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deekay

Struggling on unfamiliar courses

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Hi all,

I play 9 holes at least 3 Sunday afternoons out of 4, and can go around my home course in a (strict rules) 41-43 for 9 pretty consistently.

However when some friends invite me to go and play on a course unfamiliar to me, it’s as if I cannot play at all. I battle to break 55! (per 9.) Fat shots, topping off the tee, duffed chips, etc. Not just bad shots, but embarrassing ones!

I can understand that course management is not so easy on an unfamiliar course, and of course one is not used to the greens, but why should the swing disappear as well?

On my home course I know where to place the ball to avoid trouble, and which clubs to use. On an unfamiliar course there is always some guesswork (at my level!) in the club selection, so anxiety about that may be causing a rushed pre-shot routine, looking up too early to check ball flight, etc.

Does this happen to any of you? Any advice?

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Hi all,

 

I play 9 holes at least 3 Sunday afternoons out of 4, and can go around my home course in a (strict rules) 41-43 for 9 pretty consistently.

 

However when some friends invite me to go and play on a course unfamiliar to me, it’s as if I cannot play at all. I battle to break 55! (per 9.) Fat shots, topping off the tee, duffed chips, etc. Not just bad shots, but embarrassing ones!

 

I can understand that course management is not so easy on an unfamiliar course, and of course one is not used to the greens, but why should the swing disappear as well?

 

On my home course I know where to place the ball to avoid trouble, and which clubs to use. On an unfamiliar course there is always some guesswork (at my level!) in the club selection, so anxiety about that may be causing a rushed pre-shot routine, looking up too early to check ball flight, etc.

 

Does this happen to any of you? Any advice?

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I think you pretty much answered your question. :beer:

Nobody plays their best if they aren't fully committed to their shots. I hit "hard trouble shots" much better than "easy routine shots" for the same reason.

When I'm in trouble:

(1) I focus more and better visualize the shot I need to hit.

(2) I have nothing to lose and fully commit to the shot.

Looks like at some point I would learn to approach every shot like that. :doh:

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It's going to take you a round to get used to a particular course.

A couple of things you can do:

  • Get there early, and ask the local pro if there's any unusual holes or "surprise" challenges on the course.
  • That first time out, just line up your shot and hit the ball. Don't overthink things.
  • If you feel truly "fearful" about an upcoming shot, lay up to a safe area, and try for an up-and-down par.
  • If at all possible, have fun! :-O (It's permitted)
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maybe trying more courses will help you not be anxious on other new courses? also something that helps me at times is to not think about the course and just the numbers.

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Sounds like all you need to do is find a way to relax! The last three guys all had solid answers...especially the "have fun" part. If it's a new course for you, then you shouldn't feel ANY pressure to play well! :)

Grabbing a yardage book if they have one is always helpful too!

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Anytime I'm in a situation that is foreign to me or doesn't feel right, I go to my "go-to" shots. Now, I'm a 12 handicap, so I don't mean that I have the game to do anything dramatic to be extremely consistent. But I did spend time "mastering" a baby-fade drive where I choke down a little and have a smooth easy swing. It only goes about 210 yards, but I can control it just about every time. And then when I'm unfamiliar with a course, I like to keep my approach shots as close to the ground as possible. What I mean is that I will play a longer club with a shorter swing (think chipping a 6-iron 150 yards instead of taking a full 8-iron) and play to the front of all greens if they are open.

On my more familiar courses, I am thinking about breaking my personal best record every time out (well, at least for the first few holes). On an unfamiliar course, I'm thinking about making no worse than bogey on every hole, and maybe stealing a few pars here and there. Usually a drive in play, and a solidly struck approach will leave me near the green on every hole. Then, it's a matter of chipping and 2-putting or - dare I say - even getting up and down once in a while.

This "strategy" also works when I'm not feeling the best physically, or if I know I have a lead in an outing and I want to get back to the clubhouse without any blow-up holes. It is boring, but effective.

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I seem to be the opposite when I play a course for the first time. I would almost invariably shoot a 79 or 80 the first time around ANY course. Pebble, TPC Tampa, Pasatiempo, etc... didn't matter if it was a world famous venue or a muni near to relatives. Because I DON'T know where any trouble may be waiting or hiding, I just see what's out there and go. Some courses might have layouts on the card, or on a marker near the tee box, but they aren't exactly HD models so you can't really get a full picture. I guess I just clear what's in my head and play. Similarly, when I get to Florida for the first rounds of the year, I play lights out. Mostly because I don't EXPECT anything after 3 months of just range work. BUT- the second time around, I remember certain things about certain holes, and doubts start to creep in and I'll go up to my normal abilities. And when I play a few rounds in Florida, my normal game returns as well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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Used to have this problem.

Now I use Golfshot on my iphone and I can see how each hole looks like.

That pretty much took care of the problem.  No more, oh I wish I knew to take less/more club etc.  You see where fairways turn, how the green is positioned.  Everything else is just executing the shot that you've practiced over and over.

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Opposite for me. Because of familiarity I tend to take risks that are rarely rewarded. When I started taking the conservative approach I have on unfamiliar courses to the ones I play most my scores improved. For me it starts on the tee box, I don't take on what I can't see or what could be tough to play out of if I mishit it.

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Kill the nerves. Drink a beer, take a deep breath and play conservative until you gain confidence.

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Obviously I haven't seen you play, but my gut is telling me that you start swinging really fast.  That's what almost all of us do when we get nervous.  And, especially if your friends are better or hit the ball longer, there's that extra incentive to try to muscle it to "keep up."

My suggestion, until you get out of this funk, would be to tee off with whatever it is you feel most comfortable with.  If it's a 7-iron, so be it.  A 140-150 yard 7-iron goes further than a topped driver.  More likely, you probably feel really comfortable with some kind of hybrid or a 4-iron.

Think about it like this: you're a 20 handicap, so you basically play bogey golf.  Let's say the first hole is a 350-yard Par 4.  If you hit a 5-iron 160 yards, you can go 5-5-pitch. You're then putting for par (a good score for you), you can two-putt to bogey (your handicap), and even if something horrible goes wrong and you three-putt, you still haven't played THAT far outside your handicap.

But most importantly: just have fun, dude.  These are your friends.  They like you for reasons other than your golf game, I'm sure.

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If I know I am going to play a course I haven't played before I do a couple of things:

1 - Google Earth the course and get a general layout of each hole.  Sometimes I even use the yardage tool to get some distances.  I make notes about holes that look like they might give me trouble and refer to that notebook during my round.

2 - Get to the course early and hit the driving range.  By warming up and getting a good swing tempo established helps boost my confidence.

3 - When in doubt, I play the smart, confident play.  A lot of times when people play an unknown course they try to make shots they are unsure of.  Taking a par or bogey after a lay-up shot is better than taking a triple because you hit into trouble.

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Turning into a duffer makes no sense because you're playing a different course.     There are many reasons why one might score higher playing a course for the first time.   IE.....targeting the wrong part of the green due to lacking course knowledge, 3-putting due to green unfamiliarity, hitting into unseen hazards, not knowing the proper targets from the tee......etc, etc. etc....

....but suddenly not being able to get the ball airborne?   This makes no sense....

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