7 Course Management Mistakes Which Are Suffocating Your Score


I know you are working on your golf swing – that’s a given and indeed you should be.

I also hazard a guess that your putting stroke gets a bit of attention…

Even your chipping may get the odd 20 minutes…

But…course management?

How much attention are you paying it?….if you are like most golfers…probably very little.


And if you are like most  – you are seriously losing out…

Making great decisions can save you strokes and be the difference between a poor and a average round or an average round and a good round…

So it’s worth taking note of these course management mistakes and how to avoid them…


#1 Short Siding Yourself Far Too Often


You probably know by now that short siding yourself (missing the green on the side with the least amount of ground between you and the pin) is a cardinal sin in golf. It makes it virtually impossible to get the ball up and down…

And in more severe cases, can really ensure you rack up some serious numbers.

Of course, even the best golfers on the planet short side themselves from time to time – no matter how water tight there course management and technique is…

But the average golfer does it far more than they should from just making reckless or emotion based decisions.


Let’s look at this example:


You have hit a peach of a drive and you have 155 yards to the flag.

The pin is cut on the extreme back left portion of the green – about 4 yards from the left edge and about 5 from the back. So, this thing is really tucked away.

There is a huge bunker just left of the green awaiting for anything slightly pulled and thick rough over the back.



So have a think – what would you do in this situation?


A – You always aim at the pin – so you’ll be going straight at it.

B – You use your brain – so you aim 15 foot right of the flag and pick a club which takes going long out of play.

C – Could be either – depends how confident or pissed off you are.


So if you answered:


A – Keep reading

B – Skip to point 2

C – Keep reading and make sure you ingest point 5.


In this situation, a smart play would be to pick a target about 15-20 foot right of the hole and a distance which is around the middle of the green.




Because a nice solid shot will leave you putting and in no danger on a hole where the pin is in a lethal position.

A slight push and you have bundles of green to work with and a miss hit and you’ve got a much better chance of getting it up and down.

And if you slightly pull it, then bingo – your right on it with a nice look for birdie.

Only a really poor swing could potentially get you in danger. But let’s face it, no amount of course management can save some of our swings!

So from now on, I urge you not to make the mistake that most other golfers make and just mindlessly aim at the pins. As I have shown you here – you only have to be slightly off and you can really rack up some numbers.

Just remember the key to shooting good scores is to keep those nightmare holes off the card which makes shooting solid scores virtually impossible.

If you want to read another cracking article on this – give this a read.



#2 Too Adventurous Off the Tee


I talk about this at great length in my ‘How to Break 90’ and How to Break 100’ articles.

Most golfers when arriving to a par 4 or 5, their first instinct is to pull straight for the big dog.

It’s  a lot of fun booming driver off every hole, so if’s it solely fun you are after, keep doing it – but if you want to improve your scores, you may need to rethink..


Here’s another little example…




Hole is 375 yards long…

You hit your driver around 240 yards and your 3 hybrid around 200.

This is a pretty tight hole and it gets narrower the further you get up there. Green is quite generous, so going in with more club is fine.

There are two deep bunkers at around 230, right and left of the fairway.

Now from all this information – you now know that driver is a very risky play, it brings the two bunkers into play from a slight miss-hit and even with a good one, you’ll be firing into the tightest part of the fairway.

A much more productive play here, is to hit your 3/4 hybrid and lay back into the widest part of the fairway.

This gives you the greatest chance of keeping it in on the short stuff and puts you in a really solid position for your approach shot.

So next time you play – instead of just reaching for the driver without a thought – pick a club which gives you the best chance of keeping it in play and takes a lot of the trouble out of the equation…

Please note – I am not suggesting you never use driver – as you’ll see in the next point.




#3 Not Adventurous Enough of the Tee


I think this is very level dependent. so if you are trying to break 100 or 90 then keeping it in play is your number one goal for now, so probably skip this part (unless you want to read for future reference)

But if you are more experienced and you are trying to break 80 or better. Then this definitely applies.

I have first hand of this – it’s one of my real course management and if you like, mental weaknesses. The better I am playing and the better my score, the more chance of me going into protection mode.

I become fearful of hitting the ball out of town and ruining my score, when in fact driver is the right play.

I end up hitting 3 iron or 4 iron for safety which yes keeps me in play but only gives me another problem – I am now hitting a mid iron into a tight, small green.

And more often than not, I miss the green and walk off dropping shots. Just the thing I guarded against with my wimpy decision off the tee.

If this sounds familiar…then point 5 has really allowed me to stay positive off the tee when I have the urge to get over defensive and it can definitely help you too…


#4 Poor Judgement of Lie


Judging the lie can be a bit like a lottery.

Not even the best players in the world get it right every time, but there are things to make yourself aware of when assessing the lie.

Practicing out of different lies is certainly neglected by the everyday golfer. With so much of their practice being off range mates.

Or if they do find a nice bit of turf to play from, golfers often just pop the ball up on a nice bit of grass – mainly because it makes it easier and the results are more satisfying.

So as obvious as this sounds – try and get as much practice as you can from different lies – it will really give you an edge when you’re out on the course.


Here are two very common problems that tend to crop up on the course…


Flyer lie – Tend to be found in the first cut of rough, ball is sitting up nicely and there’s not a great deal of grass between the ball.



You strike it and you can just feel it.

It absolutely flies and sails over the green, leaving you more bemused than ever…sometimes the ball can go 1-2 clubs further.

You won’t always get this right but half the battle is to be aware of it before you play the shot…and if you do have a suspicion it could jump – club down.


Thick rough – If you have hit into thick sticky rough then your first ambition should be just to get it back onto the short stuff.

But a lot of us don’t.

We pull a six iron which is at best, adventurous and the ball comes out dead – 20 yards in front of us and we’ve got the same shot again.

These kinds of lies can be tricky to judge, so if you want to become an expert of how to play from all these awkward situations. I have written a comprehensive ‘How to Play From the Trickiest Lies on the Golf Course guide.



#5 Turning Up Without A Plan


A proper game plan is not just for the professionals.

It’s something every golfer should be doing to maximize their chances of shooting the best scores possible.

A good game plan is useful in a number of different ways but maybe more than anything else, it helps you from not acting on emotion on the golf course.

Emotions are very powerful, but usually pretty unhelpful when trying to make our clearest decisions on the course.

Let me give you an example of two scenarios of a player with a game plan and one without.


Player Without Game Plan.


13th Hole: He has just 3 putted from 15 foot and comes off the hole pretty displeased.

14th Hole: Is a 375 yard par 4, so not overly long, but very tight.

With emotions being so high after the mistake at 13,  he goes for the aggressive play to try and make up for the error.

In this case, he smashes driver…and you guessed it, It’s in the trees…and he’s racking up some more numbers.

He has just compounded the error with more mistakes and only negatively affected his already fragile mindset.


Player With a Game Plan:


13th hole: He also three putts from 15 feet and also comes off the hole very annoyed.

14th hole: He’s noted on his game plan that he’ll hit a solid hybrid up the left hand side, which will leave a mid-to short iron into the green.

Although he is angry from the sloppy 3 putt, he has written down his plan the night before and has made a commitment to it.

Just the very act of putting it on paper has cemented his commitment.


Here’s 7 reasons why you should write them down.


So he plays the much safer play and hits a solid shot up the left hand side.

Regains his composure and get’s his emotions back on track.

Both golfers walk off 13th very angry but both attack 14 with very different mindsets just from this one simple act and consequently both have very different results.

I have been both players and I know which one works.

Being a pretty emotional guy myself, writing down a game plan has saved so many of my rounds from spiraling out of control.

If you are an emotional monster on the course like me – this will save you shots.

Not sure how to write one? Here’s what I scribble down before a round…

You can do it however you like – but this helps me stay on track.



#6 Thinking Your Phil Mickelson


So you have neglected point 1 and taken on a silly pin that not even Mr Mcilroy would attack (and he’s one of the more aggressive players)

And although you have put quite a good swing on it – it’s just off, leaving you short sided in a bit of a dilemma…

You’re left with a tricky little chip with only a few paces to work with and if you get too cute, you’ll be chipping again – bringing double or worse into play…

What do you do?

Attempt the high risk play or settle for 20 feet and accept the bogey?

Remember I said the key to shooting solid scores, is to keep the nightmares off your card?

This is another prime situation…

Your first priority should be to eliminate any possibility of chipping again.

This is the number ONE goal in situations like this, unless you are a very low handicapper where maybe the risk is required and you have the skill level to pull it off.

If not – then safety here is the better option…

One of the big keys in this sport, is to not compound one error straight after another. This is where doubles and trebles are made from…

Of course, you are going to hit the odd duff and thin around the green, that’s inevitable, but you can certainly decrease the number of mistakes you make by making smarter decisions.


Excel With One Club


Another bit of advice I would add to this – is to excel with one club around the green and then learn to manipulate the trajectory by making simple adjustments – either changing your ball position or your face position.

This is the best way to learn for golfers with a limited schedule. Trying to learn to play shots with 6 different clubs is very time consuming and in my experience, does not yield your best results.

For me, I love to chip round the green with my 56 degree. If I want to play it with more loft, I’ll just open the face a little.

If I want to play a more bump and run type shot, I just put the ball slightly further back in my stance.

It keeps it simple and also gives me enough variety to play all the shots I need around the green.

If you are having trouble with striking your chips correctly, try this simple but very effective drill…





#7 Never Up Never In


This is a universal problem for most golfers. If you have read my ’11 Biggest Mistakes Beginner Golfers Make’ you will know that 94% of all golfers are consistently missing the green short.

This is for a number of reasons.


  • Overestimating how far they hit the ball.
  • Getting the incorrect yardage.
  • Off center striking.
  • Fearful of missing the green long.


On most golf courses and most approach shots into the green there will be far more trouble short of the green than there will be long of it…

So, there is a couple of simple things you can do straight away to improve your distance control:


  1. Take 1 or 2 more clubs on each approach shot – providing there is not great deal of trouble long (like in point 1). In this case being short is the better play.
  2. Start measuring and playing your approach shots to the back of each green.


I mean let’s face it…how many shots do you strike perfectly in a round of golf?

Even the most experienced golfers could count on one hand…so that’s why measuring to the back of the green makes so much more sense, especially for the average golfers.

So, I suggest – next time you go out, analyse how often you are short of the pin on your approach shorts compared to being long.

If you’re short far too often – then you need to start hitting more club.


So now there’s a few things for you to concentrate on – next time you are on the course, think about and action what I have said here and I promise your results will improve…

I must add that being a great course manager takes work, so don’t think you’ll have it all sussed after a few rounds…but putting in the work will reap you the rewards.






I am a low handicap golfer and an absolute golf addict. I have a huge passion for helping golfers with what I believe is the most important aspect of their golf game - their mindset. I have completed my golf psychology coaching certificate and I continue to learn every single day, all so I can help golfers become better at this great game.

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