Technique is important, equipment will take you a certain distance, and physical strength when launching a 200-yard drive down the fairway is imperative. And yet, all of those are worth nothing without knowledge and an appreciation of your surroundings – namely, the course.
The realities of course management are simple: the more you are empowered to anticipate and subsequently confront challenges, obstacles and hazards, the better your performance will be, even without a caddy.
We spoke to three golfing experts – Sky Sports analyst Mark Roe, European Tour caddy Steve Brotherhood and pro golf coach Erik Schjolberg for course management tips to significantly improve your round…
MARK ROE, Sky Sports Analyst:
Plan When To Attack And When To Hold Back “Plan the holes you will attack, and those you may hold back on. The aim isn’t to be in with a birdie shout each time you tee off, and to understand this is to put together a round that is managing not just the 18 holes, but your own expectations. Only the combination of these two factors will add up to the perception of a successful few hours’ graft.”
Don’t abandon a course plan at the first sight of trouble – your new routine may even put you off your natural momentum, but don’t let that put you off playing the long game
Persist With Your Plan A “Don’t abandon a course plan at the first sight of trouble. You may not start well – your new routine may even put you off your natural momentum, but don’t let that put you off playing the ‘long game’, so to speak. Believe in your research and play out the round, no matter what happens.
“At the end, assess and judge what worked and what didn’t, and only at that point make adjustments so that when you go back for your next round, you have a progressive process that can be adapted until you have it absolutely right.
“If you begin to stray from your initial game plan, your oscillation will most likely only increase as the round progresses, to the point where you will finish the 18 holes with little more insight into how to properly play the course than you had when you first arrived.”
Know Your Limitations “It’s very easy to get swept along with the bravado when in the heat of competition, but many golfers also mess up rounds when playing alone, and this can often be as a result of over-confidence or over-exuberance.
“Course management, when in the throes of a round, means always staying on top of where you are, mentally. You need to accept your surroundings – that includes the conditions and your playing partner’s habits.
“It means straddling the middle ground of gameplay where each challenge is approached from a reset position, and the last hole you played becomes irrelevant. It means that while it’s true you were despatching crisp, solid, straight putts in the back garden earlier, you haven’t suddenly cracked the golden code of the greens. Realism is key for the entirety of your round – only at the end of it can you crack open the bubbly.”
STEVE BROTHERHOOD, European Tour Caddy:
Take A New View “Look to pick up a course guide. Most courses have them and they offer you valuable preparation into what confronts you. Use it to add your own notes and build a picture of the greens, fairways, hazards and opportunities.
“Then get your phone out and check the hole on Google Earth. Add in lines, measurements, and use the distance function so you can realistically know what club you’ll need for each shot. Most importantly though, do all this before you even arrive at the golf course.
“Each time you play the hole, add to your picture. Make your course plan a research document built on past successes (and failures). And of course, a big part of this will be about speaking with other golfers in order to gather their thoughts and observations.”
Go Green “Work backwards from the green – it will help your club selection. A lot of amateur golfers will instantly pull out the driver on a long hole. It looks good, feels good and accentuates the desire to get things done in the fewest shots possible. We know that’s the point of golf, but there are different ways of going about the challenge.
“Working backwards from a perceived two shots on the green may conveniently reveal that going long isn’t always going to work.”
Use Your Favorite Clubs “This sounds obvious, but the more you can use your favorite club – be it a 2-Iron or a sand wedge – the better your round will be. The shots we prefer to take, and the ones we know we are competent at, are those that fill us with positive expectation, and that in itself lends to better technique on a shot.
“When we pull a stick out of the bag that we’re unfamiliar with, the opposite thing happens.”
ERIK SCHJOLBERG, Pro Golf Coach:
Check Your Lie “Taking in information as regards how your ball is sitting is more about the square inch or so of grass it rests on.
“Use the nearby material to test for bounce, thickness and the depth of those green strands. As ever with golf, the clues are all around you, and approaching a shot with a club that you know will behave properly under the ball, is essential research on every shot.”
Not only does an uphill putt offer you greater control, it’s also less susceptible to the break of the green, or your over-hit shot ending up spiraling away into a green-side bunker
Don’t Get Short-sided “When aiming an approach shot at the green, always try to select the longer expanse rather than coming in towards the flag with limited room for error.
“Expect error on each shot, and plan for worst-case scenarios, particularly where putting is concerned. If you don’t nail it first-time, where is the best place to ensure you can two-putt it and save the hole?”
Putt Uphill “Not only does an uphill putt offer you greater control, it’s also less susceptible to the break of the green, and won’t leave you with a situation where your over-hit shot ends up spiraling away into a green-side bunker.
“Laying up to so approach a putt from a downhill position may seem like you’re giving yourself an extra challenge, but game is ultimately a game concerned with minimizing errors, and putting uphill enables you to do this as you have a natural failsafe on shots, and are able to compensate about the unpredictability of gravity.”
WHAT NEXT? Want more golf articles? Then check out the RSNG interview with Victor Hovland, the Norwegian making his mark on the PGA Tour.
Photos: Adobe Stock