When you have played a golf course more than once you will begin to develop attitudes about certain holes that can have an effect on your game. A successful finish on a difficult hole may increase your ability to navigate that hole successfully in the future. The converse is also true, if for some reason your tee shot went errant and you spend the rest of the hole trying to recover with one bad shot following another, this will also be recorded. Once you have played a course for the first time you should be developing a mental strategy for achieving your best possible score.
It is amazing to watch as week after week the professionals go to different golf courses and no matter what the conditions they seem to score well and meet the demands of the course. In most cases for a 4 day tournament they will have arrived on Monday or Tuesday at the latest, typically play in a pro-am on Wednesday and by Thursday they are teeing off. In their golf mental game they have already developed strategies for the methods they will use to conquer the more challenging holes.
Here are some questions to consider when you play a course for the first time. Use these questions to formulate your strategy for your next visit.
- Should I be using a driver to tee off on this hole? Sometimes a driver will get you into more trouble. In a lot of cases the better option would be to use a lesser distance club that you can control to set yourself up for the next shot. A driver may bring you the distance that you want but it is not the most accurate club in your bag. If you can shape your shots with a driver then use it. If that distance will put you through the fairway into the deep rough, it is not the best club to use.
- What is the best club that I can be using to make the shot that I need? You are 120 yards out and beneath some trees, do you use your 9 iron? (I know dumb question but I have unfortunately seen it happen more than once) Maybe the better club would be a low flying 5 iron chip or “stinger”.
- Is it always best to shoot straight for the hole? Should I always advance the ball toward the target? If you are in serious trouble as in behind a tree it is better to take your next shot to get back into the fairway so that your following shot is set up to get you there. I see this all the time, people trying impossible shots that most professionals would not attempt.
- Where is the flag on the green? What is the best angle of approach to the flag. As a general rule this does not come into play very often, however there are times when the pin placement means that you can access it much better from the left side or right side. When you are teeing off it is very useful to know. A pin placement on the back left side of the green is much more accessible from the right side, than over a bunker on the left.
- Is the shot that I am about to attempt within my capabilities? I know, you have seen Phil Mickelson execute this fantastic “butterfly lob” from the hillside of the raised green. Have you practiced this shot enough to be able to execute it? If not then use a shot that you are confident of making.
- When do you lay-up? You are 230 yards out from the hole, but there is a lake to cross a hundred yards down the fairway. Too many times I see this, the odds of getting the perfect fairway boomer with your three wood are significantly less than a couple of well placed wedge shots. The first shot will keep your ball dry the second could be in the cup!
- Does my previous experience on this hole dictate my performance today? So the last time you played, this or that happened and you had a bad experience with this hole. Does that mean that every time you play this hole something bad is going to happen? Take some time to study the hole. Course designers lay out a lot of holes out with visual obstacles that really should not affect your shot, but they do if you let them. You tee off on a hole with a lake running down the right side, the lake seems to creep into the center of your vision even though the fairway is directly in front of you. Focus on your perfect shot for the fairway, your previous lake ball should not dictate today’s performance.
Keep these questions in the next time you hit the course. They may help you to score better, especially on the second round for a new course. Below is a good video which illustrates some of the things which I have mentioned.
Hit them Straight and Seldom.