Golf With What You Have

The Anti-Improvement Plan

Every click bait website and YouTube channel wants to sell you a plan to turn the worst part of your game into your pride and joy.  Unfortunately, the reality is that the only way to do that is to invest a lot of time that you probably don’t have into serious practice.

In this lesson, I’m going to offer you something better: a plan to take the game you have now and score better.  No new shot shapes, no new swing, just a prettier scorecard.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You want to shoot lower scores

You’re frustrated by the shots you don’t have

You have limited time to practice

Take Stock of Your Game

The first step in learning to play with what you have is recognizing what you have.  This requires some honest self assessment, something most golfers are notoriously poor at.

If you track your stats with a system like Shot Scope (review HERE), that process is a lot easier because the data doesn’t lie.  If you don’t, track your stats on paper for a few rounds or do some skill testing on the range.

Consider each element of the game: driving, approach shots, short game, and putting (you can get more granular if you want).  What are your strengths and weaknesses as a driver?  Are you long or short, what shot shape can you actually hit reliably, and how often do you mishit drives?  What irons are you confident in and what shot shape you do you hit?  What short game shots are reliable and which ones are hit-or-miss?

When it comes to putting, spend some time thinking about the best way to improve.  For 99% of golfers, that means investing more time on controlling speed.  Having better speed means fewer three-putts which translates to immediate score reductions.

Enhance Your Strengths

When you go to the range, instead of fighting to turn your cut into a draw, work on controlling your cut.  Limit your mishits by locking in on your stock shots.  Rather than attempting to make your 3I a usable club, spend your time making your 5I more reliable.

In the short game area, don’t waste time with flops and low spinners if those aren’t gamer shots.  Use your time to become the master of the basic chip and pitch.

On the putting green, focus on speed, speed, speed.  If you can make three-putting a thing of the past, you will become the most feared player in your regular game.

Play to Your Strengths

This is the toughest part of the plan: when you get on the course, stick to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses.  If you hit draws with your driver, do not try to hit a cut, even when “the hole calls for it.”  When you find yourself 210 yards from the green, hit 5I and a pitch rather than trying to nuke the 3I that you never hit well.  If you fear bunkers, take them out of play with your club and target selection, even if that means aiming away from the flag.

By playing to your strengths, you’re going to erase the double and triple bogeys from your scorecard almost overnight.  You’re also going to give yourself a lot more chances to make birdies and easy pars, which is going to frustrate opponents and drop your handicap.

Matt Saternus
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  1. Nice job Matt. Sadly it has taken years for me to learn these lessons and drop my score into the low-mid 8’s , from the mid -high 90’s. If people will take your advice hear, as well as incorporating The Texas Wedge instead of trying to hole out a mid to long chip from the fringe, they could save themselves years of frustration.

  2. Martin Grovdahl

    I and three guys recently played a course that had greens that were like putting on a marble table top. Putt the ball to the hole, the ball would stop, then begin rolling back or to the side, leaving us with a longer putt than we started. We score in the high 70’s low 80’s, but that round was 94 to 97’s. We are never going back to that course. Do you have any suggestions for adjusting to playing on those kind of greens? We would like to travel to other courses just to play something different, but do not want to end up in a disaster like we did that day. Thanks!

    • Matt Saternus


      There’s not much that can be done about greens that are too fast for their slopes, assuming that all the issues are happening while putting. If you’re also having a problem holding the greens, you can try to modify your approach there: landing the ball shorter, running the ball up, playing higher trajectory shots into the green. Ultimately, you have the right idea: don’t play courses that you don’t enjoy.



  3. Great article on practical course management. Approach shots these days are simple math – can I get there in one (1) shot or would it be better to do it in two (2)? Based on the distance, I then think club combinations – fairway/wedge, iron/iron, or iron/wedge. It becomes an amazing process of how often I am chipping/pitching and then putting for par. It has forced me to think bump and runs, putts off the edge of the green and even fewer flop shots. Putting wise, I focus on being certain of my stroke – not second guessing. My scores are still not super great, hitting the high 90’s but the game is so much more fun as I work with the shots that work for me.

  4. A great write up and built for more people that shoot between 80 something and 90 something.
    I changed my whole game (on my normal Wednesday course) I arrive when the sun is up. Then drive the course from green to tee and take notes…. This allows me to know where to be on every tee shot…. I have also started putting about 2 hours a day from a previous article that Matt wrote….. Keep in touch with plugged in golf

  5. #SecretGiveaway2021
    This article is awesome and so relevant. It is so easy to watch PGA golf and think we can all crank 3 irons etc. and score low all the time. It is way better to enjoy the journey….. “work with what you have”, savor being outside, breath the air, enjoy your family/friends, meet new people. Scores will improve if you live in the moment as you practice and play. Leave the everyday grind off the course and have fun! Thanks Matt, PIG is a wonderful reference in every aspect for the golf community.

  6. Todd Williams

    Truth!! #SecretGiveaway2021

  7. Ferrell Katz

    As the late NFL hall-of-fame coach John Madden would tell his players, “Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon.”

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