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SloverUT

How did you learn course management?

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I am curious as to how the majority of you all learned to play the course.  In my area there is not a lot of instruction in depth on how to play the course.  For example, when to use which club, how to deal with obstacles etc etc.  So were you lucky enough to get instruction in this area?  Trial by error?  Or maybe even watching the guys on Tour and seeing how they deal with it.

I often find myself, as a relative beginner, just flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to deciding how to manage the course.  I have no expertise in the area other than learning through trial by error.

What about you?

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- trial and error

- analyse after a round your bad holes

- read something

- playingpartners (low handicappers)

edit: still too stupid to play smart

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Trial and error for me as well. I started by figuring out what my most comfortable and accurate approach shot was. When I'm on the tee I start with that and work backwards to figure out what I need to do to get me there while avoiding any trouble. Quite often this means leaving the driver in the bag even though it's a par4 or par5. I also almost always go for the center of the green rather than taking dead aim at the flag stick. My father's Pro had what I think is some good advice too. "When in doubt, lay up. It might not be glamorous but not being in the sh*t is better than losing extra strokes."

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Mostly from experience playing rounds. Also, playing tournaments help you focus a little better and not be too reckless.

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Trial and error....but one of the biggest things that helped me was I printed out a copy of the specs for my irons and then I filled out a distance calculator chart program which asked a number of questions...height, weight, swing speed, type of play and so on. I then used it and translated my club specs to the chart. This made it very helpful to know what club to use based on yardage and condition (ie in the rough). When playing I pay close attention to what club the more experienced players in my group are using to see if I am on track. I may have to adjust a club up or down but I don't feel totally lost.

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Laser rangefinder is the #1 biggest help to me in playing an unfamiliar course - once I learned my yardages, I know what club to hit from what distance.

Digging deeper though, there's the mindset issue when you're faced with say a 220 yard shot in ... do you hit a wedge & set up for your money shot in (for me a 90 yard full gap wedge), or go for it with a fairway wood & risk putting it off line or in a bunker and being faced with a difficult up & down, or a 40 yard half swing pitch.       For me, my scores have improved when I strategically set up for the money shot ...

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Originally Posted by Beachcomber

Watching and playing golf.  I get reckless at times... Perhaps why I'm not better than I am?

This for me.  I've learned through trial and error and playing buddies how I could manage the course better.  I rarely actually do it, usually playing more recklessly than I know I should...

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First thing, it's important to know the course you are playing. Where are the hazards, what is the risk/reward for any given shot? Next, be aware of your own limitiations. I always ask myself in a risk/reward situation, "If I had ten shots at this, how many times would I succeed?", especially in tournament situations. Live to fight another day or, in this case, on another hole. Play to your strength, even if that means laying up to a comfortable distance.

When I first started taking lessons years ago, I was lucky to have a teacher who took course management very seriously. He knew that if I could score better by making smart decisions, that I would ultimately enjoy the game more, and he was right. It's hard to bite the bullet and step back from the hero shot, but the hero shots come few and far between for the vast majority of golfers.

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I'm still winging it.  So my choices don't improve until I've played a course a couple times.

Considering I really suck at short chips and pitches (under 20 yards), being able to arrange my approach shot from out in my happy zone really would pay off better.  I'm just as successful getting down from 150 yds out, it seems than from just off of the fringe.

It seems to be common sense on when to grab the driver vs laying up on a tight fairway.  Then it's just a matter of doing it instead of hitting the VERY fun driver.

But as far as setting up my shots for that dialed in approach shot (for me, that 100 yd full SW, or the 120 full PW), I think lessons on how to make that happen would be great.  That's a notch higher in strategy than just choosing to tee off, for example, a 5W because the driver will roll into the creek.....

Of course, this weekend I found that the new LW is a great tool.  So I'm exploring that as expanding my comfort zone for approach shots....

Someone mentioned a rangefinder and knowing your personal yardages - this has been huge for me this year.  Best purchase in the sport.

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Live and learn.

The other big thing is just to use your head a little. Seems obvious but its easy to just grab a club and swing. Look at the total distance (say 2nd shot on par 5) and do the math. 280 to the center? Well you could hit 3W and then a little wedge but that 3W might end up in someone's back yard, in the lake or woods or 10 yards from where you just were. And that "little wedge" is harder than it sounds sometimes. Instead, take 280 minus a nice full club, could be wedge, 9I etc. Something you have confidence in and has a relatively low margin of error. If that distance is 125 then you need to hit 280-125=155. That's just a little 7 or 8 iron. Now you are one the green putting for birdie instead of dropping 3 hitting 4.

So for me it was things like that.

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Originally Posted by Jason M Henley

Live and learn.

The other big thing is just to use your head a little. Seems obvious but its easy to just grab a club and swing. Look at the total distance (say 2nd shot on par 5) and do the math. 280 to the center? Well you could hit 3W and then a little wedge but that 3W might end up in someone's back yard, in the lake or woods or 10 yards from where you just were. And that "little wedge" is harder than it sounds sometimes. Instead, take 280 minus a nice full club, could be wedge, 9I etc. Something you have confidence in and has a relatively low margin of error. If that distance is 125 then you need to hit 280-125=155. That's just a little 7 or 8 iron. Now you are one the green putting for birdie instead of dropping 3 hitting 4.

So for me it was things like that.

Speak for yourself.

Oh wait...OK, a 7. But not a little one.

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Originally Posted by phan52

Speak for yourself.

Oh wait...OK, a 7. But not a little one.

Lay-ups go a little farther though. If I had 155 to the center of the green it would be a full out 7 iron. But laying up to 155 it may be an 8 since it would have a tendency to roll out a bit more (possibly)

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Trial and error.....if you normally tee off with driver on "hole X" and you tend to hit into a narrow gap surrounded by trouble.....and your ball tends to seek out and find that trouble!!  By all means hit one club less and target the wider area to keep your ball in play.

With regard to approach shots into greens..............aim for the middle of the green to hit more GIR.

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Originally Posted by SloverUT

I am curious as to how the majority of you all learned to play the course.  In my area there is not a lot of instruction in depth on how to play the course.  For example, when to use which club, how to deal with obstacles etc etc.  So were you lucky enough to get instruction in this area?  Trial by error?  Or maybe even watching the guys on Tour and seeing how they deal with it.

I often find myself, as a relative beginner, just flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to deciding how to manage the course.  I have no expertise in the area other than learning through trial by error.

What about you?

Just experience.  Most of it is just common sense.  You know your game.  You can hopefully see what you face in a given shot or hole.  You evaluate and try to match up the best of both, usually leaning toward the more conservative play.

Other factors may be the game you're playing.  Is it a one on one match?  Stroke competition?  Skins against your buddies?  Is that the last ball in your bag?

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