Matt and I spent 90 minutes on the practice fairway hitting shots, chipping balls, playing bunker shots and putting. We finished the session by playing 9 holes. This is where it all comes together and is the only true way to measure your game. If you can’t take your game onto the golf course then you need to have a look at the way you practise or your course strategy. This post looks at course strategy.

If you simulate play when you practise you’ll find the transition far easier. The mistake golfers make (like Matt) is they randomly beat balls and lack an objective. “Practise like you play” don’t “play like you practise”.

The first step to a better course strategy is choosing the shot you know you can hit. You need a really good excuse NOT to hit your favourite shot. In Matt’s case this is now going to be a fade from the tee and a controlled draw to the green. It doesn’t matter if the course designer is screaming at you to play a different shot – you should almost always play your shot.

Extra info: What I mean here is that don’t change your strategy to suit what the course designer wants you to do. Even if the hole doglegs to the left – play your fade. If the pin is back right and you like hitting the draw – keep hitting it. Sticking to your strategy is hard. Learn to trust your shot and you’ll do just fine.

I also spoke to Matt about avoiding bunkers and difficult chip shots (because he struggles with them). This essentially requires a conservative mindset. Instead of playing for every pin (or green) aim for an area that gives you a greater margin for error. Matt had it in his mind that he could go for every pin – this is OK if he managed to hit a good shot but this is not going to happen. You have to plan for when small errors are made.

I’m a firm believer that a long putt is better than a short chip or bunker shot. Learn to locate where all the trouble is and then play away from it.

Example: The pin is located on the back right of the green. There is a deep bunker to the right and a swale at the rear. The spot you should be aiming is front right. A conservative strategy, but it allows you to swing freely and avoid all the trouble.

In Matt’s case he’ll be aiming where a miss will leave him a simple 6 iron chip and run. This is playing to his strength.

The good news is for every difficult shot or location that doesn’t suit, you’ll find one that does. These are your green lights when you can go all out. If you can avoid the trouble on hard holes you’ll learn to save yourself many strokes.

I know this isn’t the most exciting way to play. Playing conservatively and hitting away from the pin is a tad boring. But unless you’re super talented you need to play within your limitations. It’s the only way you’ll maximise your potential for low scores.

I gave Matt the goal of playing the next five rounds with this strategy. It’s good advice and gives him a good way to compare his current way of play.

I recommend you do the same and see how your scores compare. As always let me know how you go and if you have any thoughts.