Play the Golf Course That You’re At

Nonsense?  Nonsense.

I know this lesson has a weird title, but stick with me for a minute.

Today’s lesson comes directly from diatribes I heard from two fellow golfers about a new course.  Their rants gave me an insight into the unproductive way that some golfers view the course, and how you can avoid that to shoot lower scores.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You only play well at one type of course

You want to enjoy, and play well at, more types of courses

You want your game to travel

The Rant

In a nutshell, the complaint was this: the ground at this new course was too firm.  But what both admitted in their complaining was that the starter had told them, “You can’t expect the ball to stop where it lands on these greens.”  In spite of this warning, both golfers fired at the flag stick and then were outraged when their shots careened into parts unknown.  After repeating this for 18 holes, their scores were…not ideal.

We Can Be Smarter

Every golfer has a type of course and a level of conditioning that they prefer.  I like courses with plenty of width, interesting greens, and firm, fast conditions.  Other players like tight fairways, lush rough, and flatter, glassy greens.  Regardless of what our preferences are, we will encounter other conditions.  This is when we need to adapt.

Make Changes

Playing the course that you’re at can require a wide variety of changes, some big, some small, some obvious, some less so.

In the category of obvious changes are things like landing the ball short when the course is firm, playing more conservatively around hazard-heavy courses, or laying up from very thick rough.  Less obvious changes could be things like staying “under” the hole when the greens are slick or using your putter around the greens if the surrounds are tightly cut.

You should also consider how big your changes need to be.  If a course is slightly firmer than you normally play, you might only need to land the ball a few yards short of your normal target.  If the course is rock hard, taking a full club less might be in order.  Similarly, much faster greens may require you to adjust your reads a lot; slightly faster greens demand a smaller adjustment.

Regardless of how or how much you need to change your game from “normal,” the key is having the right mindset.  Try to continually learn and adapt throughout the round.  If you slice three straight drives, you’d make an adjustment on the fourth, right?  The way you approach the course should be no different.

The Course Is Going to Win

Let me start by admitting that I’m no stranger to complaining.  But, though I am sometimes guilty of bellyaching, I know that it does not help my score or my enjoyment of the game.  When we encounter a tough course or bad conditions, we need to recognize that we can’t change those things by whining.

If the course is playing very firm, shouting, “That was a great shot!” and throwing a club when your pin-high approach ricochets over the green is pointless.  The green isn’t going to come to life, apologize, and miraculously become softer.  Ditto for greens that are too slow/fast, rough that’s too high, bunkers that are too deep…

You against the course is not the meeting of an unstoppable force and an immovable object.  The course will not change.  You can.  Choose a new game plan, or at least a better attitude.  Your scores will be lower and your enjoyment of the game will be higher.

Matt Saternus
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  1. Great article, very sensible attitude to have. Hear tons of complaints about course conditions, literally, everywhere I play.

  2. Gordon Potter

    Totally agree however been playing a long long time and I am great at telling others what to do but to be honest do not carry this out myself.
    I will be reading this a few times perhaps t might just sink in, fingers crossed.

  3. Craig Cantin

    Refreshing to hear about keeping a positive attitude! I give the same advice when golfing with my pals, it’s a head game, don’t let it get the better of you because, yes, you will rack up quite the tab! And besides, isn’t it those challenges that that keep us coming back for more?

    Thanks for the article.

  4. Matt Strong

    Playing golf is a lot like basic training in any branch of the Military. Follow the directions of the course as if it is a drill sergeant – that way you can know how to March through it with discipline and success. If it has hard fairways and a lot of fairway bunkers imaging the “Drill Sargent” barking out orders “To the right MARCH”, when the left side of the fairway is leading you into an out-of-bounds area with deep bunkers and that is going to add strokes and frustration! If you imagine that the course is letting you know where to go and the safe way through a golfing mine field you will do a lot better and lower your scores.

  5. Barton Farley

    You can’t beat the house (casino) in gambling and you can’t beat the course in golf. If you do, then it was dumb luck.

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