Your Needlessly High Golf Score

Golf is a game you play. You play golf by hitting shots. Many people think you play good golf by hitting good shots. Yes, but they have to be the right shots, and that’s the rub.

I am convinced, based on my experience, and by watching other golfers play, that anyone could lower their average score by 3 to 6 strokes just by being a better player.* Same skills, wiser use.

The only book I know of devoted to this topic is The Elements of Scoring, by Raymond Floyd. I suggest you get a copy.

I went through notes I made on my rounds over the years to find mistakes I commonly made, that raised my score needlessly. You might think these things are obvious, and they are, but only when your attention is called to them.

Most of them have to do with play around the green, the place where most strokes get thrown away.

1. From close in, get the ball on the green with one shot. Two is an absolute no-no. Think about the pin only if course conditions are perfect, and you have the shot to get the ball close. Otherwise, forget about zeroing in on the pin. Just get the ball on the green in its vicinity.

2. From about 30 yards and closer, know when to chip and when to pitch. My notes are full of “Should have chipped” and “Should have pitched.”

3. Aim your chips with the intention having them go in. It doesn’t do you any good to get the distance right when the ball finishes five feet left because you didn’t aim the shot. Or read the green.

4. From the fairway, always have enough club in your hand. “I can get there with a 7-iron” is a way of saying, “I think I’ll hit a 6.”

5. Never take unnecessary risks over water. In fact avoid hitting over water unless you absolutely have to.

6. Develop good habits so they become habits and you don’t muff a shot because of a simple thing you should have done but forgot to. Like using an identical grip for every shot. Like having the ball in a consistent position that matches your swing. Like aiming yourself at the target. Like the little things you have found that make each stroke type (swing, pitch, chip, putt) work best for you.

7. Learn to LOOK at the course and see what is there that will affect the choice of shots: your lie, hazards, intervening ground, landing area, wind, etc. Don’t be thinking about what you want to do, but instead about what the course is giving you.

8. Hit only shots you know how to hit. “This worked once,” or “I think I’ll try this” are not good ways of getting the ball around the course.

Bonus (this is something I never fail to do, but I wonder who else does it): Have a plan for how you are going to play the hole, in general, and adapted to the day’s conditions (weather, pin positions, how you’re playing that day, etc.). The plan is where to put your tee ball to have the easiest shot into the green, how you want to ball to approach the pin from the fairway and where the safe miss is, how to get down in two and no more than three shots from around the green.

*Or if you had a professional caddy. We don’t, so you have to be your own caddy. I would like to see a professional tournament where caddies were not allowed and the players had to make their own decisions. Like the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open, so no one could duck out.

2 thoughts on “Your Needlessly High Golf Score”

  1. Really agree with the last point..players should take total responsibility for the shot they hit and the decision making beforehand: role of caddy needs to be drastically diminished.. (carry the bag??!!)

  2. There was a time when the Tour did not allow players to have personal caddies. I remember reading a story by the guy who caddied for Arnold Palmer at the U.S. Open in 1966. He was a local caddy who got Palmer’s bag through luck of the draw. His opinion was that on the final nine, with a seven-stroke lead, Palmer was trying for the Open scoring record instead of just winning the tournament, which led to making some bad decisions.

    Or there is the old directive to caddies, “Show up, keep up, shut up.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.