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How to Score Well on a Course You’ve Never Played

June 15, 2015

If you travel to play golf, you’ll often tee up at courses you’ve never played before. Most likely, you’ll probably play the course once and only once. Here are 10 tips to enhance your chances of scoring well as a first-timer:

  1. Study the course — Just about every course has a yardage guide and many courses have a schematic or hole-by-hole description on their website. You can build confidence just by knowing yardages from your selected tee and the basic layout of the course and which holes have most of the hazards.
  2. Ask the pro about hazards and types of lies — If you’re not using a caddie, by all means, consult the pro, assistant pro or even the youngster behind the counter who has probably played the course dozens of times. They can highlight hazards that give golfers the most trouble and give you much needed information about the greens and how the ball rolls.
  3. Practice (or at least stretch) before your round — This is a no-brainer, but it can be a tricky one in Scotland or Ireland where you won’t always find optimum practice ranges and facilities. That said, if you don’t have the opportunity to practice, execute a thorough stretching out process to get limber. Don’t use the first few holes to get loose because often the only thing loose is your swing, which can result in some scorecard destroying doubles and triples.
  4. Drive straight over long — Drive straight rather than long off the tee, especially on the first few holes. Seeing the ball in the fairway can do wonders for your confidence. Get into the flow, then progress to your big swing.
  5. Use enough club–We’ve all heard this one a million times, but it’s absolutely true. Survey after survey suggest amateurs end up short of the green more often than past the pin. As a general rule, depending on the wind, of course, you should use one more club on your long irons than you’ll think you need. A good caddie will easily identify your club distances and make allowances.
  6. Think a shot or two ahead — Most amateurs are so concerned with their tee shots they don’t develop a strategy to play the entire hole. Hitting a drive in the middle of the fairway guarantees you nothing if you don’t fully understand the most effective way to play the hole
  7. Don’t try miracle shots — Trying impossible shots is where many amateurs end up with a scorecard dotted with snowmen. Most golfers get into trouble when they hit a bad shot and then make matters worse by hitting a succeeding hero shot they’ve never practiced. If you want to score well, you absolutely must resist the temptation to hit improbable recovery shots.
  8. Shoot for the middle of the green — Always aiming at the pin puts additional pressure on approach shots. Fact is, on some holes, there’s just too much risk and not enough reward in going for the pin. Getting the ball anywhere on the green should be your number one priority, especially if you’re a double digit handicapper.
  9. Take your time — When things start to go bad with a few loose swings the tendency is to speed up and finish the hole. Slow down and focus shot to shot. You should take a deep breath and practice stroke or two before addressing your ball and stay in the moment.
  10. Enjoy yourself — Just remember, you’re at a golf course and millions of people would love to be in your golf shoes. Better still, you’re not at work so you won’t be docked any salary for mishits and shanks.