You may play the same courses over and over and know every blade of grass on them, but how do you best handle a course you’ve never seen before, let alone a very difficult one? I have been a traveling golfer most of my golfing life and have enjoyed playing some pretty tough golf courses – sometimes playing better than you might imagine my skills would have taken me. Here are 10 keys I’ve used to approach playing different courses that has also really helped me playing the tough ones!
1. Let go of good or bad expectations.
You need to stay in the present with any round of golf, but even more so with a tough golf course. Expectations of any sort take you away from the task at hand and increase pressure even if you feel confident.
2. Stick to “fairways and greens.”
Keep your game plan simple and patient. Should you miss, don’t try your best “hero shot,” just get it back into play as quickly and safely as possible.
3. Play the percentages.
Hit the shots you know you can hit, not the ones you would like to. On longer approaches play to the safe areas. These courses are likely to really penalize unsuccessful gambles. I’ve had many friends who played to their “handicap” at some of the nation’s toughest courses by simply playing safely away from trouble.
4. Know how far you carry your average shots and club accordingly.
Play and club to your ability, not to impress.
5. Play with your “trusted swing.”
Unless you are goofing around, trying new swings on a strange or difficult golf course is just asking for trouble.
6. Focus upon tempo, balance, and hitting the sweet spot.
Do these three things and only these three and your execution is likely to be pretty special.
7. Master the par-3’s.
This is one of the most interesting ways to tackle a tough golf course, but it has been the tactic that Corey Pavin used. Pavin ranked in the TOUR’s Top 5 par-three scoring stats 8 times in his career and credited that focus as a key to his success. The one-shotters can often be a letdown, but conversely can be a real boost if you keep your focus on them.
8. Play your trusted set or combination of clubs.
Just as you will want to play your trusty swing and not make changes, the same goes for your selection of golf clubs. If you do switch a club, make sure that you’ve practiced quite a bit with it recently.
9. Stay patient and stick to your process.
This advice works for every round, but even more so for difficult courses.
10. Have fun!
“This advice may sound simplistic and overly obvious, but failure to do so limits so many during any golf experience, especially suffering a bad shot or hole early on. Besides, when was the last time you witnessed an unhappy player suddenly turn their game around? My answer is “Never!”