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Lower Your Scores

Develop a strategy for approaching your game with these tips

Adjust Your Scorecard to Your Game

The scorecard can be a valuable tool in helping you shoot the scores you want to achieve, but unless you’re a scratch golfer, you need to make some adjustments to the pars on each hole before you start your round.    For example, let’s say you want to shoot a 45 on a standard round of par 36.  This means you would get one extra stroke per hole.  Take your pencil, cross out the par that’s on the card, and add one stroke to each hole.  Therefore, a par 4 hole becomes a par 5, a par 5 hole becomes a par 6, etc.

If your target score is a 48, you get 3 additional strokes.  Look for the 3 lowest handicapped holes on the card and add one stroke to each of these.  So, if you had previously changed one of these from a Par 5 to a Par 6, you would now make it a par 7.

On the other hand, let’s say your target score for the round is a 43.   We need to remove two strokes from the card.  Go to the highest handicap hole and take away a stroke.  If you had changed it from a par 4 to a par 5, you would change it back to a par 4.  Do the same for the next highest handicap hole.

Many of us have ability, but lack confidence, which leads to what I call “shot anxiety”. We need to build confidence, and to do that we need to make the game a little easier.  I’m not saying shoot higher scores.  I’m saying that you will score lower because the easier you can make the game, the more consistently you’ll play.  Make the game more enjoyable and celebrate those birdies.

Approach Shots

The question to ask when choosing a club for an approach shot is “How far can I hit that club consistently?”   Instead of hitting the ball as far as we can with a given club, let’s think about how we can achieve a swing that we can duplicate that will give us consistent direction and distance.  


I recommend to my students to choose a club and then line up a series of balls and hit them at 50%, 60%, up to 100% of what they are capable of hitting to find where they hit the ball most consistently.   Give it a try and soon you’ll be hitting more greens.

Develop a Strategy at the Range

I often ask my students, “What comes first? Confidence or ability?” Often we have the ability, but if we lose confidence, our ability tends to go with it. So, let’s use our warm-up time at the range before our round to help build confidence.


Start off by spending 10-15 minutes working on timing and tempo.  Hit some 50-60 yard shots and build up to a few 100-120 yard shots.  After that, hit some drives at 50% of what you’re capable of, building up to about 80%.  Remember, it’s all about timing and tempo right now.  This isn’t the time to fix problems or tinker with your swing.


After warming up, it’s time to start developing a strategy for your game.  As we discussed before, we want to get a scorecard and adjust the pars based on the scores we want to shoot.  Take the scorecard to the range and start playing the course.  Develop a plan for the first four holes so that you know what you are going to do before you get there.


Putting a plan in place before you step up to your first tee shot will help to alleviate shot anxiety, build your confidence, and result in more consistent shots and lower scores.

Putting Drills for Distance and Direction Control

In this series on lowering your scores, we’ve talked about various ways to build confidence so that we can play to the best of our ability.  To develop confidence in our putting, we want to make sure that we practice both direction control and distance control.  Take some time to visit the putting green before you play and hit some putts to get a feel for the conditions of the greens. 


For direction control, practice hitting straight putts from 3 feet and 6 feet.  Putting from this distance takes the break of the green out of the equation so that you can focus on aim and alignment.


To work on distance control, place tees at distances of 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 feet, and putt several balls to each tee.   Work on these drills so that when you go out to play, there won’t be any surprises.  You’ll know that your direction is good and your distance is in control, and you’ll be on your way to shooting lower scores.

Shorten Your Swing

We’ve all stepped up to that first tee shot and had our nerves get the better of us. We feel the pressure of wanting to do well, and we try to swing with everything we’ve got.  More often than not, the result is less than desirable.  In the last part of this series on lowering your scores, we talk about shortening the swing.  When we use a shorter swing, we have more control and produce more consistent shots.  


Try this tip.  On the first four holes, use no more than a ¾ swing.  Since we’re making an easier swing, we’ll have to use more club, but we will also have more control.  Once the nerves and shot anxiety are under control, go ahead and move up to a full swing.  If you find yourself pressing during the last few holes, go back to the shorter swing.  Always play to a level of confidence that you can score with.

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