Monday, August 25, 2008

Would you like to shoot a lower score the next time you play? I don't know a single player who wouldn't emphatically answer "Yes!"
Here's the challenge: Play just one round of golf strictly adhering to my plan and if your handicap is 15 or higher, you will instantly lower your average score by a minimum of five shots. My plan will also work for you if your handicap is below 15 but the results might not be as dramatic.
In general I've found that people attempt to make up for their poor shots by attempting shots that a professional wouldn't even consider. As a result they put themselves into situations that almost ensure a higher score.
The key to lowering your score is to manage the level of risk that you take on every shot. Here are eight simple keys to lower your score right now:
1. When approaching the green with an iron take one more club, especially on par 3s. Typically people overestimate the distance that they can hit the ball and come up short of the green by 10 or even 20 yards.
2. On your approach shots aim for the center of the green regardless of where the hole is located. In most cases you'll never have more than a 20-foot putt, and you'll avoid short-siding yourself or leaving the ball in an adjacent bunker.
3. When you have a putt of more than 15 feet, forget about trying to make it. That’s when you most often run it past the hole and miss the comebacker. Be content with lagging the ball near the hole so that you can be assured of making your next putt. And guess what? From time to time the ball will actually fall in.
4. Don’t try to cut the corner on a dogleg hole. This is a low-percentage play at best and if you make a mistake it can be disastrous. Instead, play a shot to the corner of the dogleg so that you have an unobstructed shot to the green, even if it’s a little longer.
5. You're playing your tee shot on a short par-4 with bunkers on either side of the fairway. You could reach both of the bunkers with your drive if you miss the fairway. Don’t just pull out your driver and hope to thread the ball down the middle of the fairway. The smarter approach is to select a shorter club and take the bunkers out of play. While you will have a longer shot into the green you won't have to negotiate a difficult bunker shot if you make a mistake.
6. At some point you will hit a tee shot into serious trouble on either side of the fairway. The best approach is to pitch the ball back into the middle of the fairway without attempting to advance it forward. We all hate to "take our medicine," but it’s often the smartest play.
7. If you play par 5s with the hope that you can reach the green in two, you’ll often leave yourself with a difficult approach shot of 40 yards or less -- one of the most challenging shots in golf even for a very accomplished player. A better strategy is to play your second shot to a comfortable distance where you can hit a full shot into the green. 8. Leave your lob wedge in the bag when you're approaching the green from the fairway because it is difficult to predict the exact distance that your shot will fly. With the lob wedge, you may make the occasional great shot, but more often than not you'll find yourself well short of the pin. Your sand wedge is a better choice than your lob wedge because it is easier to find the right distance with less loft rather than more. Plus, the sand wedge has more bounce, which will gives you an increased margin of error should you hit it fat.
Try my plan the next time you play and let me know how it goes. If you don’t shoot five strokes lower than your normal score, I’ll refund the cost of this column!

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