8 Common Sense Tips to Lower Your Scores

When you’re playing golf — especially when you’re working to improve something specific in your game — your head is often jumbled with so many thoughts that you forget to use common sense. You can save critical strokes on the course, however, by thinking logically, and not being bogged down by endless swing thoughts and fears.

Here are my 8 common sense tips to help you get through your next round of golf in the lowest number of shots possible.

8. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

When deciding what line to take over a water hazard off the tee, everyone seems to select the one that would get them across on a “good drive.” Positive thinking is great, but what about those shots you don’t catch perfectly? I’ve watched people hit countless poor drives in a row, only to come to a shot over the corner of a lake and use the carry yardage for their best drive rather than making an adjustment based on how they were swinging that day. What happens next is rarely pretty.

7. Use history to your advantage

Obviously, it would be nice to come out of the gates every round with your A-game, but that’s often not the case. That’s why I suggest playing the first six holes conservatively, and then using that information over the next 6-12 holes to create an adjusted game plan. If you’re controlling the ball well over the first six holes, you know you can be a little more aggressive on the next six holes, and vice versa.

6. Have a go-to shot off the tee

So it’s the last hole of your match and you must hit the fairway; what shot do you hit on you best days, your average days and your bad days?

All golfers need a tee shot they can rely on regardless of the way they are playing. It might curve a lot, not go very far or fly really low, but you know it’s going to finish on the fairway. Unfortunately, most don’t have such a shot, so if their A-game isn’t working then it’s a crapshoot off the tee.

5. Have an exit strategy

The best article I have ever read on golf strategy was an old Golf Digest interview with Lee Trevino when I was about 12 years old, and I still remember it more than 30 years later. They asked him why he felt he he had an advantage over his peers on Tour, and his reply was simple: “I had three guys playing for me, while the other guys only had one.”

Trevino went on to explain that he had three different shot patterns he’d use: his A game, B game and C game. Thus, when is A game wasn’t there, he’d drop back and use his B game or his C game. “One guy always showed up ready to play,” Trevino said. How many times have you tried to hit your stock shot over and over on the course, waiting for it to work “this time.” Be more flexible with your game like Trevino, and you’ll see your average score drop.

4. Think target, not swing

Good luck with the idea that you can play with 15 swing thoughts in your head; the results are rarely any good. Your best golf comes when you are on autopilot and only see and think about the target. This sounds easier than it is, of course, but try your best to only think about where you want the ball to go, especially when you’re swinging well.

3. If you must have swing thoughts, choose one and keep it simple

If you think that my last tip is great in theory, but does not work for you because you mustthink about your swing, then please choose one swing thought and keep it simple. Avoid mechanical thoughts like fire the hips to right field, hold the shoulders back and drop the hands. Instead, focus on things like tempo, tension and a smooth transition.

2. Don’t try to do too much

I had a good player ask me how often he should curve the ball different ways during a round. “Don’t try to do it too much,” I said. Golfers need to make the game simpler, not more complex.

Sure, there are times when you must curve the ball a lot, or use a trajectory that’s different from your stock shot, but really… how often is it necessary on the course? And how much time do you actually spend practicing different trajectories?

If you’re not striking the ball dead center of the club face most of the time, don’t try to become a great shot maker… not yet, at least. But if you want to start playing for paychecks, the nuances of shot shaping might be for you. Far fewer PGA Tour players work it both ways than most golfers think. Just ask Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry.

1. Work around your weaknesses

The golf gods didn’t give any golfer a full bag, as they say. Everyone has a weakness within their game that’s not quite up to par with the rest of their game. So if you’re horrible from 30 yards, then why would you leave yourself a 30-yard shot? Work on your weaknesses, but don’t let them ruin their scores in the meantime.

Remember, use your brain first, emotions second, and your ego third, and I promise that these common sense tips will improve your scores quickly.

By Guest Contributor Tom Stickney II