green for the next golf shot?
By asking these questions you can gather information to help you pick the right golf club to hit the right distance of golf shot to help you get into position for your next shot.
On par 3’s you’ll figure out what club gets you to the green and where to try and land the ball on the green to best avoid bunkers or tough downhill putts.
Make sure your tee height is set correctly for your drivers, woods, and irons so you can get height and distance on your tee shots. Set tee height lower to avoid wind and hit low shots as needed on windy days.
Try to avoid hitting towards trees so you don’t get stuck behind a tree for your next shot.
If water is on the hole, play a club distance that will stay short of the water or play a long enough club that you can easily get past the water. For example, if water is to the right at 250 yards, then reconsider hitting driver since this would be in the landing zone of your driver tee shot.
Course Strategy with Approach Shots
On par 4 and par 5 holes, even if you hit a bad tee shot that doesn’t make the fairway, you still have a chance to hit the green in regulation with your approach shot. Hitting the green in regulation then gives you an opportunity to make a birdie putt or two-putt for par.
Therefore, approach shots should take lots of focus and strategy to make sure you give yourself a high percentage chance of hitting onto the green.
How’s Your Golf Ball’s Lie?
Start off by assessing your lie. You may be in the fairway, the rough, the bunker, or possibly in an old divot.
If the ball is resting in the rough, then you’ll need a little extra swing speed to get the club through the thicker grass since it tends to grab the face of the club and slow it down.
If you’re in the fairway, then pick a club that will hit the ball the right distance to land 3-5 yards short of the hole so the ball has some room to roll once it lands.
If you’re in someone’s divot, try playing the ball back in your stance a little bit so you can pick it clean out of the divot and reduce the chance of chunking the shot.
When your ball happens to be in an awkward lie, then take note of the following strategies:
Ball Above Your Feet (uphill slope) – Play the shot more forward in your stance to help you make better contact and expect it to fly with a higher flight to the green. This may produce higher backspin so the ball lands softer with less roll on the green.
Ball Below Your Feet (downhill slope) – Play the shot more back in your stance so you catch the ball at the right point of the bottoming of your swing relative to the slope. This will hit a lower golf shot so anticipate lower flight and more roll.
Side Slope Above Feet – Expect the ball to want to curve back toward you in the air with slight draw. So if you’re hitting on a side slope where the ball is above your feet, then it will want to go a little left (draw) in the air so aim more right of your target.
Side Slope Below Feet – Expect the ball to go away from you in the air (cut / fade / slice). Aim a little more left to adjust for the ball wanting to fly to the right with a fade curve.
What’s Your Angle to the Green?
Next, look at your balls angle to the green. Do you have a clear line to the green? Or is there an obstacle in the way such as a tree or bush? If there are bunkers or water along the line to the hole, can these be easily avoided or is there a chance the ball lands in them?
If you find that you have obstacles in your line to the green, then you may have to play a different line. The goal will be to get the ball as close to the green as you can, but you’re anticipating needing to hit another shot still after, to get onto the green.
For example, maybe you have to hit a punch shot to get out from behind a tree and back into the fairway, but this will leave you 60 yards from the green still. Then you’ll try to hit your 60 yard shot as close to the pin as possible to still save a par.
Is There Wind?
Think about the wind as well when hitting approach shots. If there is wind, determine which way it is blowing by picking some grass and holding it in the air, releasing it so that you can see where the grass flies.
When wind is behind you, blowing toward the green, then take less club or swing 90% to factor in that the wind will help the ball fly farther than normal.
When you are facing the wind coming at you, take more club or swing a little harder to get the ball to fight through the wind. You can also play a less lofted club that helps hit a lower shot to get through wind easier than hitting a high shot.
Side winds can be adjusted for by aiming a little more left or right depending which direction the wind is blowing.
Course Strategy When Putting
Once on the putting green, now it’s time to focus on making your putt and getting off the hole in as few strokes as possible. If you have a tendency to three putt, then you may need to adjust your putting routine and focus more on speed control.
Read the greens for slope / break
Start off with reading the green. Which way does the green slope and how will that affect the golf ball as your putt is rolling towards the hole.
How far of a putt do you have?
If you’re outside of 10 feet, you should probably focus more on speed control and just try to get the putt close to the hole so you have an easy 2nd putt into the cup.
If you are less than 10 feet away from the hole, you should try to make the putt. Determine if there is any break in the green and align your putt to adjust for this break. Hit the putt with enough speed to get it to the hole and give yourself a chance to make the putt, but don’t hit too hard that the ball rolls more than 1-2 feet past the hole
Uphill or Downhill?
When putting uphill, give the ball a little extra power since you’re fighting gravity and the ball is rolling uphill.
On downhill putts, gravity will help the ball down the hill so you don’t need to be as powerful with your putting stroke.
It’s ideal to face an uphill putt as opposed to a downhill putt. Uphill putts are usually easier to make since you can give the putt a more firm stroke and not risk hitting it too far past the hole since the uphill slope slows it down easier as compared to downhill.
Try to leave your approach shots and chip shots on the side of the hole that will give you an uphill putt if possible.