Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve heard it all before, I should leave my driver in the bag, and not chip when I can putt around the green.” In some cases, yes, this can be good advice, but the purpose of this guide is to get you thinking about strategy in a slightly different way, a way that’s specific to you. Every player has their own strengths and weaknesses and because of this we each have our own optimal strategy.
Players who are accurate with the driver should choose more aggressive plays from the tee; players who excel with their wedge should use it around the green whenever they can.
I recently ran a poll on my Instagram Account which you may or may not have voted in asking when people enjoyed their golf the most…
- A- When their ball striking wasn’t great, but they scored well.
- B- When they didn’t have their best score but hit it great.
The answer was A by 63%…
With this in mind- This guide will give you a small insight into how to begin strategizing so you can score better! And as a result, enjoy golf more!
Step 1: Do Your Homework
A good strategy starts from before you even arrive at the golf course.
Most Golf Courses will have yardage books that will include images like this, but if you don’t have yours in the house, you can look at your home course from your computer or phone using Google Earth!
I first learned how to use Google Earth to study courses from Scott Fawcett’s brilliant course management system called DECADE. Well worth checking out!
When studying your home course begin by taking note of,
- High Risk Penalty Areas (E.g. OB)
- Measure Safe Landing dispersion areas for your carry distances
- The hardest Places to get up and down from around the green.
Remember, these numbers you need to make custom to you and what your distances are. Each player will have their own best strategy based on their skill level. Armed with this knowledge we now need a baseline for how to pick our targets and clubs- This all starts with having the correct expectations.
Step 2: Expectations are Everything
The next step requires us to become aware of and set realistic expectations for ourselves so we can make good decisions.
In order to do this, we must have a solid assessment of our skill from certain distances. Don’t worry if you haven’t been tracking your proximity to the hole stats, we are lucky these days to have access to lots of statistics from the best players in the world. If we look at their expectations from certain distances, it gives us a great starting point for ours. Let’s look at an example.
This is usually the approach shot on the par 5 13th where I teach in Marbella. The pin is very often cut at the front of the green. Visually it’s an attractive pin but due to the design of the green it means the hazard is usually only 12 ft left of it!
The tour average proximity to the hole from 80 yards is between 12ft and 14 ft
So, if the best players are taking on a small risk by attacking this pin, it means we may be taking a bigger one.
If we’re not hitting our 80-yard pitches consistently within 12ft (tour average) this is not the optimal play. Playing a 90-yard shot and taking the hazard out of play in this case will lead to lower scoring average on this hole
Understanding and managing your expectations like this is key to lower scoring.
Step 3: Planning Your Strategy
Now its time to plan your strategy by choosing good clubs and targets from the tee. When you’re doing this keep in mind the main objectives. Eliminate big numbers by playing away from high risk areas. Don’t assume less club is always best- Lets look at an example.
Recently during a playing lesson with a student, we discussed the best strategy from the tee on the 15th hole at Marbella.
Standing on the tee a safe hybrid or driving iron 210-220 yards ‘looks’ the best option here as it’s the only landing area you can clearly see from the tee as there are trees lined all down the right side until about 170yards.
Whilst this may seem like the safest option, taking this conservative approach brings the out of bounds in to play and the hazard on the right also becomes a possibility.
Due to this players skill level I know he can carry his driver 260yrd consistently and safely within a 65-yard landing area. Whilst from the tee this may seem a very aggressive play as you need to line up right of the water, it actually eliminates all the risk and gives him the best chance for success. It is the best play considering the player and hole design. Now that player can confidently tee it up with their driver, take the line they know they should and swing with confidence without second guessing any decision.
Confidence starts with knowing you have prepared, so you can trust in your decision making and strategy.
Step 4: Stick to the Plan
Once you’ve worked through and built your strategy based on the principles we have spoken about, you now must challenge yourself to stick to them. This I find is the hardest part, and here’s why…
You can make a great decision and it’s not guaranteed to work out. You can also make a poor decision and it can work out great!
This is why strategy is hard to commit to. But if you can challenge yourself to commit to the right decisions and play the optimal shots over time your scoring averages will come down. Ill say that again, OVER TIME. This is not a quick fix tip, this is about sticking to a plan and reaping the rewards in the long term. One of the most revolutionary books written on golf strategy came out in 2014 written by Mark Broadie. A highly recommended book where he takes a deep dive into how to play this game correctly using the numbers. In it there is a great quote that I’m going to leave you with…
‘One good outcome doesn’t prove that a strategy was the best choice, and one bad outcome doesn’t mean it was a poor decision. A good strategy is one that gives you the best chance at success’
I hope you enjoyed this read, as always, if there’s any topics you’d like me to discuss don’t hesitate to get in contact. I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully soon we can be all back out on the fairways armed with a great strategy!