For me, it's about playing the odds. I still try to make the occasional "hero" shot, but a lot less nowadays. I find myself hitting a lot less fairway woods on Par 5's trying to reach the green in 2, since that's almost impossible anyways and typically ends up worse than laying up. Quit trying long forced carries as well. If I have 230 to get over a pond, at my level, that's a high risk shot, so I'll lay up near the edge, which leaves me 150 instead. Sure, I "might" have made it, but the odds of that happening are pretty low.
How did you learn course management? - Page 2
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I watched the old guys -
Rolling it under the trees might not be pretty, but it is effective in eliminating the big mistake.
Laying up in front of water.
Go for the fat of the green (for me, it's the center) on shots longer than 50 yds.
With obstacles, take 3 wood off the tee occasionally or grip down on the driver and swing easy - for control.
Take a putter off the green if the grass is tight.
You don't need to pull out the 3 wood and go for the green on a par 5 in two - hitting to wedge distance improves your odds of not blowing up.
By studying the hole lay out. If I go to a new course, I always make it a point to buy a yardage book. It shows the distances to the hazard/bunker/trees etc. It give you the overview of what the hole looks like so you can figure out where to place your shots.
If they don't have a yardage book, I will use my laser range finder.
In order to play the hole properly, I think you have to see what it looks like first.
This is my favorite thing about my Garmin G5. With the graphic display of the hole, including significant tree locations, and the movable target, I can get all the information I need to make an informed decision for every shot, from tee to green. I used to have a Bushnell laser and gave it to my brother when I found out that the Garmin made the laser redundant. Another big advantage is that I don't need line of sight to pick a target. In my opinion, it's simply a better tool for the job.
Certainly the better you become at ball striking, the more chances you can take. Myself, being a high-handicapper, I've made a pact with myself to do the following:
Driver: almost always stays in the bag, unless the hole is WIDE open, or a carry requires it
Par 5: only go for green in 2 if green is very player-friendly, which is rare
Approach shots: 6-iron or less, go for the CENTER of the green. 5-iron or more and a green with danger around it - layup
A higher handicap has to remember that a bogey is perfectly acceptable. Sure, you want the par and you may get up and down occasionally and get it. But a lot of the time, you'll chip on and 2-putt and that's just fine.
Lay up if in doubt, always avoid the nasty stuff on the approach shot (bunker behind? water right? etc.) and really THINK about the lie with a delicate chip for the up-and-down.