When you start playing golf, you dream of getting the ball to fly. Once that is done and a little consistency maintained, you will find yourself on the golf course more and more. From there on, your focus becomes a never-ending journey of trying to score lower and lower.
I have been watching quite a few rounds of golf with weekend golfers. One common phenomenon among them and even intermediate players was that on most rounds they play, their score cards are usually spoilt by occasional 8s and 9s (triple and quadruple bogeys), ruining what may have been a decent scorecard.
How and why does this happen so often? In most cases, it is not lack of ability but a dreadful lack of course management. And what exactly is course management?
When running a business, good managers need to have both vision and skills to take their company ahead step-by-step. They must also have the ability to make the right decisions in a given situation by first analysing and then charting out possible consequences based more on facts than on emotions. Just as you would do this in business, you do it in golf too. You need to make the right non-emotional decision when planning your round and choosing the shot you wish to attempt.
For example, you are faced with a tee shot on a par five to a reasonably wide fairway where there is OB (Out of Bounds) on the right side and rough on the left. Emotionally, you feel like ripping it down the centre, even though you know you might not make it. However, it is wiser to aim left of centre and accept the consequence of a slightly errant shot ending up in the rough. The alternate possibility of slicing out of bounds is too severe a consequence to entertain.
Another example: most short par fours have fairways that narrow down and are designed to discourage a long tee shot. Yet most amateurs take out their driver without thinking and end up in deep trouble. Often, they don't even consider using their much more accurate five-wood or a long iron that would land them in the safest part of the fairway, keeping them 'alive' in the short grass with a greater attacking chance at the green.
Similarly when hitting towards the green, if the cup is cut on the right edge, instead of attacking the flag with a chance of missing the green on the right, it is better to take the centre part of the green or even miss the green on the left. A longer putt or a chip with plenty of green to play with is less daunting than a short chip with no place for the ball to stop rolling.
If there is trouble behind the green then play short of the hole. If there is a water hazard before the green, ensure you are not playing for the front edge. Ever watched Tiger Woods or other top players teeing off with an iron on a par four? What they are doing is simply avoiding certain risks and playing a better percentage shot.
Players need to be aware of their individual shot-making ability, plan and play accordingly. All these are a part of good course management. Sounds rational when you read it but it's amazing how often it is forgotten or ignored on the course.
Sensible course management always brings your scores down. Schedule a lesson with your favourite professional and ask him to explain each shot from the perspective of managing the course better. You will be surprised at how much you can learn.