From the most basic beginner, all the way up to record-breaking master pros like Tiger Woods, every golfer has experienced the sweat and surprise of swinging great on the range and then clunking it over and over out on the course. This phenomenon is often referred to as the inability to take your “practice game” into the competition. This can happen for a few reasons, but it’s usually a lack of planning and mental preparation. In short, you need a swing strategy. And, you need to be mentally prepared to apply it out on the golf course.
Create a course management strategy based on swing habits
Many pro golf instructors will spend a lot of time and energy teaching their amateur pupils about course management, or a game strategy that particularly plays to the specific course you are on. Honestly, this can be a really smart game plan sometimes. It is also referred to as position golf, meaning that you should try to land your shot in the best position for your next shot, and not necessarily just the closest to the hole you can get. But let’s talk about the where, when and why behind the choice to play to your swing type and not to the course.
First of all, we’re not saying you should totally ignore the conditions of the course you’re playing, and you do so at your own peril. Rather, we’re suggesting that it’s a good idea to view course layout and conditions and then create a course management strategy through the lens of your own personal swing habits and performance. So the next time you get to the range to warm up before your 18 holes, try the following first before teeing-off.
Exercises to try before teeing off
After warming up with a few easy shots, notice how well you’re swinging today. Are you driving 300s right down the middle? You’ve got your A-swing with you today. Are you shanking pop-offs straight into the net on the right wall of the range? You may have brought your C-swing.
No matter. Monitor your swing rhythm and tempo. Try to stay consistent as you switch between clubs and shots. Consistency is key to developing a good swing strategy. Staying as consistent as you can, notice any patterns in your swing. Are you tending toward a draw or a fade? Use this to your advantage. Your job is to take whatever swing you’re working with today and use it to the most benefit possible out on the course.
How to adjust your swing
- Is the wind pushing west while you’re driving north toward the green? Don’t bother doing anything to correct your natural fade.
- Are the greens moving really slowly? No need to attempt that difficult backspin on your approach shots to make your ball stick.
- Is it a long drive hole and you’re chunking your driver? Go ahead and club down to your three wood. Taking two shorter, more accurate strokes could very well land you in a better place than taking one “lost ball” or hazard shot.
- Is the front side of the green padded with bunkers and you’ve been having trouble with accuracy? Try clubbing up, hitting just past the green, and chipping it backward to avoid getting lost in the sand.
Remember: your swing is variable
In summation, even if you spent the night before your tee-off studying the course map and developing a course management strategy, you need to be prepared to switch up your plans according to where you’re tending with your swing in the moment. Sometimes the biggest mistake in a game of golf can be attempting to get the perfect shot every time. In reality, your swing is variable and can’t be expected to be totally uniform every day you’re out on the course. Try our advice and play to your swing, rather than to the course, and let us know how it goes!
— C. Pedroja