The biggest problem I see with course management is people not understanding their limitations. Again, I include myself in this.
Understanding your limitations is not just understanding your skill level. It is understanding your normal shot pattern. In addition, and most importantly, it is about understanding what your limitations are TODAY.
I cannot illustrate examples for every conceivable scenario for every golfer, but here is an example that you can adapt to your game.
I was playing with a friend who is about an 18 handicap. He plays a big fade, bordering on a slice some days. We come to a 180 yard par 3 with a pin tucked back right behind a bunker and short siding to the right was going to be a difficult up and down for me…never mind him. I took a 7-iron at the middle of the green and tried to fade it…it went straight and I had about a 25 footer for birdie, from pin high. Not Tigeresque, but I was satisfied with my shot.
My friend gets up there, aims right at the pin, starts it at the pin, hits his patented fade and misses it short side. I asked him…”Jim, why did you aim at the pin?”
“Isn’t that the object of the game, to aim at the pin,” he said.
I replied, “no, the object of the game is to have the ball finish at the pin. You hit a big fade, so you need to be aiming at the far left hand side of the green.”
He hit another one, and of course, hit it dead straight. “See, that’s why I aimed at the pin.”
It didn’t dawn on him there was an error in his thinking on both shots. He played for the perfect shot on the first one and got in trouble when he hit his baseline shot. On the second one, he played for his baseline shot, hit a perfect shot and ended up in an easy up and down position, even for an 18 handicap.
You want to play every shot where you get the best combo of a good shot being good and your regular miss being playable.
I think every person reading this would absolutely be on my side of the debate. However, over 50% of the people reading this would be on my friend’s side of the debate when they have a club in their hand.
I have a theory. 73.485% of the brain that we use goes dormant when we have a golf club in our hands. Since we only use 5% of our brains, that means we are using barely over 1% of our brains when we play golf…it looks like it and the results support it.
I used to struggle at Q-school, because when I didn’t have my A or B game, I didn’t know how to wipe it in the fairway, blade it in the middle of the green, top a putt to within 3 feet and wish the 3-footer in. That is why Tiger is so great. He doesn’t shoot lower scores on his good days than everyone else on tour. He rarely has the low round of the week even when he wins by 15.
He shoots the lowest rounds in the field on bad days when his game is off because he knows how to manage his limitations on his bad days.
Trust me on this. You all need to learn what you do on your bad days, learn how to manage it and you will see your bad scores come way down.
Let me be clear. I am not saying you must be more conservative. That got me in trouble. I am saying learn your shot pattern on good days and bad…and learn how to play to their strengths and weaknesses.