Many golfers shoot about four or five strokes above their usual score when the play a golf course for the first time. If you pay attention to a few details, that doesn’t have to happen.
When you’re in the clubhouse paying your green fees, ask about these things:
– are there notoriously troublesome holes, and if so, how do you play them?
– how fast are the greens? Are they faster than the practice green?
– are there elevated tees on any par 3s? If so, how much more club should you use?
– for big hitters: are there any par 5s that you should not try to reach in two?
– are there any greens that have big trouble if you shoot over them?
– are there any greens that are sloped so much that you do not ever want to be above the hole?
– are there any water hazards that cross the fairway and can be reached from the tee?
This is a lot to ask, but if you ask succinctly and listen to the answer instead of getting into a conversation, the staff won’t mind helping you.
Get a scorecard and read the local rules. Ask about anything that isn’t clear to you.
In general, tee off to the center of the fairway. Aiming for the 150-yard pole, if there is one, is seldom a bad idea.
When hitting into the green, aim for the center. Aim for the pin only if the approach is wide open and there is little or no trouble if you miss the green on that side.
Chipping can be different from course to course. There can be light rough around the green, heavy rough, or no rough.
The only way to solve these problems is to be prepared for them. Learn how to chip out of varying thicknesses of rough. Learn how to use your putter from off the green.
Learn how to chip up to a raised green when your ball is on an upslope to the putting surface.
Play from the right set of tees! If you can’t reach half the par 4s with a 6-iron or less, those tees are to long for you.
If you know you will play this course again, make a note of what clubs you used on each tee and a note of the one you would use, if different, when you play the course again.
When you get to your tee ball, go over the spot you now see to be the best landing area for your tee shot to set up the approach to the green. Look back the tee, then turn 180 degrees to find an aiming marker for this area.
Make any other notes about where to hit, or where not to hit the ball on any particular hole, especially around the greens.
Play conservative golf. Play our own game and see what happens. It will likely be good enough.